Achieving value for the public sector.
The public sector faces extremely challenging times and is under continuous pressure to reduce costs while simultaneously delivering high quality services and better value spending. We understand the problems faced by the public sector in tackling difficult financial restrictions at a time when the scope of related regulations and legislation continues to grow and change,
Our public sector legal team has many years’ experience working with major organisations within the public sector on matters which are specific to Northern Ireland. We are uniquely placed to anticipate and identify changes in regulatory and legislative requirements thereby ensuring that our public sector clients are kept cognisant and compliant.
What we do
- Projects & Finance: PFI/PPP projects
Our projects team has extensive experience of complex PFI/PPP projects in Northern Ireland. We acted for the contractor on the first PFI project in Northern Ireland and since then have advised sponsors, lenders and procuring authorities across sectors as diverse as hospitals, schools, roads, accommodation, waste and IT.
We regularly advise on all aspects of projects from the initial structuring and procurement process to the implementation of funding arrangements from traditional senior debt financing to privately placed bond-funding and publicly listed wrapped bond funding and financial close.
- Procurement (Non-Contentious) Planning & Implementation
Our specialist team provides advice to public and private bodies alike on all non-contentious aspects of procurement, from strategic planning and drafting/negotiation of contracts, to deal implementation and contract management. We also regularly review and approve procurement documentation, including OJEU notices, pre-qualification questionnaires, invitations to tender and conditions of contract.
- Employment and TUPE Advice for Public Sector Employers
Public sector employers face the unenviable task of reducing costs while continuing to meet requirements of end users and maintaining a stable workforce. Public sector employers have to consider options such as restrictions on recruitment, changing terms and conditions of employment (including pay reductions and pay freezes), redundancies and outsourcing non-essential services.
We are ideally placed to provide expert legal guidance on dealing with these issues in a pragmatic way. Our team regularly advises public bodies on a wide range of employment matters including recruitment freezes, grievances, disciplinary issues, changing terms and conditions of employment, equal pay, discrimination and redundancy exercises. We also have extensive experience advising on TUPE and the Service Provision Change Regulations, including asset transfers, insourcing, outsourcing and changeover in contractors. We frequently advise on complex TUPE transactions and train clients in dealing with the practical aspects of managing employee transfers.
- Pensions Advisory Services for Public Sector
As the level of outsourcing increases within the public sector arena, it is crucial that all parties are aware of the full ambit of their responsibilities arising from a service provision change. Such obligations extend not only to reviewing existing costs, consulting and informing, but also to considering the management of pension risks in public sector outsourcing contracts.
Our team is well practised in advising public bodies on the provisions of their outsourcing agreements and the indemnities required from an incoming contractor. We are also knowledgeable about advising the incoming contractor, and “2nd generation” contractors, as to their obligations arising from pension transfers and the requirement to provide broadly comparable benefits.
- Mediation: Dispute Resolution in Public Sector
Mediation is increasingly seen as a means of early dispute resolution in which parties are encouraged to take responsibility for resolving their own issues, as opposed to decisions being made for them by a third party. It is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) wherein a mediator, as an impartial trained facilitator, assists parties to freely negotiate their own resolution of the issues in dispute between them. Mediation is a voluntary process and can only work if the parties enter freely into it. It is important that ground rules are established at the outset of any mediation so that the parties are cognisant about the management of the process. In particular, it is imperative to agree that the mediation process is confidential and that there is consent on any information about the mediation which may, in time, be relayed, passed on or reported to any third party.
We have considerable experience acting on behalf of public and private bodies in procurement challenges and have acted in some of the leading procurement cases in Northern Ireland in recent years. We have also assisted and advised a range of public bodies in the defence of procurement challenges at all stages of the legal process from initial letter of claim to disposal of proceedings. Our experience extends across a broad spectrum of procurements for goods, services and public works contracts.
Our experienced real estate team advise public bodies, local councils and housing associations on all aspects of property law including estate management, disposal strategies, value enhancement, development agreements, overage arrangements, sale and leaseback, commercial leasing (landlord and tenant), property litigation and judicial review. Realising the value in surplus or underutilised assets is a key objective of the public sector and should be accomplished in concert with supporting economic development and environmental sustainability. Our role as real estate advisor on the interim multi-disciplinary management team (CART) has highlighted the importance of developing a long term strategy with a strong realistic commercial focus, to optimise and enhance value, capitalise on an extensive portfolio and realise premium value.
- Environmental Issues & Legislation
The public sector must also be mindful of obligations that may arise in relation to environmental legislation. The sustainable development agenda places a number of regulations upon public authorities, such as considering environmental criteria in procurement. Climate change legislation is of particular significance to the public sector, for example, due to the obligations placed upon government departments under the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. Our expertise in environment law can provide an invaluable service to public sector clients in managing these responsibilities.
Our well established public sector legal team is dedicated to providing the highest level of service to our public sector clients. We find that a reciprocal relationship works best where we can anticipate our clients’ needs and work closely with them to provide punctual, concise and effective legal advice and solutions.
Traditionally, public sector organisations have dealt with many of their legal services requirements internally, while procuring externally only on an exigent basis for particular specialisms or projects. This model has now changed and public sector organisations are outsourcing many of their legal services requirements in order to achieve better value and deliver a higher quality service. We at Tughans understand this and our public sector services team provides a range of tailored legal solutions
on a fully comprehensive basis.