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Government Legal Department staff generated nearly 3 per cent more income in the last year as Whitehall transferred more work to the specialist lawyers.
Total operating income for the executive agency rose to £147.7 million in 2016-17 compared with £143.7 million the previous year, according to its annual report. However the department’s net operating surplus was significantly lower than the figure for the previous 12 months. Last year’s surplus was £2.7 million, down from the 2015-16 figure of £3.9 million.
The 21-year-old organisation warned that it faced its biggest task ever in advising on Brexit. Preparations for leaving the EU, said the report, “will be the single biggest challenge for the government” and its lawyers over the next year.
Officials warned that the department’s lawyers would potentially struggle to keep up with the need for advice on new legislation as part of the Brexit process. “The demands this will place on us will require even greater agility in our planning the use of resources,” said the report.
The Treasury Solicitor, Jonathan Jones, highlighted the expansion of the department over the last year as its lawyers advised the newly created Department for International Trade and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. A legal team was also created for the new Department for Exiting the European Union.
“We continued to work on embedding our new ways of working as a unified legal service for government,” said Jones, pointing out that the department was on the verge of completing a two-year project to deliver a series of panels of external lawyers to advise government.