Womble Bond Dickinson has strengthened its public sector and local government practice with a number of senior hires across the UK.

Joining the firm's projects and procurement and planning teams are legal directors Sian Ballingall and Sarah White as well as managing associate Helen Robinson and associate Umi Filby.

Sian Ballingall is a real estate and regeneration specialist with extensive local government experience, advising on a broad range of projects, including development schemes, delivery and trading structures, and local government law. She joins WBD's Southampton office from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council where she held the post of Head of Legal Services and Deputy Monitoring Officer, having supported and advised two of the predecessor unitary authorities on local government reorganisation. Prior to joining local government, Sian was a senior associate in the real estate team at Clifford Chance, acting on a variety of work, including acquisitions, disposals and landlord and tenant work.

Sarah White is a planning specialist who has a wealth of experience in planning, regeneration, transport and aviation projects, as well as all aspects of Local Government Law having most recently been Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer at Guildford Borough Council. Prior to this, Sarah worked for the London Borough of Hillingdon for many years and dealt with key projects at Heathrow Airport, Southall Gas Works and HS2. Sarah is regularly recognised for her expertise in key planning publications as a top rated lawyer. She joins the firm's London office.

Helen Robinson also joins the team in Leeds. Helen has over 12 years' experience working in, and advising local authorities. Helen was a senior planning and highways lawyer at North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) advising the Council on all aspects of planning, highways, public rights of way and major infrastructure projects. She was also lead information governance lawyer for NYCC.

Umi Filby joins in Newcastle as an associate from Gateshead Council. Having trained and qualified in local government, Umi has 14 years' experience working in local government legal departments and advising on public sector projects in relation to planning, highways and public rights of way. She recently provided planning and highways advice on the Gateshead Quays Arena and advised Transport North East in relation to the Bus Strategy.

Iain Greenshields, WBD's Head of Public Sector commented: 

"WBD has taken a very conscious decision to focus more on public sector work in the last eighteen months, and the recruitment of Sian, Sarah, Helen and Umi shows the scale of our commitment in this area. Our local government practice in particular has more than doubled in the last four years, and we feel the time is right to invest in that sector now, to offer an enhanced service and team to our local authority clients."

The new hires follow the appointment last year of partner Deborah Ramshaw. Based in Newcastle, Deborah advises central and local government departments and agencies, NHS bodies, utilities in the postal, energy and transport sectors, education clients and registered housing providers on a wide range of procurement matters and legislation

WBD works closely with UK Local and Central Government authorities, as well as other organisations in the wider public and third sector. The firm advises the UK Government Legal Department, providing a full-service of legal expertise across a range of disciplines, including general commercial, litigation and employment advice. WBD was appointed in Spring 2017 as a Tier 1 firm on the Crown Commercial Service Framework (CCS) for Central Government Departments, Agencies and Arms’ Length Bodies; the firm was also appointed to the CCS Framework for the wider public sector in the Autumn 2018.