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Manchester City Council has launched its first formal legal panel tender in the four service areas of regeneration, neighbourhood, childcare and bankruptcy.
There will be up to 24 firms and decisions will be made on the successful bidders by the end of the financial year.
According to Des Gardner, head of regeneration (legal), the move "is part of a wider initiative across the council to establish framework arrangements for areas of significant spend".
The panel was triggered by an overhaul of the council's financial system 18 months ago. Its legal spend for this financial year is £950,000 and the forecast amount for the next financial year is similar. The council is home to 120 in-house lawyers.
The new neighbourhood panel, which involves employment, prosecutions and litigation matters, will form the bulk of the contentious work. Together with regeneration it will be the largest panel. Eight firms will be appointed to both by March 2008.
Prior to this move the council sought advice from a handful of national and regional firms on an informal basis.