North East follows North West’s joint panel plan

The member councils of the Tyne & Wear metropolitan authority – Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland – plan to appoint firms across a variety of practice areas.

Newcastle is the lead authority on procurement matters. The council’s head of corporate Stuart Ovens said: “It’s the first time we’ve sought to jointly procure legal services. The main focus is to obtain external services across commercial areas where we don’t have in-house legal expertise.”

The five councils have a joint in-house capacity of around 120 lawyers but need assistance on areas including charity, commercial, contracts, corporate, employment and litigation.

With a decision expected before Christmas, it is thought that initially the joint procurement initiative could run concurrently with ongoing arrangements.

Newcastle has a framework arrangement with Ward Hadaway that gives the North East firm ­preferred adviser status, although the council does go off-panel from time to time. Dickinson Dees and ­Eversheds have both worked for the council in the past.

The announcement of the North East panel comes after 22 authorities in the North West joined forces to draw up a four-year panel of firms and chambers. The so-called ‘North West ­consortium’, which includes Liverpool City Council and the Merseyside Police Authority, will give ­preferential partner-firm status to six firms (The Lawyer, 16 November).