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Five North East local authorities are to club together for the first time to create a joint legal panel.
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).