Five North East boroughs have merged their external legal spends in response to the Gershon report on public sector efficiency. Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton councils have appointed Newcastle-based firms Dickinson Dees and Ward Hadaway to their new panel. The councils are the first local authorities in the region to procure legal services jointly. Dickinsons and Ward Hadaway have been appointed as their joint preferred advisers for the next five years. The firms will advise on issues including regeneration and Building Schools for the Future projects, PFI schemes and procurement.