Improving the way that we buy goods and services

Improving the way that we buy goods and services

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is in place to make sure that small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs) have access to government contract opportunities, making it easier for them to do business with government, and making sure that 25 per cent of government’s spend, either directly or in supply chains, goes to SMEs by 2015.
    
Additionally, CCS makes sure that departments publish details of future projects and contracts on the Contracts Finder website every six months, giving businesses the confidence and time to invest in relevant skills, labour and capabilities to win these contracts. It works to obtain simpler, more flexible EU procurement rules in Brussels to support economic growth by making the procurement process faster, less costly, more effective for both business and procurers; this will affect more than £45 billion of central government spend (more than £230 billion for the UK public sector) every year. This will help commissioners of public services to become more effective through the Commissioning Academy and use commercial intelligence more effectively to improve the value gained from contracts across government.
    
As a guide for suppliers and buyers there is a standard set of terms and conditions for framework agreements and call-off contracts for goods and services bought under the agreement. The template for call-off contracts forms the basis of the terms and conditions in individual further competitions and can be supplemented or refined with additional terms to suit the requirement.
    
All CCS suppliers must submit monthly management information (MI) returns. This is done online through the MISO system. You will need to include the unique reference number (URN) for each customer listed on the return. Failure to submit MI returns correctly or within the agreed timescales may incur admin fees.
    
CCS is updating its internal Customer Relationship Management system and as a result the weekly downloadable list of URNs will be changing. The existing sheet of four tabs will reduce to three, listing all live URNs with customer details, a second detailing merges and a third detailing name changes. Legacy tabs will be added for the time being showing older changes that are not present on the new system. The sub-sector is now known as organisation type and is being updated to better and more accurately describe the organisation within its sector.

Lord Young recommendations
In February this year, a report by the Prime Minister’s Enterprise Advisor Lord Young outlined a set of new reforms that will give smaller companies more opportunities to win government contracts. The report, which was five years in the making, analysed the developing nature of business since Lord Young’s appointment as Enterprise Advisor in October 2011.
    
A stand out feature of the report was the government’s plan to abolish Pre‑Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) for all low value contracts, and to standardise these for contracts above the EU threshold. This represented a change to the previous system, whereby small businesses often lacked the resources that were made available to larger firms, making it harder for them to compete in the public sector.
    
The proposed changes came into place in April. Lord Young said: “PQQs have been found to be onerous by small businesses, often imposing more than 40 pages of questions before they can be considered for bidding for a contract.”
    
The report also detailed a ‘golden age’ for small businesses, commenting on how a record number of said small businesses now operate in the UK. Since 2010, the amount of small firms has increased by 760,000, and now numbers 5.2 million. This has boosted employment levels, with 48 per cent of private sector employees now operating in small firms.
    
The report stated how obstacles which previously prevented small firms from initiating a business were slowly falling away – in part due to the growing influence of new technologies, particularly the proliferation mobile and digital devices to further business prospects.
    
Lord Young was quoted: “In the last five years I have met countless numbers of inspiring entrepreneurs and small firms – from all ages and backgrounds and all reporting that starting a business is the most exciting and challenging thing they have ever done.”
    
The findings of the report were hailed by David Cameron, who stated: “Lord Young has made a huge contribution as my Enterprise Advisor, with his reports driving home the importance of getting things right for small businesses and start-ups.”

NHS Agreement
CCS has signed an agreement to help the NHS meet their non-medical, non-clinical temporary and fixed term worker needs in a flexible, efficient way. The new agreement has been developed to provide the NHS and other public sector organisations with access to temporary and fixed term staff in white and blue collar roles from the most junior to the most senior, including board level roles.
    
The agreement has been specifically developed to help manage the legal and commercial risks associated with engaging temporary staff, with suppliers required to ensure compliance with NHS Employers Employment Check Standards. The agreement has been awarded to 176 suppliers, 83 per cent of which are small and medium businesses. In 2014/15 the CCS helped save the NHS in excess of £343 million and this new agreement is one of a number of initiatives designed to help the NHS make further savings.

Potential Savings
Meanwhile, Sally Collier, chief executive of the Crown Commercial services, has publicly said that the public sector could save up to 25 per cent through better supplier management. Collier based the claim around possible savings via improved procurement and supplier innovation and management.
    
Speaking at the Public Sector Show in London, Collier said: “There is no reason why suppliers can’t make a healthy profit. What we have to agree is what the optimum profit is in any deal. I accept we may not be an intelligent client but we are getting better at being an intelligent client.” Collier also commented on how the CCS was reducing the number of frameworks used to channel a percentage of the £230 billion spent on goods and services across the public sector each year.
    
She said: “Framework agreements are great when they are great but not when they are used inappropriately and don’t produce the best outcome. For many, if you are a young fast streamer you perhaps wanted to be in the diplomatic service or other departments.
    
“I am absolutely delighted to say the tide is turning. For the first time we have a commercial fast stream. We see people who want to come into commercial. Where else could you do something exciting with £15 billion? I’m not interested in buying tanks and trains: I’m interested in taking the pain away of buying and managing common goods and services.”

Further Information
www.gov.uk/government/organisations/crown-commercial-service

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