Public sector procurement is a huge market for community and social enterprises. The public sector buys goods and services every day; however this guide is written from a procurement of services perspective as this is the market most third sector organisations are involved in.
Commissioning vs Procurement
Firstly it’s important to understand that commissioning is different to procurement.
- Commissioning is going about understanding the needs and designing the services that need to be procured.
- Procurement is going about purchasing against the service design.
Commissioning is then, deciding what to buy and procurement is buying it.
Many third sector organisations will be involved in commissioning, but need to be mindful of procurement rules and regulations. For example, if a third sector organisation is too involved in the commissioning cycle of a particular service then it can find itself in a position where it isn’t able to tender for the service when the procurement cycle starts, as it may have an unfair advantage to the wider market.
In recent times we have seen significant changes to the way services are being procured by the public sector. On one hand there is legislation such as the Social Value Act that is encouraging for third sector organisations. There are also changes such as ‘payment by results’ and ‘prime contractor models’ that are making it increasingly difficult for social and community enterprises to win contracts, as the contracts are larger [often regional] with significant need to finance the delivery up front.
There is also a drive to put more control into the individual’s hands. That is, many services that were traditionally procured from the public sector in bulk, for example care services, are now changing to one where the individual would purchase their service direct from the organisation. This model is particularly being introduced in the health and social care sectors, an area where many community and social enterprises operate.
Whilst we’ve painted a bleak picture above there are many opportunities available from the public sector and there are lower level opportunities that are useful for voluntary and community organisations to develop services and earn income. In order for you to get your head round the many issues in relation to public sector procurement we have compiled links to some key resources which will help.
- To gain a full understanding of commissioning, procurement and tendering processes see our commissioning and procurement DISE_Tendering&Contracts [Compatibility Mode]
- To see the Cabinet Office eight principles of good commissioning download here
- See the Change Up Finance Hub Guide to Public Sector Procurement Here
- To work through ‘Enterprising Commissioning Toolkit’ developed by Birmingham Change Up Consortium click here
- See Social Enterprise UK guide to the Social Value Act here
- Solihull Council’s Procurement Policy see here
- Solihull Council’s Rules for Contract see here
- See also Solihull ‘Tenders Tips and Information’ here