More opportunities for construction sector to win public sector work

New procurement regulations aim to make it easier for SMEs to secure work from the UK public sector, which is publishing more construction tenders than before, according to electronic procurement services provider Millstream.

The new Public Contracts Regulations 2015 came into effect yesterday (Thursday, February 26), just ahead of the Ecobuild 2015 exhibition.

The key changes include less restrictive financial criteria and the tender documents will now be published at the same time as the tender notice, which means companies can decide if a contract is suitable without first having to undertake work to get through the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) stage.

It is also compulsory for government tenders worth more than £10,000 and other public sector contracts valued at more than £25,000 to be publicised, making them more visible to potential suppliers.

Millstream – which is exhibiting at Ecobuild 2015, the trade show for sustainable design, construction, energy and the built environment – has reported a 12% increase in public sector construction tenders in the UK and Ireland over the last year.

The number of available contracts rose to 14,622 in 2014 from 12,839 the previous year, with tenders being posted by the government, local authorities, emergency services, health trusts, housing associations and other public sector organisations.

Millstream noted an increase in architecture, quantity surveying and other professional services contracts, which may be partly due to more tenders being split into smaller sub-contracts, therefore opening up wider opportunities for private sector suppliers.

There has also been a rise in renewable technology tenders, including solar panels, geothermal/heat pumps, biomass heating, modern methods of construction (BREEAM, Passivhaus), combined heat and gas and energy efficiency consultancy.

Around 70% of the construction tenders published by Millstream over the past year have been below the EU threshold of £4.3million, which means they do not need to be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

These smaller, but still valuable contracts are particularly attractive to smaller companies as there is much less competition from major contractors or overseas companies.

Tim Williams, managing director of Millstream, said time would tell what impact the new changes will have for private sector companies.

He said:

“We’ll have to wait and see what effect the new regulations will have, but some of the changes look set to be positive for small and medium sized businesses.”

“Contracting authorities are now only allowed to ask for suppliers to have a turnover that is twice the value of the contract they are applying for, and tendering documents have to be available from the date they are advertised, so companies no longer have to register interest and then chase the authority for information and updates.

“Buyers are also being encouraged to break contracts down into smaller lots – which should make a huge difference for small companies in the construction sector.”

Millstream will showcase its Tenders Direct service to residential, commercial and industrial construction companies at Ecobuild, which is being held at London’s ExCel and attracted more than 44,538 visitors in 2014.

Tenders Direct provides private companies with comprehensive information on new business opportunities from the public sector, such as the government, local authorities, emergency services, NHS trusts and the armed forces.

The Tenders Direct team manually categorise all tenders to ensure that only highly relevant opportunities personalised to individual preferences and areas of specialism are sent to subscribers every day.

Tenders Direct also provides a one-to-one helpdesk to ensure that customers are finding the tenders they want.

Tim added:

“Construction is one of the largest sectors for procurement so Ecobuild is an important event for us to attend so we can meet the key players in this area of construction.”

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