Open tenders on your doorstep
Having been to several events recently, including the‘All The Help You Can Get’ series run by Herts Growth Hub & Hertfordshire County Council, aimed at supporting local small businesses and helping them access the opportunities in the public sector market place,we felt there wasn’t enough actual guidance from our local authorities on how to do business with them and where to find the opportunities in the first place.So, here is a straightforward instruction on how to find tenders and contract opportunities in Hertfordshire and then what to do to go after them and win.
Quite simply, if you want to find contract opportunities in the Hertfordshire public sector, there are only 3 places you need to go, these are OJEU, Contracts Finder and Supply Hertfordshire.
Currently in the UK, all public sector authorities must follow a set of procurement rules, including the requirement to publicise all contract opportunities above a set contract value in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU). This is the central notice board for all EU member states where live contract opportunities in all EU countries and their administrative divisions, including all 10 of our Hertfordshire District and Borough Councils, can be viewed and searched. The EU thresholds are £181,302 for supplies and services and £4,551,413 for works. All opportunities can be viewed here: https://ted.europa.eu/TED/search/search.do. This site enables you to do simple and refined searches for relevant contract opportunities based on keywords that are appropriate for your business e.g. search “electrical” as an electrical contractor. As the official noticeboard for all the EU,the information presented to you is standardised and in a consistent format across every tender notice. More details on what to lookout for can be found here.
2. Contracts Finder
Below the EU thresholds, all UK public contracts must be advertised on the central government website ‘Contracts Finder’(or the sites specific to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Ministry of Defence). The threshold for contracts to be posted here is £10,000 for central government authorities and £25,000 for the rest of the public sector, including all Hertfordshire local authorities. Opportunities can be viewed here: https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Search. This site also has an easy to use search function (simple and advanced searches) for relevant contract opportunities based on appropriate keywords. Again, the information presented to you is standardised, but slightly less consistent due to the data entry being subject to the procurement officer’s attention to detail; e.g. contract values are sometimes not provided.
3. Supply Hertfordshire portal
In the instances when a Hertfordshire Local Authority needs to buy something, but does not have to go through a formal OJEU tender process, i.e. when the contract value is below the official thresholds, they are still required to demonstrate to us (as the taxpayer) that they are getting best value from the supplier market. This means that for most purchases they will still go out to tender leaving only the lowest value items as non-contractable. By still inviting all suppliers to tender,a local authority is ensuring that they capture and can select from every business available to provide the product or service they need; but, by not being required to publish the tender notice on the UK and EU wide noticeboards, helps to facilitate a more ‘local’s only’ engagement. Essentially, you need to check the Supply Hertfordshire web pages regularly to be able to see the tender notices that are posted, and this is more likely to happen if you are a business from Hertfordshire, rather than a business from Lancashire. Given the contract opportunities are lower value, big UK corporations are also less likely to be interested.
So, Supply Hertfordshire is set up to facilitate the procurement of lower value public sector contracts in Hertfordshire, and the 13 Hertfordshire Local Authorities have signed up to use this facility and enable you to do business with them, including: Hertfordshire County Council, Stevenage Borough Council, Three Rivers District Council, Watford Borough Council, Dacorum Borough Council, St Albans City & District Council, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, North Hertfordshire District Council, Hertsmere Borough Council, Borough of Broxbourne, East Herts District Council, B3 Living, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.
You can view all of the tender notices here: https://in-tendhost.co.uk/supplyhertfordshire/aspx/Home. It is also a good idea as a local business to register for a free account on this portal and set up regular email notifications on tender opportunities that are a good match to your requirements. The importance of tender tracking is discussed in our blog ‘The benefits of tracking tender opportunities’.
Should you be interested in tendering for any contracts presented through this portal, you will need to register anyway to be able to access all the documents and submit your tender.
Each of the 3 sites above provide key information on the contract opportunity and next steps in the form of a link with instructions on what to do to access the tender documents. This will usually involve registering your business details on one of the many procurement portals (most Hertfordshire Authorities use Supply Hertfordshire& ProContract), activating a free account, and then clicking through to read more about the tender and/or download all the relevant response materials. This will all take some time and can often prove to be a thankless task in having gone through the full routine, making sure you’ve read the small print on each tender specification to make sure the opportunity is a viable one for you, only to find it isn’t. However, the good news is that new opportunities are posted on these noticeboards every day, so it is vital to have a mindset that there will be an opportunity right for you. Once you’ve got used to navigating the portals and identifying the salient information to make informed decisions quickly, it will prove worthwhile. Big companies invest many ££££s every year in tracking and pursuing tender opportunities.
Once you’ve used the above 3 sites to find the contract opportunity you’ve been looking for, you then need to go through your own selection process to establish whether you are going to bid or not. To help you take this important next step, read our guide on ‘How to decide whether a tender is right for you’.
Finding an efficient way to track, identify,register, access, review and decide on tenders gives your business a systematic list of viable, worthwhile business development opportunities in Hertfordshire which, if taken seriously, will ultimately increase your revenue. Regular checks and notifications will ensure you don’t miss out.
So, there you go, it’s that simple!