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Selling to us
We spend around £200m a year on buying in goods, works and services. Use the following FAQs to find out more about how we purchase:
What types of goods, works and services do you purchase?
We purchase services such as:
- Personnel services
- Agency staff (including temporary staff)
- Professional services
- Building cleaning
- Reprographic and printing
- Building maintenance
- Residential care
- Confidential waste
- Security services
- Construction works
- Telecommunications consultancy (inc management, financial, IT)
- Vehicle maintenance
- Education and welfare transport
- Waste services/management
- Grass cutting
- Window cleaning
- Grounds maintenance
- Insurance services
- Legal services
- Mechanical and electrical installations
- Engineering works for roads/footways
- Maintenance and refurbishments to council establishments, offices and schools
We purchase a variety of goods such as:
- Bottled and fixed point water
- Office and educational furniture
- Catering supplies (food)
- Protective clothing and footwear
- Cleaning materials
- Computer equipment and consumables
- Stationery and office equipment
- Electric lamps and bulbs
- Telephones (fixed and mobiles)
- Equipment for people with disabilities
- Fuel supplies, gas, electric and oil
Our primary objective is to secure services that are affordable, fit for purpose, meet the needs of local people and service users and provide best value. In so doing we take into account important issues such as equalities and diversity and sustainability.
What are your purchasing arrangements?
The contracts we award range from just a few pounds to over a million, and our purchasing procedures are fully detailed in our formal contract procedure rules. Understandably, our purchasing arrangements vary according to the size of the contract concerned, as follows:
Minor contracts (less that £10,000)
Our internal regulations require officers to obtain at least two quotations before issuing a purchase order, and the contract is awarded generally, but not always, on the basis of lowest price.
Minor contracts (between £10,000 - £50,000)
Our internal regulations require officers to obtain at least three written quotations before issuing a purchase order, and the contract is awarded generally, but not always, on the basis of lowest price.
Ordinary and major contracts (£50,000 and above)
For ordinary contracts (up to £140,000) our regulations require formal competitive tenders to be sought from at least three contractors. For some major contracts (above £140,000), however, we're required by European procurement laws to seek at least five tenders. Ordinary and major contracts are awarded after taking into account a range of quality evaluation criteria, as well as price, in order to identify the best, which is then called the ‘most economically advantageous tender’.
Procurement is a devolved function with the council. A small corporate procurement section manages some activity, with more specialist procurements generally being handled by individual service areas, but often with support from the corporate procurement team. To make our purchasing procedures as efficient as possible, by reducing the number of tendering exercises required each year we have a number of framework agreements in place. Such agreements provide for the supply of specific products or services over a certain period of time (eg three or four years), and are awarded following competitive tendering processes.
The current framework agreements in place are mainly for property maintenance and highways works, IT equipment, food, commercial vehicles and printing services. In addition, we're one of four members of West Mercia Energy (WME), an energy purchasing organisation. WME is based in Shrewsbury, and arranges supplies required by the county’s schools and offices, as well as those of the other members: Herefordshire Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, and Worcestershire County Council.
How do I find out about current work opportunities?
Whenever tenders are to be invited for a specific contract or framework agreement, and when approved supplier lists are reviewed, we place tender notices on our website. In addition we use the Delta e-tendering portal. We also place most of these notices on the UK wide ‘Contracts Finder’. We also occasionally advertise in the local and national press and relevant trade journals. Whenever the values of the contracts are expected to exceed the financial threshold defined by European law (ie £164,176 for goods and certain services; and £4.1m for works) we also advertise in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) when required to do so.
Contracts that we've advertised, as well as all other public sector organisations in the OJEU, are contained on the Tenders Electronic Daily (TED). A register of current contracts and framework agreements together with their respective expiry dates can be found on on our website. Tendering processes for these contracts typically commence around 12 months before the current contracts are due to expire. If you're interested in being considered for any of these contracts you could contact the officer named within the schedule at the appropriate time, or wait until you see the respective advertisement. General enquiries can be directed to: Telephone: 01743 252002 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What information and details will you want from me?
You'll understand that we need to be confident that your business will be able to deliver what we require, and that you'll be able to achieve our standards, before we award you any contracts. We therefore need to be satisfied that your business is technically capable, financially stable and holds any relevant qualifications required by law.
We keep the amount of form filling to a minimum, and for minor contracts you may find that the submission of a quotation, perhaps together with a copy of your company prospectus, will be all that's needed. For major contracts, however, you'll normally be required to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) which asks for details about your business. Your completed PQQ will be assessed by a selection panel before your business is accepted for being placed on a tender list.
We generally apply three tests to firms who are looking to do business with us:
- We'll check the legal status of your firm (eg properly constituted limited company)
- You'll need to be prepare to accept our conditions of contract
- You must have no convictions for serious environmental offences, fraud, corruption or other major breaches of the Companies Acts
- You'll be asked to provide us with copies of your company policy statements covering health and safety, environment and equal opportunity aspects of your business, which must meet legislative requirements.
- You may need to pass a financial check which is usually based on your last three years of audited account
- You'll have to have public liability insurance of at least £5m
- Employer’s liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance may also be required
- You'll be asked to provide details of similar current and past contracts awarded to you by other organisations. This will include the contact details of at least two referees who we can approach to vouch for your work
- We'll need to be provided with evidence of any quality accreditation certificates held by your company that are appropriate to the work
If you're accepted and placed on a tender list, you'll be sent tender invitation documents that will include a specification of the goods, works or services that are required. The documents will contain instructions on how to price your submission, and will include details of who it is to be submitted to. We'll allow you sufficient time to complete your bid, and will ensure your submission is treated as confidential and that commercial details are not disclosed to others. This is, however, subject to the provision of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Therefore, if you provide any information to us in the expectation that it will be held in confidence, you must make it clear in your documentation the information to which you consider a duty of confidentially applies.
What are we doing to help local and small businesses?
Local government is big business, but not all of our contracts are with big companies with multi-million pound turnovers. In fact, of our 9,000 suppliers, some 8,500 deliver goods and services totalling less than £50,000 in a year. Therefore, there's tremendous scope for small firms to win work from us, and it's our policy to support local businesses and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as much as we can within the law.
Local suppliers are encouraged to tender for our business wherever possible, either directly or indirectly as sub-contractors to larger companies. However, as a public body spending public money, we must ensure not only that we receive value for money from our purchases, but that we're able to demonstrate this to our external inspectors and allow fair competition. Therefore, our primary concern is that our tender assessment processes are fair to everybody, and that there's no question of us favouring local or small firms.
There are a number of areas within our purchasing processes which are of help to all firms that submit tenders and win work from us. These include:
- Keeping the costs incurred by potential tenderers in mind when tender procedures for specific contracts are devised (ie keeping the level of paperwork to a minimum)
- Offering constructive debriefing to all those who compete for contracts in order to help them to do better in the future
- Ensuring that there's commercial flexibility within the rules and regulations that we work to
- A 30-day payment policy, with suppliers being paid directly into their bank accounts
We're firmly of the view that local and small businesses can compete with the bigger companies and, while it would be unfair to help them on specific contracts, we're actively assisting them by:
- Meeting the government’s transparency requirements by the publication of a contracts register and tender documentation on the Open Data pages of our website
- Providing a ‘Doing business with us' section on our website, including the publication of tendering opportunities
- Placing our tendering opportunities on the national ‘Contract Finder Portal’ and the local Shropshire Chamber of Commerce portal
- Developing communication and consulting with local firms through Shropshire Business Board Procurement Group (COGS) - this work includes training events and face to face meetings to hear your views on how we can help you
- Helping small businesses make contact with larger suppliers where they could seek to work as sub-contractors
- Providing free advice and assistance on compliance with statutory requirements relating to trading laws, advertising and economic development
- Early engagement, and where appropriate consulting potential contractors, and the undertaking of soft market testing exercises.