Changes to EU procurement regulations – what does the UK want?

We mentioned last week that the EU is going through a consultation on the procurement regulations – and the Cabinet Office are keen for public procurement people to help promote the UK’s ideas.

A "Procurement Policy Note" (PPN ) has been issued - here’s part of Francis Maude’s introduction:

The European Commission’s current review of the rules offers a once in a decade opportunity to achieve a simpler, less bureaucratic and more effective public procurement regime. The rules must help promote growth, and encourage innovative ways of delivering public services such as employee-owned providers. The Government is determined to play a positive and pivotal role in promoting change. I would like to invite you as a member of the public procurement community, to take an active part; this note explains how you can help. With your assistance we can achieve simplified and improved public procurement rules to the benefit of public authorities, suppliers and citizens both in the UK and across the EU.

We’ve commented before on Maude’s genuine interest in, and understanding of public procurement, and I suspect he’s had a lot of personal involvement in this process. Here are the four ‘big ideas’ that the UK is pushing according to the PPN.

  • Allow a flexible approach towards employee led organisations/mutuals to enable employees to gain experience of running public services prior to full and open competition
  • Reduce lengthy and burdensome procurement processes that add cost to business and barriers to competition
  • Modernise the procurement procedures and provide more flexibility for purchasers to follow best commercial practice, so that the best possible procurement outcomes can be achieved
  • Support measures to enhance SME access to public procurement, where such measure are non-discriminatory and are consistent with a value for money approach.

The note goes on to outline some specific changes that “we think are necessary, and which should contribute to the overall aim of simplification described above”.  They are -

  • Raise the threshold for goods and services procurement
  • Allow temporary exemptions for employee-led organisations/mutuals
  • Improve framework agreements and similar models (eg DPS), with much greater flexibility to add new suppliers.
  • Enable faster procurement. Pare-back mandatory timescales to the absolute minimum
  • Allow procurers much more freedom to negotiate
  • Allow more flexibility on when and how suppliers’ and service providers’ past performance, skills and quality of service can be taken into account.
  • Simplify and reduce the burden of supporting documents which candidates have to provide
  • Provide more flexibility in the use of electronic marketplaces by public authorities
  • Provide clarification and clearer guidance on how social and environmental issues can be taken into account, and how they can help to achieve value for money.

We’ll be back shortly with our comments on these, and on the more detailed proposals the government is making. Sitting behind the PPN is the UK's formal response - it's a lot longer (24 pages) but it does flesh out these headlines considerably, so if you're interested do take a look here. 

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