We have developed this guide to help all organisations interested in bidding for contracts and working with us. It sets out a summary of our contract tendering procedures and the rules we must follow as a local authority.

Background

Spelthorne spends over £30m each year on goods, works and services supplied by private sector companies and organisations. This procurement activity varies from small one-off purchases to large works or service contracts.

A key principle for the authority is to develop a mixed economy of suppliers and promote partnering arrangements. We are keen to develop participation by small firms and the voluntary and community sectors, and to work with suppliers to deliver community benefits in a way that is consistent with best value, and in compliance with procurement law.

We have developed this guide to help all organisations interested in bidding for contracts and working with Spelthorne Borough Council. It sets out a summary of our contract tendering procedures and the rules we must follow as a local authority.

Protecting public funds

Spelthorne is a local authority, regulated by laws and government directives. It is funded from national and local taxes, and it has a duty to ensure that it provides best value to the public and makes best use of public funds. We have to meet contract regulations and must always ensure we are providing equal opportunity and achieving the best quality at the best price.

The duty to secure best value in service delivery means that Spelthorne must ensure continuous improvement and value for money throughout the buying process. It also reinforces the Council's accountability to local people in its business dealings, which must be open, fair, and auditable.

Local businesses

Legal requirements mean that we cannot favour businesses simply because they are located in the borough or employ local people. If you are a local business you can find out more about the support available to you from:

Business Link
Federation of Small Businesses
Spelthorne Chamber of Commerce
Office of Government Commerce

Equalities, health and safety, sustainability and anti fraud and corruption

Spelthorne promotes equality of opportunity to organisations, including small and local firms, ethnic minority businesses and voluntary or community organisations. The Council will ask for appropriate evidence that suppliers have adopted equality and health and safety policies and practices with respect to their workforce.

Similarly, Spelthorne wishes to buy goods that meet its requirements regarding sustainability (covering social, environmental and economic sustainability). This will cover issues such as wood sourced from sustainable resources, equality in employment and effective waste management. Suppliers will be expected to show evidence of how they are addressing sustainable development within their organisation and own purchases.

All individuals and organisations that Spelthorne works with, including its suppliers, are expected to play their part in promoting sound business ethics. They are expected to help by taking steps to prevent and detect any fraud and / or corruption that may occur or be suspected in their dealings with the Council.

Types of purchase

In a typical year, Spelthorne will buy the following:

  • office supplies, furniture and equipment
  • lease cars
  • telecommunications
  • building works and repairs
  • consultancy services
  • IT hardware and software
  • catering supplies
  • printing services
  • advertising
  • agency staff and
  • utilities

Spelthorne also has a number of longer term contracts including:

  • IT facilities management
  • grounds maintenance
  • refuse collection and recycling
  • sports centre management
  • office cleaning
  • insurance

Procurement strategy and rules

Our key principles for procurement are in the Spelthorne Procurement Strategy. Rules setting out how these principles can be applied are in our Contract Standing Orders, now being revised to reflect current best practice. Contract Standing Orders regulate how we conduct our business and anyone employed by the Council (staff, consultants etc) must conform to them. They set out procedures for advertising, evaluating and letting contract of different values. A summary is provided here for information. Values are assessed over the whole life of a contract.

European rules

European Union rules state that if a contract exceeds relevant value thresholds (works £3,834,411; supplies or services £153,376) we normally have to advertise in the Official Journal of the European Union, inviting expressions of interest to tender.

European Directives set out the timescales we have to follow. These rules aim to ensure open and non-discriminatory competition. You can find out more about the European rules from BIP Solutions, who also have other useful information about doing business with the public sector and guidance on how to make the most of opportunities available.

Spelthorne rules

The estimated value of a contract determines the tender procedure to be followed, including how many tenders we need to invite, how we advertise and what checks we make:

Financial thresholdRequirements
£0 to£1,999
£2,000 to £4,999
£5,000 to £9,999
£10,000 to £14,999
1 verbal quotation (minimum)
2 verbal quotations (minimum)
2 written quotations (minimum)
3 written quotations (minimum)
£15,000 to £49,9993 written quotations/tenders (minimum) with option to advertise
Over £50,0003 tenders (minimum) after public advertisement of open invitation to tender or join select list in minimum of 1 local paper 1 trade journal

The requirement for a quotation or tender will vary according to the nature and / or value of the contract.

In addition to advertising contracts over £15,000, we are exploring other ways of publicising contracts. We intend to have a register on our website where you can find out about opportunities and will be able to let us know if you are likely to be interested.

When a contract is valued at £10,000 or more, all quotations and tenders must be returned in plain envelopes marked only with Quotation / Tender, contract title and closing date. Spelthorne supplies appropriate envelopes and labels. All returned envelopes are marked with time of receipt and kept unopened in secure conditions until formally opened by appropriate officers. All envelopes must be opened in the presence of at least 2 officers, plus a Council Member if the contract is valued over £50,000. All quotations and tenders are recorded on a tender list or tender book at the time of opening and details signed as correct by those present.

Select lists

Spelthorne does not normally operate a select list system. Instead, tender lists are made for individual contracts, either from lists supplied by third parties such as Constructionline, or by assessment of businesses / organisations responding to an advertisement. When such an advertisement indicates that a select list is to be compiled, acceptance onto a select list does not guarantee award of tender. Instead, suppliers from the select list are invited to tender for specific contracts.

Collaboration and partnerships

Where appropriate, Spelthorne is keen to work with contractors, other local authorities and other public services to maximise economies of scale and deliver cost and service efficiencies. To this end, Spelthorne is a member of the Surrey Procurement Network, a collaboration of 12 Surrey authorities aiming to achieve best value by identifying and using opportunities for regional buying, joint working and partnerships.

Where there is demonstrable benefit, Spelthorne also aims to deliver improved procurement efficiency through initiatives promoted by the South East Centre of Excellence.

Tendering for business

Anyone responding to an advertisement with a tender or expression of interest must be prepared to enter into an assessment process. Spelthorne has a duty to ensure its suppliers have the capacity and commitment to fulfil a contract. Depending on the contract, we may send a pre-qualification questionnaire, which we will use to decide who to invite to tender. Assessment criteria may include confirmation of:

  • financial stability and resources
  • qualifications and experience
  • technical and other relevant references
  • adequacy of insurances
  • tax registration and valid certification (where appropriate)
  • compliance with relevant industry standards
  • appropriate environmental, ethical and employment policies

If the Council has selected firms already assessed by a recognised organisation such as Constructionline, we will not repeat the assessment already undertaken but may supplement it with any appropriate additional considerations.

If invited to tender, we will send you relevant papers that may include:

  • an invitation to tender, showing when, where and how to submit your tender
  • contract conditions, defining the terms of business between the Council and supplier
  • a specification, setting out the Council's requirements and any technical details
  • a schedule of rates, for entering prices
  • a form of tender, where you make your formal tender offer

It is important that you follow all instructions about what you need to include and how to return the tender, to avoid disqualification. The tender must be submitted on time.

All quotations and tenders received will be evaluated according to criteria detailed in contract specifications, contract standing orders or European Union regulations as appropriate.

The Council will inform all tenderers of the outcome of their tender as soon as is practical after they have been opened and evaluated, and will discuss terms and conditions with the successful tenderer. Any post tender negotiations will be conducted in full compliance with guidance detailed in contract standing orders. Contract terms and conditions are based on industry standards where possible, and standard Spelthorne contract terms and conditions are being prepared.

Successful contractors may be asked to provide a bond and / or parent company guarantee. The need for this will depend on the status of the contractor and the nature of the contract.

Contract management, monitoring and payment

The Council will monitor progress of the contract, or the standard of services provided, to ensure that the requirements of the contract are being met.For works contracts, this will involve regular communication with a contract manager and may include submission of activity records. For service contracts an officer will be assigned responsibility for monitoring contractor performance.

Payment will be made in accordance with the agreed terms and conditions, and only on receipt of an accurate invoice that conforms to VAT regulations (where contractor is VAT registered) for completed deliveries, works or services. Stage payments will be made where provided for in the contract terms and conditions.

E-procurement

Spelthorne currently uses BACS payments to pay suppliers electronically (and will only make non-BACS payments by exception) and online ordering of goods such as stationery, office supplies and computer consumables. Spelthorne uses electronic purchase ordering and prefers to email rather than post purchase orders to suppliers. To assist the speedy purchasing of invoices it is important that suppliers always quote the Spelthorne purchase order number on their invoices.

Details of all the Council's significant contracts (with a value of more than £5,000 are being put on the South East Centre of Excellence Business portal. Suppliers can view the details of our contracts and those of other authorities in the south east on the portal. Suppliers can also register free of charge on the portal to receive contract opportunities relating to contract areas specified by the suppliers and to provide the ability to register an interest in contract opportunities. See separate summary for suppliers produced by the South East Centre of excellence.

We are considering further forms of e-procurement appropriate for our size and business need, such as use of:

  • electronic invoice payment
  • online contract notification, tender submission and award notices
  • purchase cards
  • supplier hosted web catalogues
  • electronic marketplace

Policy considerations

Contracts will only be awarded to contractors who can satisfy the Council's requirements in terms of health and safety competence, and that can demonstrate compliance with health and safety legislation. You can get more information from the Health and Safety Executive.

The Council is committed to promoting equal opportunity irrespective of sex, age, race or disability. We will expect our contracts to be delivered in a way that is non-discriminatory and our suppliers to have equal opportunity policies in place that comply with all current legislation and the codes of practice issued by equality commissions. You can get more information from the Equal Opportunities Commission or from the Disability Rights Commission.

The Council is committed to addressing the environmental, economic and social impacts of its activities and has adopted the Sustainable Development Strategy to ensure the core values of engagement, environmental protection and economic development. Our suppliers are required to have appropriate policies to ensure continual improvements in overall sustainability performance and to promote practices consistent with our policy. Sustainability criteria are included in contract specifications and the Sustainability Officer is consulted at an early stage in major tenders. Whole-life costing is also considered when purchasing products and services. You can get more information on sustainable procurement from the IDeA.

The Freedom of Information Act entitles all members of the public to access information held by public authorities in any form, and the Council must advise and help anyone who has made or is thinking of making a request for access. All suppliers must be aware of this duty, which may require us to allow open access to tender and contract documentation, although there are circumstances in which contractors can provide information in confidence that need not be released.