If you’re looking to join the Framework game in 2023, then look no further than the Crown Commercial Service (CCS). CCS is the largest public procurement service in the UK, currently listing 2,561 suppliers over 115 agreements totalling an enormous £2.8 billion per year. This work is spread over 17,000 customer organisations, meaning more opportunities for contract awards than you could otherwise dream of tendering for!
Created to help buyers procure goods and services from the central government, this framework for public procurement is a stable and regulated option that draws upon national buying power. With opportunities for sole traders through to multinational corporations, CCS provides a vast amount of opportunity for suppliers of any size.
Ensuring high-quality service delivery, CCS uses competition among suppliers to increase quality and value for buyers. This means that you need to be the best in the game and have done your research on your competitors. However, once you’ve put the work in and gained framework placement if awarded contracts these can be extremely lucrative.
Don’t be disheartened from applying for the CCS framework award if you don’t win the first time around: By offering up to unlimited contract extension and opportunities for the direct award (buyers choosing you as their supplier without having to go through the tender process for contracts), competition for the award is fierce as the rewards of successful tendering for CCS framework can be huge. The important thing to remember is that competition is tough for a reason. For help before and during the tendering process, get in touch to speak with a member of our Bid Writing team.
Putting your company in the best place for contract award, first understand what CCS is trying to achieve
A hotly debated topic, public procurement at its core is interested in cost-efficient procurement for taxpayers. This means getting the most value for money out of public taxes to spend on public services.
Whittling potential suppliers down to an approved list, CCS produces a ‘ready to go’ list of suppliers who have proven themselves to be the best value for money and compliant with strict regulations. Immediately reducing costs through fewer administrative procedures, the way to approach tendering for this framework is to demonstrate why your company should be awarded, based on the principles of being the ‘Most Economically Advantageous Tender’ (MEAT). This doesn’t necessarily mean being the cheapest option but proving throughout your responses how your costs are justified by your service delivery. This can be proven through methods such as:
- Innovative service offerings
- Qualifications that set you apart from the competition
- Service delivery that goes beyond the requirements and can be proven to add value (perhaps by solving issues that may otherwise cost them more money to fix)
One thing to consider when tendering for a CCS framework award is how pricing works in relation to the number of goods/services procured. Buyers get competitive prices because suppliers can sell large volumes of their products and services to UK public sector organisations as though they were supplying a single customer. Working with this in mind, increase your chance of contract award by ensuring that you can realistically provide the scale of services required for lots you tender for.
“But I’m just a Small Medium Enterprise (SME), how can I compete against multinational organisations?”, I hear you ask.
The UK Government is committed to procuring 33% of its services from SMEs annually. This means that 1 in 3 contracts will be awarded to an SME just like yours. Pitching odds such as these alongside the SME's ability to meet the needs of buyers more flexibly, the Framework and its contracts is more accessible than you might think!
Why should I sell my services through CCS?
Selling on average £2.8 billion pounds of goods and services to the public sector per year, an award on the CCS framework comes with the prestige of reliability and contract security.
Unlike private sector contracts, the public sector is strictly regulated and protects suppliers against issues such as buyer’s companies dissolving or cancelling contracts midway through. A public contract award is a secure way to maintain revenue for the duration of the contract, and the least risky form of contract to hold.
With many opportunities for a contract extension (with some having no caps), providing a great service and keeping your buyer happy could mean guaranteed income without the stress of continuous retendering.
As part of its strict regulation, CCS ensures payment to suppliers within 30 days. Adding a layer of transparency around contract dealings, and having agreed terms protected by the Framework body prevents issues such as breaking contractual agreements and delayed payments, making the process easier and more appealing for SMEs to take part in.
By abolishing Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) for low-value contracts (contracts under £100,000), CCS allows SMEs to focus their efforts on the Invitation To Tender stage (ITT) with less disruption to their everyday workload. Relieving you of the burden of PQQs, you can focus your efforts on proving why and how you can deliver your service without worrying about pre-determined selection criteria. In plain speak, this means that you can tender for the opportunities you want under £100,000 without having to first be approved. This will save you time and resources.
A further feather in the cap of SMEs, public sector procurers often see SMEs as flexible, quick to react and offer better prices. Sending this message through your responses by highlighting examples of where you have met certain specification requirements and how you will meet the requests of the buyer, flexible service delivery may help charm your way onto the framework.
This all sounds well and good, but what actually is a Framework?
Frameworks can range from small and sector or regionally specific to large and multinational in reach. However, all frameworks are the same in essence.
Thinking of frameworks as member-only shopping lists, they are collections of tender opportunities (shopping aisles) with pre-approved suppliers (products) for buyers to choose from. Like Tesco selling a set selection of products, suppliers are pre-selected by the Framework Authority to make finding the right service easy for buyers.
Kind of like Costco where members get special rates on products that aren’t available elsewhere, the benefit to buyers purchasing through frameworks is that they are automatically presented with the best value, and all the haggling has been done for them.
CCS provides information on upcoming, present and past opportunities, allowing suppliers to research their competitors, the kinds of service delivery required, and upcoming opportunities that they may like to tender for. A list of these upcoming opportunities can be found here.
To demonstrate the vast scope of sectors represented on CCS, below are a few examples of the kinds of works that can be tendered at any particular time. Note: You will see a reference to ‘lots’ mentioned in the descriptions. This means that the opportunity for contract award is open to more than 1 buyer and covers more than 1 scope. Whilst successful suppliers will have to apply to the lots they wish to win, choosing lots with more opportunities for contract awards boosts your chances of success.
G Cloud 13
Agreement number: RM1557.13
Split into 3 lots, this framework is used to procure a diverse range of cloud-based computing services. 40% of the total spend thus far has been with SMEs.
5,006 suppliers have been awarded a place on this framework, with over 40,000 services available for customers.
Over the lifetime of the G Cloud framework, £1.5 billion worth of services has been bought through this framework. To date, the biggest spend area is Professional Services.
This framework is due for renewal on 08/11/2023 for G Cloud 14.
Around £150 million per year
Digital Outcomes 6
Agreement number: RM1043.8
A 24-month agreement, Digital Outcomes 6 lists user-centred digital design services. These services are not limited to UK-based suppliers, and suppliers keep the intellectual property rights for all bespoke developments.
Services can be provided by sole traders through large corporations, with a specific focus on meeting the UK Government’s aim to commit 33% of procured services from SMEs.
This framework supports subcontracted services and is split into 3 lots. Agreements are made for a maximum of 2 years with an optional extension of 25%.
Digital Outcomes 6 next renews on 27/06/2024.
Facilities Management Marketplace (FM)
Agreement ID: RM3830
Used to procure services such as maintenance, cleaning and security, this framework lists 40 suppliers that deliver 15 services over 3 lots.
FM helps SMEs quickly gain contract award based on providing the lowest price for contracts up to £1.5 million, with further non-direct awards placed on contracts with no maximum value.
Suppliers are awarded partially on geographical coverage (1 successful supplier per region of the UK as defined by the Nomenclature of Territorial Statistics) meaning that competition may be tough for framework award, but that no direct competition will be experienced for the duration of the framework, once awarded.
This framework is next due to renew on 09/04/2023.
Around £9 million
Agreement ID: RM6123
Replacing RM6003 Media Buying, the Media Services Framework runs for 4 years and lists 10 suppliers to deliver services over 5 lots.
The types of services delivered on this contract include, but are not limited to:
Whilst there are no opportunities for extension, opportunities for direct award are available to suppliers under lots 1 and 3.
This framework next renews on 13/12/2025.
Occupational Health, Employee Assistance Programmes and Eye Care Services
Agreement ID: RM6182
Providing solutions to a range of occupational health services, 16 suppliers over 11 lots deliver services that reflect the needs and requirements of the modern and diverse workforce.
Lot 4 is regional, meaning that suppliers will have to demonstrate the ability to provide lots within at least 1 of 7 sub-lots. These regions are:
Replacing the Occupational Health, Employee Assistance Programmes and Eye Care (RM3795), this framework runs for 4 years.
Whilst there is no formal opportunity to extend, happy buyers can extend call-off agreements past the framework expiry date without limitation. This means that you could, in theory, win a continuous contract.
This framework allows direct award by buyers and is specifically accessible to SMEs given the regional award criteria.
This framework is next due to renew on 22/03/2025.
£220 million (excluding VAT)
Agreement ID: RM6059
This agreement is split into 3 lots shared between 11 suppliers for the provision of office supplies. This includes some PPE but is not designed for close contact with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 patients.
The direct award is available for lots 1 and 3, and all lots are bound to the same 2-year agreement with 2 optional extensions of 12 months each.
Some suppliers for this agreement have agreed to share Carbon Reduction Plans in line with the Policy Procurement Notice (06/21).
This framework is next due for renewal on 05/04/2024.
Agreement ID: RM6118
This framework provides a range of payment acceptance services including:
Split into 6 lots shared between 15 suppliers, this is a 3-year contract with an optional 1-year extension.
The framework next renews on 02/02/2024.
CCS Bid Writing Top Tips
Writing winning tenders since 2009, we have compiled some of our top tips for securing placement on the CCS framework.
- Proofread your Selection Questionnaire (SQ): A mix of self-declared statements, the SQ requires suppliers to self-assess their professional, financial and technical (amongst others) ability to perform the contracted works. Whilst this can appear at first a minefield of technical jargon, it is important to get right as many of the required fields are pass/fail. For help completing these documents, speak to our Bid Writers.
- Provide evidence throughout your bid: CCS representatives will want proof that your company will be of value to their buyers through references and examples. Make sure that your examples are correct and legitimate, as falsifications can result in immediate disqualification.
- Read the specification and familiarise yourself with the framework agreement: To prove you can provide the greatest value for money, you will want to explain how you will meet the requirements of the specification for each lot. This may take some time, so make sure you set aside enough time before you begin the writing process to avoid rushing and to give you enough time to conduct any research.
- Apply separately for each lot: You may find that you are wanting to apply for multiple lots from the same buyer. To do so, you will have to apply for each lot individually. This will mean writing responses for each lot that are bespoke to the differences of lot requirements. To save time, you can reuse relevant information in responses, but make sure that at every stage you tailor this info to the requirements and question asked.
- Give yourself the best chance of being selected: For some companies, it may take several years before framework placement is awarded. Given that CCS agreements tend to last between 2-10 years, missing out can lead to long periods of waiting and frustration. To put yourself in the best position to win, familiarise yourself with Contracts Finder (where all UK tender opportunities are published) and keep up to date with upcoming CCS opportunities. For more personalised opportunities, check out Tender Pipeline. Many SMEs find it easier and less stressful to hire a Bid Writer to handle the tendering process. Alternatively, they may like to invest in Bid Writing training to provide them with the skills and knowledge to produce strong and competitive bids.
Common requirements for CCS
As part of your bid for the CCS framework, you will be required to complete a mandatory Standard Selection Questionnaire document which is split into three parts:
This covers basic information about you, including:
This covers a self-declaration to confirm whether any exclusion grounds apply, for example:
This covers a delf-declaration to confirm that you meet the selection criteria in respect of financial standing and technical capacity. This includes:
From what we know about CCS Frameworks, holding a valid and current Cyber Essentials Certificate is also an essential requirement. This must be either a Cyber Essentials Basic Certificate or the Cyber Essentials Plus Certificate. From the previous iteration, suppliers on Lot 4 for Information Assured Products are also required to be List X accredited.
Using Thornton and Lowe for CCS tender support
We know that our clients have what it takes to win, and we champion the SMEs that make it happen. With a framework success rate in excess of 90% and 95% client retention, get in touch and let us be the voice that helps you to secure your CCS framework award today.
We have found working with the team at Thornton & Lowe to be excellent - their patience, attention to detail and professionalism throughout the entire process was greatly appreciated. We would highly recommend Thornton & Lowe to any company looking to secure more business." - Cantium Business Solutions
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