What Are Public Sector Tenders?

When it comes to tendering, businesses can bid for both public sector contracts and private sector tenders. Public, government tendering is a highly lucrative, secure method of tendering that many businesses benefit from each year.


Here we discuss what these contracts are, what the tender process is and how you can bid to enter the local and/or central government supply chain.

A public sector tender is published by public sector organisations, such as Councils, Government and the NHS, inviting suppliers to bid for the supply of their goods, services, utilities and any other relevant works.

Public procurement sees a public body send out a tender, sometimes referred to as a public sector contract, that businesses can bid for. 


Businesses will have the chance to bid competitively to provide goods or services to central and local government bodies. 


These are secure contracts for businesses that see new revenue streams and more favourable payment terms.

How do public sector tenders benefit your business?

The government spends a huge amount of money with private businesses each year; about £290bn in fact, making it one of the largest spenders across many UK industries.

In addition to the extra revenue streams you can get from the public sector, generally speaking, government contracts are far less risky than their private sector counterparts.

A public sector organisation won’t go bust and owe large sums of money to suppliers, for example.

Where can I find public sector tenders?

Finding public sector tenders is fairly straightforward, made even easier by Thornton & Lowe’s comprehensive tender software, Tender Pipeline. Tender Pipeline is a unique piece of software that allows businesses to easily search for public tenders, narrow down their search by location and contract type and alert you when relevant public authorities put out a suitable Invitation to Tender (ITT)

You can also find public sector tenders through:

  • Contracts Finder, a service based on the official Gov website for all current UK tenders.
  • Find a Tender Service (FTS) for all EU tenders and high-value, above threshold UK contracts. This was previously Tenders Electronic Daily but changed to FTS after Brexit and the 2021 changes to the OJEU Thresholds.
  • Framework Agreement, which is where a buyer chooses a small handful of suppliers, pre-approves them for the tender and contacts them if and when they are needed. This isn’t guaranteed work but it does present you as a trustworthy company to others.

How can Tender Pipeline help my business?

A tender management system is a system, process or piece of software that can effectively manage your tender processes. Much like a Bid Manager who oversees a bid team and their writing, a tender management system can support all of your tendering processes, teams and managers.

Thornton & Lowe have specialised tender management software that can provide much needed support to businesses working with tenders:

Tender Pipeline

Tender Pipeline acn hugely benefit a business looking to bid for tenders in the public sector. This unique software holds important intelligence on competitors, letting you know who won which contracts and how. This information is vital in helping a business tweak their bids to increase chances of success.This software can also alert you regarding re-tender dates, ensuring that you are in the prime position to bid for a contract that has resurfaced with updated data in mind.

Best of all, Tender Pipeline is a free piece of software that you can use to increase your chances of securing lucrative, often highly competitive, public contracts. Via Tender Pipeline, you can also receive tender alerts specifically for public sector tenders, meaning that you will never miss a suitable opportunity. 

What is the tender process for public sector contracts?

We get asked this question a lot by businesses wanting to make a tender. There are typically four procurement procedures used by public sector bodies during the tendering process. The contract notice will tell you which one needs to be used.

Open Procedure

This is when the tender is advertised with all interested parties able to submit a completed tender document. The hiring organisation then works through them all with a thorough evaluation process. Contract awards are made from there.

Restricted Procedure

With this procurement procedure, there are two steps in the process. The first part will see a shortlist of suppliers chosen to move forward to the next stage. This initial step normally requires a Selection Questionnaire (SQ), previously known as a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ), to be completed.Those selected to move to the second stage will be invited to tender (ITT). Once the returned tenders are checked and evaluated, contract awards will follow.

Competitive Dialogue 

Usually used for complicated or high-value tenders, the awarding body will negotiate with companies to reach the best possible solution. The process is then followed by an invitation to tender and contracts are awarded.

Negotiated Procurement

This tends to be used sparingly in public sector contracts but, from time-to-time, it will be deemed the most suitable option. The public sector organisation involved will enter into direct negotiation with one or more suppliers.

Framework Agreement

A Framework Agreement is a contract that acts as a multi-supplier agreement to create long term relationships between approved works suppliers and a buyer. If a public body has a range of works up for bid, they may create a framework agreement to increase efficiency by not having to go through the complete tender process for each job.

If you’re interested in the difference between a framework agreement and a contract, read our dedicated blog post on these agreements.

What happens after I bid for a public sector tender?

One of two things will happen after bidding for public sector contracts. You’ll either win the bid, or you’ll be unsuccessful. Either way, there are more steps you’ll need to take to make the most out of each opportunity. 

Winning public sector tenders

This is great for a business as public tenders are secured work that comes with a guaranteed payment. This is also good for future tendering as you may be able to replicate your processes to replicate a win, making the process far easier moving forward.

If you are interested in bidding for public contracts, check out our guide on how to win public sector tenders to learn how you can be successful in this area. 

Being unsuccessful with public sector tenders

If you are unsuccessful in bidding for a tender, you can still gain plenty of value from the information provided afterwards. You can ask the awarding body for feedback on your tender, using this information to adapt your tendering processes to increase your chances of success next time.

You can also see who won the tender and take inspiration from them. It may be that they offer a lower price point or have more experience, but regardless of the main reasons, you may still be able to take value from the data you find.

Benefits of public sector tenders

There are plenty of benefits to public sector tendering, mainly that they are often safer and more secure than private sector tenders.

More opportunities: The government is keen to encourage SMEs into public tendering - this means that most businesses, no matter the size, will get the chance to enter the government supply chain through winning public contracts.

Highly regulated: Public tenders are regulated heavily. Some see this as off putting, but this just means that opportunities are more clear when an ITT is put out and contracts are secure for both supplier and company going forward.

Guaranteed timely payment: Government tenders are contractually bound and payment is clear from the start. They must be honest, fair and follow a set of strict regulations to ensure suppliers are paid on time and in full.

Public sector tender experts

At Thornton & Lowe, we provide a large range of services that can help businesses find success in public sector tendering. Our aim is to help businesses win public sector tenders, whether this is through our expert bid writing and bid training services or through use of our comprehensive tendering portal. 

Get in touch with us today to find out how your business can benefit from public sector tenders and government contracts.

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