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Can you help build East Lothian?

East Lothian Council 10DR in Construction

When you look around your bit of East Lothian, what do you see? There are public buildings, sure - as well as schools, sites of historic interest, libraries and more. All of those buildings - at one time or another - were made by builders.

Do you know their names?

If you own a small business in construction trades, deciding which routes to take to market can be difficult – made even more complicated in recent times due to uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit.

In Scotland, there is an annual public spend of £11billion. All public sector spend is advertised through Public Contracts Scotland, the national public sector tender portal for Scotland.

East Lothian Council advertises contract opportunities on a regular basis, and has an upcoming opportunity in construction of local public buildings. The Council is keen to support local construction businesses to bid for the framework.

Clarifying 'Fake News' about Public Sector Procurement

Contrary to popular belief, contracts do not always go to the same suppliers. By law, transparency is required for the procurement of goods, services and works, so public sector buyers are required to be open, fair and honest in the way they choose suppliers and in any dealings with them. There is a robust audit trail for public procurement, and it is also a right of suppliers to express any concerns they may have about a specific tender exercise through the Scottish Government’s Single Point of Enquiry (SPoE), which offers independent advice.

It’s also a myth that SMEs aren’t a priority in public sector procurement. Written into Scots law as the Sustainable Procurement Duty, buyers have a duty to engage with SME businesses to support local employment and retain wealth locally.

Benefits to winning public sector contracts:

  • No debt risk, as public bodies have a legal duty to pay SME supplier invoices within 30 days (or within 10 days if the SME has a cash flow issue).
  • Stability for your business through potential economic implications of local lockdown, Brexit or economic downturns, public services still need to be delivered. Your business will benefit from a relatively stable and durable customer base.
  • Marketing mileage from having a large customer like a public body, which can be used to promote your service to grow your business.

Accessing Free Tender Support

The Supplier Development Programme (SDP) was set up in 2008 by Scottish local authorities as a free service for bid support and tender training for SME businesses. It has grown to become a partnership led by all 32 Scottish local authorities, Scottish Government and other public bodies that works together to bring free support in all aspects of tendering to Scottish-based SMEs.

SDP helps businesses that are often too small to have dedicated bid/tender resources to contemplate bidding for a public sector contract. SDP aims to help them become what is called “tender ready” for contracts, which improves their prospects when competing for contract opportunities. SDP delivers this support through a programme of free training and events that are listed and accessed on the SDP website.

How do I access training in bid writing?

SDP is the foremost free training programme for bidding and procurement in Scotland – there are more than 17,000 businesses registered.

SDP’s introductory training helps companies, supported businesses and social enterprises that have had little or no experience of tendering decide if tendering is for them and if so, how to go about it. SDP’s most popular courses break down Public Contracts Scotland into manageable steps, give top tips on how to find contract opportunities, and how to publish the “Supplier Finder” profile - a must if businesses wish to be invited to participate in a “Quick Quote” invitation from a contracting authority.

The intermediate level of SDP training is aimed at businesses that have some experience of tendering with varying success, but would like to become more proficient.

Finally, companies and social enterprises that have plenty of experience and success of tendering can access advanced training that helps them explore potential new markets (including overseas), routes of redress and contract management.

SMEs are encouraged to self-select training and this can be from any level, in any order. Once they have registered for free on the SDP website, SMEs and social enterprises can currently attend any training event from any area in Scotland.

Prior to the pandemic, all training was either delivered in the traditional classroom style or digitally by webinar. Since March this year, SDP seamlessly switched to 100% online delivery and consistently receives excellent feedback from businesses that participate in tender training.

All SDP training is delivered by qualified, scrutinised trainers that successfully bid for the SDP training framework through Public Contracts Scotland. Indeed, some of the same private consultants that offer paid-for bid writing are the experts that teach SME businesses how to tender - for free - through SDP.

Are you known for your building work?

East Lothian Council is about to refresh its Construction Framework to support a programme of public building works. Plans include internal alterations to various schools and other public buildings including an extension to Longniddry Primary School and an extension to Windygoul Primary School in Tranent, to name just a few.

The anticipated value of the contract is approximately £18m over the course of the 4-year framework. The Supplier Development Programme and East Lothian Council want to help and support you to bid successfully so that local businesses can benefit from a share of this opportunity. This allows local community and wealth development in the area through transparent public procurement practices.

Being part of the construction framework provides opportunities for your business while also giving you the chance to contribute to East Lothian’s landscape and the future of its buildings.

Find out more at a free supplier engagement event, which will be held on 13 January. Book your place today. More information is available online.

Wouldn’t it be nice to look at those public buildings in your local community in the next few years and be able to say, “I built that,” to family and friends?

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