Last updated 29 January 2024
Becoming a CCS supplier is a great way to grow your business while supporting vital public services. Find out how to start supplying.
Could your organisation become a supplier to the public sector?
The public sector spends £billions each year procuring goods and services from the private sector. Winning a contract to deliver services or supplies to public sector buyers is a great way to increase your revenues, enhance your reputation, be reliably paid – with our prompt payment policies, and grow your organisation.
Contrary to what you might believe, public sector procurement is not just a market for larger organisations and it is not as difficult as it might seem. Many suppliers to the public sector are small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), and some are even micro-businesses.
Crown Commercial Service (CCS) wants to encourage organisations of all sizes to become suppliers. The aim of this article is to help you get started.
How do I get started?
CCS is a ‘central purchasing body’ – the largest in the UK, but there are many regional and sector specific procurement organisations across the UK, for example in local government, the NHS and universities. Many public bodies also have their own procurement teams.
Why sell through CCS?
Why not start your public sector supplier journey by finding out how you could become a CCS supplier?
At CCS, our primary role is managing and streamlining the procurement process for the government departments and public sector organisations we represent.
Through our commercial agreements we can help you sell to 20,000 UK public sector buyers spending over £31 billion a year.
Our customers can buy from across 83 categories of common goods and services. CCS agreements cover communications services, construction, eCommerce, energy, fleet, technology, office solutions, print, professional services (including temporary labour) through to property and facilities management, research and travel.
How we’re making it easier for suppliers of all sizes to sell through the public sector
We have a clear and driven focus on making it easier for all businesses to bid for work – regardless of size. We understand the importance of having a diverse range of suppliers working with the public sector. To achieve this, our bidding process aims to foster healthy competition and bring the right market expertise to offer customers quality and value without disadvantaging or compromising suppliers. We work to do that in a number of ways, including:
- publishing details of upcoming procurements on our website so that suppliers can plan what they want to bid for
- using data and insight in our category strategies to understand what our customers actually need and what the supply market can offer, which enables us to write bid packs that make it really clear to suppliers what the requirements are
- implementing the Prompt Payment Policy which means that, as of April 2021, companies that fail to pay 85% of their invoices within 60 days will be excluded from bidding for major central government contracts. This supports smaller businesses in their supply chain.
How to sell your goods and services to UK public sector buyers
*Our commercial agreements are currently split into 2 main types: ‘frameworks’ and ‘Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS)’. All of our current live agreements are listed on our agreement page.
CCS has also created a ‘closed category’ Low Value Purchase System, specifically for low cost, low value and uncomplicated common goods and services including from SMEs and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise suppliers. The value of the contract for these goods and services must not exceed the limits set out in the Procurement Policy Note (PPN) for Public Contract Thresholds 20/21.
For the purpose of this article, below is a brief description of how frameworks and DPSs work and how to tender for each:
What is a framework?
Framework agreements help the public sector to buy goods and services from businesses.
Frameworks include a description of common public sector requirements, a list of suppliers who have been evaluated as capable of providing the requirements, and standardised contract terms. Frameworks are often divided into lots, typically by product or service type.
Suppliers bid or ‘tender’ competitively to be awarded places on frameworks. Each framework is different, but as a general rule, suppliers must demonstrate how they can provide the goods and services required to an agreed standard. Suppliers will also need to meet the terms of our buyer assurance process as well as explain how they can generate social value, or meet carbon net zero targets.
We assess all of the tenders received from suppliers before the framework goes live and award places based on factors such as the ones listed above. Once suppliers have been awarded a place on an agreement, they can tender for work from public services that use the framework (see below).
Tendering for frameworks: how it works
To be considered as an appointed supplier on a CCS framework you need to express an interest in any procurement you intend to bid for.
There are no joining fees, suppliers simply pay a small commission (or levy) based purely on the value of the sales they make through the framework. The commission varies by agreement but currently averages just 0.33%. If the supplier is not successfully awarded a contract and achieves no work through the agreement, then CCS does not charge a levy.
CCS must follow a formal process to ensure procurement regulations are met. When a new agreement need is identified, or when an expiring agreement needs to be renewed, opportunities for suppliers to be awarded places on the framework will be publicly listed.
You can use Find a Tender to search for high-value opportunities. These are agreements with an estimated total lifetime value of over £138,760. You can find contracts over £12,000 (or £30,000 outside central government) on Contracts Finder – for England and other non-devolved parts of the UK. LVPS opportunities are listed on our website.
It is only by responding to a contract notice in the Find a Tender service that you can tender to become a supplier on one of our DPSs or framework agreements.
In the case of frameworks, once it has been awarded, additional suppliers cannot then be added. You will need to wait until the next relevant tender opportunity arises. New procurements typically start several months in advance of the current arrangement’s expiry date.
If there are no relevant tender opportunities currently available for your area of business, it may be possible for you to subcontract your services to suppliers on existing agreements. If you are interested in potential subcontracting opportunities please contact the relevant supplier directly.
What is a Dynamic Purchasing System?
DPSs are similar to frameworks, but as their name suggests, they are more ‘dynamic’ to encourage innovation and suppliers can join at any time during the agreement’s life.
We use pre-arranged checks based on a range of criteria to create a list of suppliers that customers can filter to suit their needs. This ensures that customers have access to a continuously updated field of suppliers and also gives suppliers the opportunity to bid for public sector contracts at any point in the agreement’s life cycle.
The application process for joining a DPS is usually quicker and simpler than for a standard framework and suppliers can offer additional services throughout the life of the DPS should their business expand into new areas, providing these new services fall under the remit of the original agreement scope.
Tendering for a DPS: How it works
You will need to complete a standard Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ). If you have met the exclusion and selection criteria in the PQQ you will then be added to the DPS. If you are not added as a supplier you will be given useful feedback to help you re-apply.
Approved buyers award individual contracts through the DPS. The buyer invites all suppliers on the DPS (or all those included in their filtered selection based on their requirements) to compete and bid for a specific contract.
5 steps to becoming a CCS supplier
CCS procurements are conducted using our eSourcing portal. You will need to be registered on the eSourcing portal to participate in CCS tender opportunities. To register you will need to provide information including: full legal name of your organisation; your DUNS number – a unique nine-digit number provided to organisations free of charge; profile information describing your organisation and the size of your business.
Every agreement will have specific instructions about how to tender as a supplier. You will be able to find these in the tender documents included on the publicly available listing, however you will usually have to follow these steps:
- read the invitation to tender and ask any clarification questions. CCS will answer the questions and share them with all bidders for transparency purposes
- submit a tender before the tender deadline
- monitor our eSourcing portal in case we have any clarification questions
- monitor the eSourcing portal for the outcome of the evaluation. During this time CCS will evaluate all the tenders. This includes the selection questionnaire, answers to each quality question and the pricing submission.
- If you are successful, you will sign and return your agreement. You may then be invited to bid on call off competitions from public sector buyers. We have a standard template for framework contracts for common goods and services. You can see our standard core terms and conditions, along with schedule templates. Please note that different agreements change the terms depending on the category subject and you should be mindful of checking that and raising questions during clarification.
More: You can now find all of our Procurement Essentials articles in one place on our website.
*From Autumn 2024, the regulations that govern how money is spent on public sector goods, works and services will change. The Cabinet Office is leading the TPP programme. Visit the Transforming Public Procurement webpage for more detailed information on how suppliers can prepare for implementing the new regime.