Small firms set to benefit from EU procurement changes

David Rogers

Flags of European countries outside the European Parliament building in Brussels.

New rules due this summer

Smaller firms could soon stand a chance of winning more housing association work under a shake-up of EU procurement rules due to come into force this summer.

Organisations like housing associations, which under EU rules are categorised as ‘bodies governed by public law’, have previously had to advertise contracts in the Ojeu because a proportion of their funding has come from central government.

But under revisions to the EU Procurement Directive, most housing associations will no longer have to procure work under EU law because they receive less than 50% of their funding from government.

The RIBA has long complained that smaller practices are shut out of bidding for these sorts of contracts because of onerous box ticking procedures that firms are asked to comply with under EU rules.

Walter Menteth, the head of RIBA’s procurement reform group and the author of last year’s Building Ladders of Opportunity report on reforming public sector procurement which recommended holding more design competitions, said: “Smaller practices will stand a chance of winning now. It’s up to housing associations to be pro-active in getting smaller practices on board.”

He added: “They [housing associations] will be able to use their own competition processes, their own interview processes – so long as they’re clear and transparent. This will be a major change and should see an end to money being spent on an uncreative procurement process. What we don’t want to see is them just copying the procurement methods they’ve been using for the past 15 years.”

The new rules will also see changes to firms having to self certify on a host of criteria such as turnover and health and safety records. Menteth said firms will only have to provide evidence of their claims once they are asked to bid.

The changes will only affect arms length bodies like housing associations rather than local authorities who are seen under EU laws as direct branches of government.

RIBA steps in

The RIBA is publishing guidance for clients on how to procure better buildings later this spring.

The report will include advice for bodies faced with changes in EU procurement law. “There is a general acknowledgement that there is very poor pre-tendering advice available to clients,” said Menteth.

He added the guidance will be “much more comprehensive” than what it has previously offered and said: “It’s about intelligent commissioning and helping clients getting better design. The need to gear and educate for change requires cross-industry support if better buildings are to be delivered.”

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