The draft statutory framework says quality concerns may 'lead to a decision to reject a lower bid in favour of the direct service organisation'. The document is an adaptation of the existing anti competitive guidance for manual services (Circular 10/93) to make it applicable to legal, information technology, finance, personnel, corporate and administrative, construction related and housing management services.
It is currently being discussed by the joint DoE/local authority association working parties on white collar CCT. The amended circular makes more post tender negotiations possible for professional services than is permissible currently for services already subject to competition.
It also proposes that for some services, such as advocacy or litigation, councils may specify in contracts that named individuals be responsible for carrying out the work throughout the contract. Other changes include an acceptance that councils may require contractors to use particular premises where it is important for the effective provision of services. An obvious example of this is estates offices.
'No such credit need to be offered for other assets, such as mainframe information technology systems, where these cannot in the short term be released for alternative use or disposal', the draft guidance says.
The guidance leaves scope for considerable flexibility on packaging of contracts. 'The secretary of state does not rule out alternative approaches to tendering. He is prepared to consider local authorities' arguments for the approach they have taken to packaging work where they can justify it on operational grounds as providing the most appropriate form of service delivery'.
Councils should not include in contracts a requirement that a successful contractor forgo similar work for other clients for the duration of the contract says the guidance. Councils would normally be able to rely on professional codes of conduct to avoid conflicts of interest arising.