Procurement can be broadly described as the process by which organisations acquire goods and services

For decades, the UK has seen a drive toward pushing public authorities into acquiring those services from external providers, creating an explosion of privatisation that puts services in the hands of private companies or non-profit organisations. These contractors typically employ staff on inferior terms and conditions to those received by staff working directly for the public sector.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the rules for procurement by public authorities are governed by the Public Contract Regulations 2015 and in Scotland by the Public Contract (Scotland) Regulations 2015. Separate rules for the energy, water and transport industries are applied through the Utilities Contract Regulations 2016 and its Scottish equivalent.

The process that public authorities adopt in complying with these regulations usually involves a review of services, weighing up options for their delivery, and production of a business case for one of these options. If the decision is to put services out to tender, they will then follow a process for advertising, evaluating bids against set criteria and then selection of the favoured bid.

Throughout this process, union involvement is vital to argue the case for some form of keeping services in-house. Where it is not possible to avoid privatisation, engaging with selection of bidders and early involvement in the terms on which staff will be transferred are a critical task for ensuring effective union representation can be built in the new employer.

All these issues and many more are set out more fully in the guidance below.

Procurement regulations in England are set to be revised later this year, when new guidance will be made available.