An update from our MD
The Prime Minister, government ministers, and members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) are confidently telling us that we are now past the peak period of COVID-19. Trendlines on the various graphs that are familiar to afficionados of the 5pm daily briefings certainly support this view and the general consensus is that the crisis situation has reached a plateau.
At the end of March, we issued a warning: “Don’t be fooled by the marketing hype of our competitors; tendering opportunities have dried up”. It is pleasing to report that this seems to be changing. Thankfully, contract and framework opportunities are still being steadily advertised and overall tendering activity levels are continuing at a reasonable level. Promisingly, if indeed we are past the peak, then things should only get better.
Business support available from HM Government
HM Government has committed to providing a range of support to UK businesses both large and small. More specifically, support for SME businesses is now being provided through a discretionary fund to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. This is just the latest in a series of increasingly familiar measures to support manufacturers and service providers, ensuring that businesses survive and are able to meet the needs of the public sector.
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Bounce Back Loans Scheme, which will allow businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000
- Deferring VAT and Self Assessment tax payments
- Self-employment Income Support Scheme
- Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
- 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
- Small business grant funding of £10,000
- Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
- New lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms
- HMRC Time To Pay Scheme.
For firms who benefit from this funding and want to play their part in supplying the NHS, delivering the services that local authorities need, and providing support to social housing associations and other third sector organisations, are the opportunities out there and how does an SME find them?
Tendering at the moment: market insight
Industry commentary from Tussell, respected providers of market insights, suggests that tendering still has a pulse and is breathing without mechanical support. More than 100 procurement processes may have been cancelled in the last month and the volume of UK public sector opportunities may have been down 30% in March. However, the tender market is showing a high level of resilience with much of this drop attributable to only the most urgent procurements which will have bypassed the usual competitive tendering processes, as highlighted earlier in our blog series.
In April (during the peak COVID-19 period), more than 900 contract notices were still posted on the Government’s Contracts Finder website, suggesting a wide variety of opportunities still exist. With the old normal seeing an average of more than 2,300 ITTs (not including SQ, RFQ, or RFIs) being released each month, the new normal may not be too far behind, as the race to recovery won’t begin from a standing start.
Whilst the comparable volume is down by 35% against April 2019, the high number of notices is nonetheless heartening for ambitious firms and those well positioned to survive the current crisis. For firms who have an internal bid writing team, decisions to furlough key staff may have been premature as opportunities for growth are clearly still available. In the long term, public sector procurement will indeed be a key part of the government strategy to relaunch the economy, and businesses should remain in a position to capitalise on this.
Tendering post COVID-19
As an update to one of our earlier blog posts in this series, whilst the slowdown has resulted in around a 30% drop in tender writing projects, we do have many clients continuing to bid to secure future work for their organisations. Similarly, whilst the level of contract award notices has, as expected, dropped significantly in recent weeks with local authorities having higher priorities right now, we continue to be heartened by a steady stream of successes and positive feedback from satisfied clients.
We attribute our resilience to the depth and breadth of our client base, and the commitment of our core team who remain fully operational and are adapting well to working from home during a time of crisis.
If you need tender writing support, or general advice for bidding during COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to contact us.