The Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016 and the Concessions Contracts Regulations 2016 are now in force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015 and the Utilities Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2016 now apply, along with the Concession Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2016.
"These new regulations introduce some fundamentally different concepts into procurement in the UK and it is imperative that those that run or place contracts through procurement get up to speed as quickly as possible," procurement law expert Stuart Cairns of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said. "This will help ensure contracting authorities' contractual compliance as well as allow them to make the most of the additional flexibility embedded in the new provisions."
"From the supplier perspective, bidders who engage with the public sector through formal procurement processes need to understand how these provisions will change their clients' approach. The more bidders can understand about the approach the more they will be able to tailor their bids to clients' needs and more likely it will be that they will be successful in winning new contracts," he said.
Cairns said one of the major changes that will be introduced under the new Utilities Contracts Regulations will be a new competitive dialogue regime. The competitive dialogue framework allows contracting bodies to run their procurement in stages, encouraging a wide-range of bids from utilities suppliers initially but whittling down the number of options at successive stages until a preferred bidder is found.
He said that the competitive dialogue procedure is very flexible and can be useful where utilities are unable to define the solution they need or to access what solutions the market can offer.
Cairns said that the new Concessions Contracts Regulations are also "entirely new" and have the potential to capture many contracts that would not previously have been subject to competition.
New public procurement laws in England, Wales and Northern Ireland stemming from the EU reforms are already in force.