Public Services > Central Government

CCS weighs up commercial route to deliver Crown Marketplace

David Bicknell Published 11 September 2017

Today’s joint event with GDS and Digital Catapult may provide insight into CCS’ plans to deliver a public sector e-Marketplace to simplify procurement for both buyers and suppliers

 

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is expected to today lay out its thinking behind the Crown Marketplace, an online service available to the public sector connecting buyers and suppliers.

The planned "one-stop shop" for the public sector to buy "common goods and services", has been envisaged to offer a future where the public sector and suppliers “interact, collaborate and innovate”, while offering smaller companies access to a public sector market opportunity whose value has been estimated at around £93bn.

The £93bn comprises around £28bn in central government and an estimated £65bn in the so-called “wider public sector.”

The Crown Marketplace – and the delivery plans behind it – is likely to gain public scrutiny at an event being hosted today by CCS, the Government Digital Service (GDS) and Digital Catapult. Suppliers were briefed at an open day in July.

The "Open Procurement for a Digital Government" event today is intended to bring together a broad cross-section of the civil service together with its digital and technology suppliers to map out what Whitehall and wider public sector procurement should look like. 

Participants will include Civil Service chief executive and Cabinet Office permanent secretary John Manzoni, parliamentary Under Secretary at the Cabinet Office Caroline Nokes, Digital Marketplace director Warren Smith, Small Business Crown Representative Emma Jones, CCS’ director of the Technology Strategic Category Niall Quinn, and Open Data Institute chief executive Jeni Tennison.

In July, when CCS first outlined its Crown Marketplace plans to suppliers, it explained that it will be seeking a so-called “Service Delivery Partner” who is interested in bidding for and delivering the Crown Marketplace solution, including all supporting services. The marketplace has been described as the future “e- Marketplace for the Public Sector.”  

CCS and the government have typically bought common goods and services through a number of mediums but usually through paper based framework agreements which can be accessed by buyers and suppliers.

But CCS argues that the commercial landscape is too complicated and confusing to suppliers, resulting in wastage and not driving best value for the UK taxpayer.  Meanwhile, the landscape for small and medium-sized enterprises has been described as challenging to do business with. CCS believes the simplification of public sector procurement through the Crown Marketplace will make it easier and faster for suppliers to do business with central government and wider public sector organisations, in particular for SMEs.

CCS is said to regard the Crown Marketplace as offering a technology change required to consolidate both CCS content and local content onto one platform, giving public sector buyers and suppliers an easy route to market and a “better deal.”

It is understood that implementation of the Crown Marketplace will have major implications for the GDS Digital Marketplace with the likelihood that the Digital Marketplace and the "enduring" Crown Marketplace solution, dubbed ‘PP2.0’, will be merged in the future. CCS has indicated that Whitehall goals for the Government Transformation Strategy will provide a framework which the Crown Marketplace will follow. 

CCS has already indicated that it foresees 100% of its current frameworks being 'digitally enabled' through the future Crown Marketplace solution. 

What isn’t yet clear is what commercial route the government will take to deliver the Crown Marketplace. CCS’ thinking on commercial strategy is still developing and an Outline Business Case was due to have been finalised over the summer.

The commercial procurement is expected to be one of two options: through an Official Journal for the European Union (OJEU) procedure or through a so-called “Concession Procedure”. In its discussions with suppliers, CCS has indicated that it is “at quite a big fork in the road” in choosing between a Concession route against a traditional method. CCS has indicated that there are merits to going down the Concession route, but it does not know if the market appetite exists.

CCS has said it needs to reach the parts of the public sector that rarely have the ability to aggregate spend,  but which use common goods and services extensively, such as  police forces, schools, and  the healthcare system. It recognises that its challenge is to create something that is easy to use, compliant and focuses on delivering value.

It is understood to have told suppliers that the Crown Marketplace is a “highly complex endeavour with no single organisation likely to have all the answers.” It therefore expects partnerships between several organisations will be needed to find the right mix of solutions and develop a “truly innovative tool which delivers value to taxpayers.”








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