Community Right to Challenge: Step 7

Getting ready to run the service

If you have reached this stage, then congratulations!

It means you have been successful in a competitive tender process and have won the right to deliver the service. You may have to wait a little while before you can really start to plan to take the service on though, as most procurement processes will include a ‘standstill’ period after the selection of the preferred bidder. This is also sometimes known as an ‘Alcatel’ period, named after a famous court case, and gives a short window for any other bidder to appeal if they felt any of the process was unfair.

Post tender negotiation

You will be bound by whatever you said you would do in your tender, unless changes are agreed before the contract for your delivery of the service is finalised. There is often a significant period even after the standstill period when the details of the delivery will need to be negotiated. The authority might want to negotiate changes to outcomes, methods of delivery, or price. Even though your bid will have clearly set out your plans and been selected on this basis, the authority remains the buyer and it is still up to them at this point exactly what they want to purchase!

If TUPE is involved (see Step 2) then this stage of negotiation and planning will be likely to be particularly complex and time consuming and will normally involve legal advisers. You will need to be clear how you are going to meet the costs of this advice. Once you have agreed the detail with the authority they will issue a contract for you to sign.

This is a legal document and will specify a number of important things, including:

  • when the contract will start and end
  • what you must achieve
  • how you must report on progress to the authority
  • how much you will be paid and when, including whether payments will be triggered by outcomes or performance
  • what will happen if things go wrong and what action the authority can take, including terminating your contract.

It is extremely important that you understand and agree with every point in the contract before you sign it. If you are not completely sure about something, you should seek advice. And if this is the first contract of its kind that you have entered into, then you should almost certainly seek legal advice on the entirety of the contract.

Preparing to deliver the service

This will be a busy period for you and may involve significant investment of time and money to prepare to deliver the service. This may particularly be the case if it is the first time you have delivered a contract like this. You may need to:

  • Refine your systems – financial systems, communication systems, monitoring and evaluation systems and other organisational policies and procedures
  • Build the skills of your staff team – recruiting and inducting new staff, integrating any staff transferring across from a previous service provider, training staff and getting them any accreditation they may need
  • Secure investment – meeting set up costs such as those above and any other capital (eg equipment) costs.

You will also need strong project management skills at this stage, and more so during delivery of the service. Regardless of other competences and qualities you may have, such skills can be the difference between a solid plan successfully delivered, and failure. These are skills you may need to specifically invest in for your management team.

Smaller service example – running the local outdoor market

The group which has been working for the last few months on their plans to take over the running of the local market have arrived at the point of final decision. They know that their plans are good, they offer good value for money, and they have lots of local support, so they were confident in their submission. But they are still delighted to learn that the council has decided to take up their quote. They are scheduled to run their first market day for the town in just a few weeks’ time.