Commissioning in Leeds

Leeds has a big vision for the future - to be the Best City in the UK in 2030.

Leeds, working through its partnership arrangements, has set out what it means by this, and what steps need to be taken along the way in pursuit of that goal. It has done this in two key documents, the Vision for Leeds 2011-2030 and the City Priority Plan 2011-2015.

This is important - it sets the context for the services that Leeds needs to have in place in the coming years in relation to achieving the Best City ambition. There are five strategic partnership boards supported by the Council, working to deliver the City Priority Plan:

  • Children's Trust Board
  • Health and Well-Being Board
  • Housing and Regeneration Board
  • Communities Board
  • Sustainable Economy and Culture Board

More information about these strategies, plans and partnership arrangements can be found on the Council’s website

The Council’s service delivery departments, including Adult Social Care, Children's Services, Citizens and Communities, City Development, Environment and Housing and Public Health, undertake their responsibilities within the context of the Priority Plan. Many of the services that these departments are responsible for are areas of interest for the Third Sector, and the Council has developed processes to commission services from external providers.

This page sets out the approach to commissioning and procurement taken by Leeds City Council. It should be noted that as well as centralised commissioning, the Council also increasingly commissions at more local levels through its Area Committees and Area Management structure. In addition commissioning is undertaken in the city by clusters of schools, NHS bodies and other public authorities, and more information about these will be added to this site as it becomes available.

The Commissioning Cycle in Leeds

The stages involved in the commissioning of a service in Leeds in the context of the Commissioning Cycle are explained below. (The Commissioning Cycle is introduced in the Commissioning: The Basics section.)

The four stages in the Commissioning Cycle are described below:

Stage 1: Joint Needs Assessment and Planning

A Joint Needs Strategic Assessment (JSNA) is undertaken by the Council and the NHS.

A JSNA draws together data across all aspects of the health and well-being of the population as well as other demographic information. Data on the target population is looked at alongside feedback from providers and service users who participated in any existing service delivery. This information is used to better understand and review the level and nature of the need in the target population. Using this data Commissioners start to plan the delivery of services by drafting service specifications.

Some service areas will publish a prospectus or similar document in which they set down what their priorities will be in the coming year. For example, the Children's Services Prospectus is where The Children's Trust Board describes how commissioning will improve what it is like for children and young people to grow up in Leeds. It indicates the investment priorities and actions which will be taken to support and improve current services. The prospectus demonstrates how resources will be targeted collectively to the priorities in the Children and Young People's Plan and describes how Results Based Commissioning is being used in Leeds to support improvement and change.

Stage 2: Delivery Planning

At Leeds City Council (LCC) Commissioners are internal groupings of officers within services departments. They may invite representatives, e.g. from relevant Thid Sector networks and forums, to join them in the specification and detailed planning stage.  In many cases the NHS will join the Commissioning Body where there is a clear overlap of interest - just as a relevant council department may be asked to join the NHS when the NHS is leading the commissioning process.

In most instances there is a level of dialogue that enables the Third Sector to have an input. This is particularly the case with Environment and Neighbourhoods at Leeds Council (which manages Supporting People Funds). Here, there is a very full engagement and open exchange of views between interested Third Sector providers and Commissioners. Once a service requirement has been specified - set out in detail - the process moves on to Procurement.

Stage 3: Procurement

When commissioners want to secure outcomes through formal contracts for the provision of works, goods or services, the council’s central procurement function may get involved. The team is based at St George House in Leeds and offers a procurement support and advice service to all departments within the council.

Leeds City Council (LCC) uses a system called YORtender to manage its procurements. The YORtender website aims to give suppliers, contractors, consultants, and service providers the information they need to be able to trade more easily with public sector bodies in the region. In addition to providing guidance and advice relating to the procurement process, it also gives direct access to a wide variety of procurement opportunities across the region.

The YORtender website is available at It is free to register, and will provide access to procurement opportunities from a number of public sector organisations in the Yorkshire and Humber region. The site also provides access to details of existing contracts that the council has awarded.

What are the stages in the procurement process?

  1. The council decides what it is going to buy. This may involve a number of internal approvals relating to budgets, quality standards, and details of the procurement process that will be followed.
  2. The council will then make the opportunity known to prospective tenderers, usually through YORtender. For large contracts the council also publishes details on a European-wide website (‘TED’).
  3. The council will then select a shortlist of organisations to be invited to tender, often using an SSQ (see later section for information about SSQs).
  4. The council will then invite organisations to submit tenders, and will issue them with instructions on how to submit a tender for the contract, along with the specification, information about financial matters, and the contract terms and conditions. During this ‘tender period’ tenderers can ask for clarification through the YORtender website.
  5. Once the deadline for tender submissions has passed, the council evaluates the tenders it has received. This will be carried out in accordance with the evaluation details that the council has published in the tender instructions. The tender evaluation panel is usually comprised of council staff, but sometimes will also include service users or others as consultees. Tender submissions that are late will not be evaluated and tender submissions that have not followed the tender instructions in any other way may also be disqualified.
  6. Once the tender evaluation is complete, and the winning tender (or tenders) has been identified, a decision is taken to award the contract. There may be some small details to finalise and there will be a contract to sign. This stage is known as ‘contract award’.
  7. Once the contract has been awarded, the council will work with the provider to mobilise and manage the contract in accordance with its terms. This is likely to include regular monitoring and may also include annual reviews of performance and change.
  8. At the end of the contract period there may be specific tasks to undertake to ensure a smooth transition to the next phase. This may be a new contract with the existing provider or may require a bigger change and handover. The council’s contract procedure rules refer to this as ‘exit’ or ‘end of contract’.

You may hear other jargon, such as ‘open’, ‘restricted’, ‘negotiated’ or ‘competitive dialogue’ procedure. These are the names given to specific variations on how the standard steps above are carried out. For example in the ‘open procedure’ the pre-qualification questions are considered alongside the tender submission – the tender is ‘open’ to all; in the ‘restricted procedure’ the pre-qualification questions are asked first and the invitation to tender is restricted to those organisations that pass that test. The steps that will be followed in any specific procurement will be set out in the tender instructions that are issued.

An example template for Tender Instructions is available to download below. You will see that this document has lots of gaps and notes for council staff to consider and fill in before they issue the documents to tenderers. This example template will give you an idea of what you might receive for a formal tender, but remember to read and follow the actual document that is issued for any tenders that you are involved in as the download is only an example template.

What is an SSQ?

The council will want to ensure that minimum standards of compliance are achieved by all tenderers before their tender is accepted as being suitable for consideration. One way it does this is by asking organisations to complete a Standard Selection Questionnaire (SSQ).

Standard Selection Questionnaires (SSQs) are used as the first formal stage on many procurement selection processes. They act as a written reassurance to commissioners that organisations have the necessary financial standing, technical ability, and experience required in order to be shortlisted and invited to subsequent stages in the process.

The SSQ may request formal documents to support a submission such as company accounts, liability insurance documentation and supporting policies.

If you want to engage in the procurement process, then you need to be ready and able to meet all of these requirements, and be able to demonstrate this in your response. Completing an SSQ is a good discipline. It can act as a kind of check on whether you really are ready and sufficiently well set up to compete for public sector contracts.

Any questions regarding an SSQ or procurement process can be directed to the commissioners or procurement staff via the YORtender website.

SSQs are tailored to ensure they are appropriate for each procurement. The documents are based on a common template, which is attached to this page for reference. Please ensure that when responding to an opportunity on YORtender, you use the SSQ specific to the procurement in question.

Hints and tips for successful tendering

The following list of hints and tips would never be described as ‘rocket science’, however they do reflect the reasons that tenders have been successful / unsuccessful in the past:

  • Read and follow the instructions about what to submit and when
  • Read and understand the council’s specification and contract terms and conditions
  • Read and understand the council’s evaluation criteria for the specific procurement
  • Use the YORtender system to ask questions – always get answers in writing and always provide answers in writing
  • Attend the open day if the council holds one
  • Ensure you respond to the specification as it has been written
  • Ensure you address the evaluation criteria as they have been written
  • Provide evidence to show how you will deliver
  • Keep to the word count if there is one – words over the word count will not be evaluated.
  • Use case studies and flow charts or diagrams carefully – do they reflect the requirements of this contract and do they show how you will meet those requirements?  Note: sometimes attachments may contribute to any particular word count – it is important to check the instructions.
  • Proof read before submitting – in addition to your own proof reading, you may want to ask someone who hasn’t been writing your tender submission documents to check them for sense and accuracy
  • Upload the documents early – and check they are all uploaded
  • Each time you submit a tender (whether you are successful or unsuccessful) ask for your scores and for some feedback.

Stage 4: Performance Management

Once a contract is awarded and a service is being delivered monitoring and impact assessment begins. Providers need to ensure that useful data on activities is collected. This is used to ensure that the service is meeting targets. A real test of a service is: is it having a positive impact and delivering the desired results. Leeds City Council is making increased use of Outcome Based Accountability (OBA) for nearly all of its activities. Providers working with Children's Services will already be well aware of this and other providers will need to become more familiar with this approach. When a service delivery contract comes to an end the cycle starts again.


Leeds City Council Standard Selection Questionnaire

(DOCX, 115.3 KB)

Note: This download is the standard template used for LCC procurement. Not all sections apply for every procurement exercise but this is made clear in each case. Text in red in the template is for internal use by LCC Officers and either shows where specific information needs to be added or amended, or gives instructions for finalising the document; this should not normally appear in the final version.

Leeds City Council Tender Instructions

(DOCX, 393.2 KB)

Note: This download is the standard template used for LCC procurement. Not all sections apply for every procurement exercise but this is made clear in each case. Text in red in the template is for internal use by LCC Officers and either shows where specific information needs to be added or amended, or gives instructions for finalising the document; this should not normally appear in the final version.