The Procurement Act 2023 will overhaul the existing public procurement regime in the UK. These reforms aim to create a simpler and more flexible procurement system, open up opportunities for new entrants (such as small businesses and social enterprises), and enhance transparency. By doing so, the Act seeks to maximise value for money and ensure that public services benefit more effectively from every pound spent on procurement contracts. The new regime will come into force in October 2024, pending the introduction of secondary legislation.

The new Procurement Act introduces significant changes for suppliers, particularly benefiting start-ups, scale-ups, and small businesses. One of the key provisions is the establishment of a central digital platform where suppliers can register and store their details. This platform will allow these details to be used for multiple bids, streamlining the process. Additionally, suppliers will have access to all opportunities in one place, enhancing transparency and efficiency. Furthermore, the act aims to simplify bidding procedures, making it easier for suppliers to negotiate and collaborate with the public sector. Overall, these reforms are designed to level the playing field, promote innovation, and ensure better outcomes in public procurement.


Why is There a Need For The New Regulations?

This transformation of public procurement represents a significant change for all public bodies, which between them are responsible for annual expenditure of c.£300bn per year. This overhaul aims to establish a more streamlined, flexible, efficient and effective procurement system.

The need for new public procurement regulations arises from several factors, particularly in the context of the UK. Let’s explore why these changes are required:

  • Post-Brexit Opportunity: Following the UK’s exit from the EU, there is an opportunity to develop and implement a new procurement regime. The existing EU rules-based approach, designed primarily to facilitate the single market, can now be replaced with a simplified approach that prioritises growth, productivity and efficiency within the UK. This shift allows for tailoring procurement practices to the country’s specific needs.
  • Maximising Value for Money: The new regulations aim to maximise value for money in public procurement. By streamlining processes, reducing bureaucracy, and promoting transparency, the government can ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently and effectively. This focus on value benefits both the public sector and the wider community.
  • Supporting Small Businesses: The reforms aim to open up public procurement to new entrants, including small businesses and social enterprises, who can compete for and win more public contracts. By doing so, the regulations foster innovation, diversity, and economic growth while levelling the playing field for all suppliers.
  • National Security Considerations: The new rules also address national security risks in public contracts. Ensuring that procurement processes are robust and secure is crucial for safeguarding critical services and infrastructure.
  • Efficiency and Innovation: The regulations aim to reduce red tape, making procurement processes more efficient. Additionally, they encourage innovation by creating an open and transparent system accessible to everyone. Faster competition processes, especially for emergency purchases, enhance agility and responsiveness.
  • Levelling Up Agenda: Supporting more SMEs to work with the public sector aligns with the current government’s levelling up agenda, promoting economic growth across regions and communities.

In summary, the new public procurement regulations seek to create a simpler, more flexible, and transparent system that benefits both suppliers and the public sector while ensuring responsible use of public funds.


Transforming Procurement: What Will Change and What is New?

This is not the first time that public procurement regulations have evolved. The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 marked a significant milestone in the UK’s procurement landscape. These regulations aimed to streamline and standardise the procurement process for public bodies. Key features included thresholds for different types of contracts, procedures for awarding contracts, and provisions for transparency and competition.

Fast forward to 2023, and we witness a transformative shift with the Procurement Act 2023. This legislation, which received Royal Assent on October 26, 2023 and will go live on October 28 2024, overhauls the existing public procurement regime. The key changes, discussed below, include:

  • Simplification and Flexibility: With the aim of better delivering the country’s needs while ensuring compliance with international obligations resulting in a more efficient processes for procuring supplies, services, and works for the public sector.
  • Inclusion of New Entrants: The Act opens up public procurement to new entrants, such as small businesses and social enterprises, fostering innovation and diversity.
  • Transparency: Embedded throughout the commercial lifecycle (across all stages of procurement, from planning to contract execution) to ensure taxpayers’ money is properly scrutinised.
  • Learning and Development: A comprehensive L&D program supports the introduction of the new procurement regime with contracting authorities and suppliers receiving guidance on navigating the changes and maximizing the benefits of the Act.

Until October 2024, existing legislation continues to apply, ensuring a smooth transition. The Act not only modernises procurement practices but also sets the stage for a more efficient, competitive, and transparent public procurement system in the UK. The changes represent a seismic shift toward a more agile, inclusive, and accountable procurement landscape, benefiting both public bodies and the wider community.

The following sections will highlight how the new Procurement Act will bring in a new set of principles and objectives, change the scope and overage of the regulations and make a number of adjustments to the overall procurement process.

Principles and Objectives

The Act emphasises several core principles: value for money, maximising public benefit, sharing information and acting with integrity. These objectives guide contracting authorities in their procurement decisions. Procurement teams must now revise their criteria and processes to align with these principles. This entails a more holistic evaluation of bids, considering not just cost but also the broader impact and ethical standards of suppliers.

In addition to these objectives, which authorities must have regard to, the Act states that an authority must treat suppliers “the same”, unless there is a difference between suppliers which justifies different treatment. Despite the new language, this new objective is akin to the previous principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination.

While there are slight differences between the new Procurement Act and previous regulations in relation to the objectives, the considerations expected of contracting authorities when conducting a procurement are substantially the same. The language has changed, but the content and intent remains consistent. Contracting authorities are expected to be transparent and proportionate, despite no specific reference in the objectives, and must treat suppliers equally.

Scope and Coverage

The Act brings the current Public Contracts Regulations 2015, Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016, Concessions Contracts Regulations 2016 and Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011, under one all-encompassing Act. It creates a single regime for public procurement across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Devolved Scottish authorities are excluded, as Scotland retains its own procurement regulations. The Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, the Government Communications Headquarters and the Advanced Research and Invention Agency are all excluded authorities under the Act.

The Act simplifies existing rules by repealing over 350 individual regulations derived from EU Directives and covers contracts awarded by central government departments, local government, health authorities, and utilities companies in water, energy, and transport sectors.

Financial Thresholds

The financial thresholds in the Act are the same as those that currently apply in the various sets of procurement regulations, which in turn reflect the financial thresholds under the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), with the power for the Government to update those thresholds from time to time.

Rules requiring contracting authorities to aggregate the value of contracts that could reasonably be procured together are retained though considerably slimmed down and simplified.


As with the current regulation, there are a number of types of contract that are exempt from the application of the Act. The exemptions are broadly consistent with the current rules but with some nuances.

  • Vertical and horizontal arrangements: Derived from the well-known Teckal case, contracts between public authorities and entities that they control, either solely or jointly with other authorities, are exempt contracts under the Act. Deriving from the EU Hamburg Waste case, which enables public authorities to enter into arrangements with each other with the aim of achieving objectives in common.
  • Land and buildings: The exemption for contracts for the acquisition of land, buildings or any other complete work is preserved in the Act.
  • Defence and security: The application of the present rules in the field of defence and security is complex as a contract involving defence and security aspects might fall within the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 or the Defence and Security and Public Contracts Regulations 2011, or it might be so sensitive that it is exempt from both. The Act does away with much of this inter-connected complexity and defence and security contracts are in general covered by the Act with a number of exemptions related to national security and intelligence activities.
  • Other exemptions contained in the present rules are carried across into the Act in similar or somewhat clarified for.

Procurement Process

The shift of emphasis, in particular the different legal approach to equal treatment compared to transparency, could have a significant impact on how procurements are designed and run, especially given the much greater flexibility afforded to contracting authorities under the Act in the design of competitive procedures. It is to be hoped that this does not end up leading to less transparency in procurements than is currently the case.

There are two types of competitive procedures:

  • Single-Stage Procedure: Similar to the current open procedure, this approach allows any eligible bidder to submit tenders without restrictions.
  • Other Competitive Procedures: Contracting authorities can design their own procedures, offering greater flexibility. It remains to be seen whether authorities will continue using similar procedures to the existing regime for efficiency in the short term.
  • In addition, the new rules grant authorities increased powers to directly award contracts in specific situations. For instance, a Minister of the Crown can authorise direct awards to ‘protect human, animal, or plant life or health,’ or to maintain public order and safety. These provisions stem from lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Under the new procurement regulations, contracting authorities have the discretion to award contracts to the bidder who submits the ‘Most Advantageous Tender’ (MAT) rather than the previous ‘Most Economically Advantageous Tender’ (MEAT). This decision, as before, is based on how well the tender aligns with the award criteria, as evaluated using a competitive tendering procedure.

The impact of a move from MEAT to MAT should not cause too many difficulties for contracting authorities. The Act is far less descriptive than PCR 2015 as to the sorts of things that can be taken into account when considering MAT. The current legislative framework already affords significant flexibility to contracting authorities to take a broad view of the evaluation criteria to be used in public procurement exercises. By being less descriptive the Bill allows wider interpretation, but the much-vaunted move from MEAT to MAT does not achieve much more than a refocusing of minds and is not the introduction of any substantial change as to how tenders are to be evaluated.

Standstill and Contract Award Notices

Under the current regime, a contracting authority may not enter into a contract until 10 days after the issue of a compliant award decision notice to all suppliers (15 days if notice was not sent by email). The Act provides that the standstill period should be 8 working days from the day on which a contract award notice is published. The standstill does not apply in certain cases, e.g. where there has been a direct award because of ‘extreme or unavoidable’ urgency, or where a contract is awarded in accordance with a framework.

There are some changes to the way decisions are to be communicated to the bidder. Under the competitive procedure, an assessment summary (detailing how the bidder scored against the award criteria) will be required before award together with the contract award notice. Contracting authorities will also need to provide that same information about the winning bidder(s) to unsuccessful bidders. Contracting authorities will, however, no longer need to provide the relative advantages and characteristics of the winning bidder.

Debarment and Excluding Suppliers

One of the most significant changes introduced as a result of the Act is stronger measures for excluding underperforming suppliers. The list of grounds for mandatory exclusion of suppliers is broadly similar to the current regime, with the addition of new offences such as theft, corporate manslaughter and competition law infringement. While the current regime provides that prior poor performance should be considered where there has been a breach of contract which resulted in a serious repercussion such as termination or damages, the Act extends this to cover poor performance and where the supplier has not improved their performance despite being given the opportunity to do so. Another point of difference is that suppliers can be excluded by reference to the status of their associated suppliers and subcontractors, not just their own performance.

The Act also introduces a central debarment list on which a Minister of the Crown may enter the name of a supplier who is an excluded or excludable supplier based on previous poor performance. Suppliers on the list will be debarred from applying for public contracts for a specified period, but may apply for their removal from the list if there has been a material change in circumstances.

The purpose of the new public debarment list is to ensure contracts are not awarded to unsuitable suppliers, while also reducing the administrative burden on contracting authorities regarding due diligence. Central government anticipates this will have a positive impact on performance across all contracts that are procured through a formal tender exercise.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

There is a new requirement where a contracting authority must set and publish at least three KPIs, unless the authority considers that the supplier’s performance could not appropriately be assessed by reference to such KPIs. There is a value threshold to this requirement and there are some other exceptions including for framework agreements. Where published, at least once every twelve months, the contracting authority then has obligations to assess the supplier’s performance against these KPIs, and to publish information relating to that assessment.

Digital Platforms

The Cabinet Office is working to provide a fully integrated digital platform that will provide an enhanced version of Find a Tender (FTS), providing the new procurement notices, and a new Supplier Information Service (SIS).  The central digital platform will be supported by a single place of registration for both parts of the service and suppliers will be able to access both FTS and SIS using the same account.


How 4C Can Help You Get Ready for Successful Implementation

At 4C, we understand the complexities public sector bodies face and are committed to helping them successfully navigate these challenges. Our approach involves a knowledgeable, flexible, and customised methodology, working closely with our clients to understand their goals and challenges. We believe that for a strategy to be successful, it must be tailored to the unique needs of an organisation. Because let’s face it, one size often fits none in the world of strategies.

Engaging with 4C means tapping into a wealth of expertise and a commitment to sustained transformation. To understand more about how we can help your organisation get Procurement Act Ready, please reach out to Ross Hodgkins or Darren Blackburn. You can also contact us here.

Also, make sure to read our thought leadership piece, ‘From Legislation to Action: Navigating the Path to Procurement Excellence’.