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Bristol Compact

Improving commissioning processes Over the last few months, Bristol City Council and the Bristol Compact have been working closely on several important commissioning developments that will help the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector engage with commissioning. Mark Hubbard, Bristol’s Compact Liaison Officer, provides a progress update. The Select Committee took evidence from December 2009 to May 2010 and produced its Final Report in July. The report has been approved by the Council and Cabinet and its 11 recommendations are being implemented, some of which are described in the highlights below. In my opinion, the work of the committee and its Report and Recommendations were valuable. It really helps to have elected members championing best practice and the implementation of

and NHS Bristol, so our findings and recommendations were ‘reality checked’ as we progressed. It is encouraging that our recommendations have been agreed by Council and Cabinet, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I hope local organisations will help us track commitment.” Councillor Helen Holland (Leader of the Labour group of Bristol City Councillors, Chair of Select Committee on Third Sector Commissioning)

their recommendations will effect positive change. I hope that VCSE organisations experience these improvements in their relationships with the Council. “We chose “Third Sector Commissioning” for in-depth scrutiny by Select Committee, developing policy and recommendations working closely with VCS partners. Local authorities (and other public sector) are moving increasingly to commissioning local organisations to deliver services, and we wanted to look at best practice. VCS representatives sat alongside councillors, officers


Recommendation 1. Championing the Third Sector

funding” – is being incorporated into the Enabling Commissioning Framework (ECF). This will mean that procurement activities may lead to grants in kind, outcomesbased grants or open tendering. These options will be considered in each commissioning process and applied according to the particular service area.

Recommendation 5. Sharing Learning and Development Part of the implementation of the ECF is a comprehensive training programme for elected members, service and commissioning managers. The programme has been informed by a training needs

The Leader of the Council is now

analysis and includes peer support,

the lead member within the

based on specialist commissioning

Cabinet for the VCSE sector. A

expertise. The differing cultural

network of Compact Champions

approaches of public and VCSE

is also being developed – these

sectors are included in the

will be points of contact for VCSE


organisations in their relationships with different parts of the council.

Recommendation 2. Commissioning and Grants

Recommendation 6. Support during the Commissioning Cycle This recommendation states that

This recommendation – “a

the involvement of the VCSE sector

‘mixed economy’ which includes

in all stages of the commissioning

commissioning, competitive

cycle should be mandatory. This

grant processes and direct grant-

will mean that the VCSE sector will

March / April / May 2011  Issue 13

Bristol Compact Recommendation 10. Decommissioning Decommissioning Guidance has been developed under the ECF and has been used in some council departments already. This means that all decommissioning decisions will be evidence-based and placed in context of strategic reviews and commissioning processes. For more information, contact Mark Hubbard, Compact Liaison Officer Tel: 0117 909 9949 Email: Or visit:

throughout the commissioning

Recommendation 8. Improving Communications

process. In addition to being

The imminent publishing of

involved in the early stages of

‘commissioning intentions’ (the

service design and specification,

services that Bristol City Council

potential service providers will be

(BCC) will commission during

supported at the later stages of the

2011/12) is a direct result of this

– the council’s guidance for

commissioning cycle so that they

recommendation. This is important

commissioners to standardise

are able to understand the process,

as it will enable VCSE organisations

commissioning processes. More

timescales and regulations, and

to allocate resources to engage


engage to win contracts.

with future commissioning



Final Report and

be engaged at the start of and

Recommendation 7. Capacity Building

Enabling Commissioning Framework (ECF)

Recommendations of the

The select committee recognised

Recommendation 9. Accessing the Commissioning Process

the need for capacity building

This recommendation – to develop

support to enable VCSE

a “fully accessible alternative to

organisations to engage with

BePS” – was controversial due to its

commissioning. It identified some

demand on additional resources.

priorities for development and

BCC has instead worked to improve

– BCC’s online system for

some of these are included in the

BePS, based on VCSE sector

registering interest in

new VCS Support Service delivered

feedback and concerns, and the

commissioned services and

by Voscur. There is also some

new version will be live in April 2011.

receiving notifications.

discussion of targeted support in

It is possible that a paper based


specific commissioning processes –

application option will be offered

to respond to sector-specific issues

for any small grants processes.


Select Committee can be seen at thirdsectorcommissioning Bristol E-Procurement System (BePS)

and needs.

Issue 13  March / April / May 2011


Improving commissioning processes  

Mark Hubbard, Bristol Compact Liaison Officer, updates on Bristol City Council commissioning developments.

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