Additional European Social Fund tender launched by ESFA

The government has launched an additional European Social Fund tender, after finding there were a number of contracts in this year’s procurement where no bidding providers met the “required criteria”.

A bidding process for £4.2 million of the funding has gone live today in four local enterprise partnership areas: York North Yorkshire & East Riding, Greater Lincolnshire, North East, and The Marches (full details below).

It comes after the Education and Skills Funding Agency ran a controversial European Social Fund procurement earlier this year, where 47 providers secured a total of £309 million.

These contracts started on 1 April 2019 and will run until 31 July 2021.

The ESFA said the four local enterprise partnership areas included in this additional procurement are for contracts where “none of the providers that bid for funding met the required criteria”.

This additional targeted procurement is being run “so that people living in these areas have the opportunity to benefit from the ESF by learning the skills they need to get on the path to a great career”, the agency said.

The European Social Fund is funding that the UK has received, as a member state of the EU, to increase job opportunities and to help people to improve their skill levels, particularly those individuals who find it difficult to get work.

This year’s procurement caused controversy among many bidders.

The ESFA delayed issuing contracts several times, after multiple providers claimed that the government broke tender rules, namely by excluding the “track record” section when marking bids, while the ESFA has admitted to “errors”, such as naming Serco Regional Services Limited as a winner instead of Serco Limited.

Providers were also aggrieved to find out that Learndirect’s new owner had secured contracts worth more than £20 million, in conjunction with his other company Dimensions Training Solutions.

Further questions were asked about the tender in March, after FE Week discovered an “unprecedented” amount of tie-breaks in the procurement.

One aggrieved provider even threatened legal action against the ESFA, but decided to drop this because of the likely cost and a fear of repercussions from the agency.

The deadline for bids to this additional tender is 2 October 2019 at 5pm. Once the procurement has closed, the ESFA will send award notifications to successful providers before entering a 10-day standstill period.

Any providers that want to bid can do so from here.

The LEP areas are:

Skills Support for the Unemployed

    York North Yorkshire & East Riding LEP

Community Grants programmes

    Greater Lincolnshire LEP (Transition Area)

    North East LEP (More Developed Area)

    The Marches LEP (More Developed Area)

    The Marches LEP (Transition Developed Area)