Third round of invitations to tender for long-awaited ESF contracts launched

The third round of invitations to tender for delayed European Social Fund (ESF) contracts have been published.

The six local enterprise partnership (Lep) areas involved are Cumbria, New Anglia, Cheshire and Warrington, Worcestershire, Lancashire, and London.

While one contract has been tendered for each of the first five Leps, a total of 28 have been issued for London, worth around £30.2m.

The other five LEP area contracts are collectively worth £7.9m, making the third round of invitations worth more than £38m in total.

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) unveiled the new invitations to tender on through the government’s ‘Contract Finder’ web portal with the following details:

ITT refContract valueContract lotsContract titleITT link
 29910£720k1NEET in Cumbria LEP areaClick here
 29921£200k1NEET in New Anglia LEP areaClick here
 29906£2.5m1NEET in Cheshire & Warrington LEP areaClick here
 29908£518k1NEET in Worcestershire LEP areaClick here
 29914£4m1NEET in Lancashire LEP areaClick here

The contracts for London are as follows:

ITT refContract valueContract lotsContract titleITT link
29977£6.2m4London 23-002 Preventative NEETClick here
29983£2.3m4BAME who are NEETClick here
29974£2.2m4Targeted NEET 16-18Click here
29976£3.7m4Targeted NEET LDD 16-24Click here
29973£2.1m418 – 24 NEET Mental HealthClick here
29975£3.8m418 – 24 NEET Specific GroupsClick here
29897£9.9m4London 23-009 Outreach NEETClick here

The timeline for the ITTs (below) means that applicants have 22 working days to respond, slightly fewer that the 27 day period available for the previous round of ESF contracts. After tenders have been awarded on May 6, winning bidders will have 11 working days before delivery commences from May 24, which is the same time frame allowed in the previous round.

Publication of ITT6 January 6, 2016
ITT closesFebruary 5, 2016
Notification of tender resultsMay 6, 2016
Day 1 mandatory standstill periodMay 7, 2016
Day 10 mandatory standstill periodMay 16, 2016
Contracts issued fromMay 23, 2016
Delivery commences fromMay 24, 2016


It comes after the second round of invitations to tender for ESF cash totalling £16.2m was published on December 14 for four Lep areas — Swindon and Wiltshire, Greater Manchester, West of England, and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

It followed a report by FE Week on December 11 on concerns held by director of employment and skills at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) Paul Warner that drawing-out this ESF tendering process — through a series of rounds instead of in one go — could lead to sub-standards bids being submitted.

Providers who were unaware of future tenders, he warned, could win a contract only to find delivering it might hamper their ability to deliver ESF provision put to market at a later date.

Such a situation might, he suggested, put ESF contract-winning providers off going for further contracts despite having the necessary expertise.

It had previously been exclusively revealed by FE Week on December 4 that the Lep areas the invitations to tender would go to included Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, and Solent (covering the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton).

The other Leps involved were Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, and Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership.

The combined value of these contracts is £15m.

Furthermore, FE Week exclusively reported on November 10 that the SFA was planning to run a “sequence of procurement” for handing out £650m of delayed ESF cash, which must be finished by the end of September next year at the very latest to allow a minimum delivery period of 18 months.

It followed a summer when ESF-funded providers were forced to lay-off staff as a result of delays with issuing new ESF contracts.

It is thought this was caused by disagreements between the British government and the European bureaucrats over what role local enterprise partnerships should play in the process.

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  1. Former SFAer

    You need to consider the SFA’s limited resource to manage one national procurement round.
    It’s not like the old days of the last programme where there were hundreds of staff to call upon to evaluate bids. It’s incredibly resource intensive and has to be managed carefully to ensure each bid is given due consideration.