Winning Local, Grow National – Your Comprehensive Guide to Local Council Tenders for SMEs

For the past few years, the UK government has been changing the public sector procurement landscape to induce SMEs to enter the market. It has encouraged low-value contracts and emphasised value for money over straight price in awarding local government contracts.

The additional emphasis on social value in local communities has also increased SME opportunities in public procurement because they’re right there, nose to the ground, with the ability to reach out to communities and establish their genuine needs and discuss potential solutions.

This shift has opened up new business opportunities for SMEs, making it easier for them to find and bid on tender notices that were previously out of reach.

We’re going to look at how SMEs can increase their chances of winning local council tenders, with a few tips along the way.

Local Councils Must Play Their Part

It’s up to local councils to give SMEs opportunities to enter the public sector. Without their support, SMEs might back away and leave all the contracts to larger enterprises. No one really benefits from this situation.

Investing in SMEs, on the other hand, provides a range of benefits for all parties in the procurement process. Suppliers benefit financially, but they also gain important exposure and can start building case studies to boost future bids.

Contracting authorities benefit from a competitive market that drives value and innovation and facilitates social value initiatives that help them meet net-zero targets.

Communities benefit from social value initiatives, like job creation and community upliftment.

With all of these benefits up for grabs. buyers are encouraged to give more weight to small businesses that do more than just tick the standard box of requirements. 

Considerations for SMEs

Winning contracts in the realm of government tenders and public sector tenders isn’t just a matter of registering and waiting for the odd tender opportunity to fall into your lap.

Here are four important factors that SME suppliers must consider when setting out in public procurement.


It’s not strictly mandatory for suppliers to have any accreditations, but they can be an advantage and in a competitive market, you want all the advantages you can get.

Accreditations can be perceived as an indication of trustworthiness and reliability. Because becoming accredited requires one approval process or another, it can also assure buyers of a minimum degree of quality and standard compliance.


Suppliers have two options when it comes to collaborations.

1) Collaborate with other small businesses to pool your resources, services, products, and skills. This gives you a better chance of landing low-value local government contracts and can even give you a competitive edge in larger value tenders.

2) Collaborate with larger, established suppliers as part of their suite of service providers. This is a good option if you want to learn the ropes and get some experience under your belt before you tackle tenders on your own – without the stress of the full procurement process.

Trade shows

Trade shows are a great way to meet buyers and other suppliers. Trade shows can be a pressure-free environment where all parties in public sector procurement can mingle, exchange cards, and sow the seeds for one-on-one early engagement opportunities.


Frameworks provide a simplified procurement process that is quicker than the complete procurement lifecycle. Essentially, they are a direct link between suppliers and contracting authorities, making it easier for buyers to find an exact fit among a list of pre-approved SMEs.

Suppliers apply to be listed on a framework, but they must go through a selection process to ensure they meet minimum quality standards and comply with governing regulations. If they are approved, they can list all their services in detail.

This precision in listing services is crucial for enhancing visibility in search results, ensuring that when buyers search for specific services, the notices match the appropriate search keywords, making your business readily accessible in the public sector marketplace.

Navigating Local Council Tenders And Public Sector Contracts In The UK

As with anything in life, if you want to succeed, you must understand the system. In procurement, this includes:

  • Published contract notices
  • Tendering
  • Invitations to Tender (ITT)
  • Request for Quotes (RFQ)
  • Requests for Proposals (RFP)
  • Proposal writing
  • Bid submission
  • Bid evaluation
  • Awarding contracts
  • Feedback

You must understand the rules stipulated in the contract, as well as the national regulations that govern public procurement. It’s essential to comply with all the rules and regulations, otherwise your bid could be automatically disqualified. Signing up for daily alerts ensures you receive all relevant tenders directly to your inbox, enhancing your strategy for finding and bidding on opportunities.

Find SME tender opportunities

Finding low-value government contracts is fairly straightforward, including access to open tenders which are essential for SMEs looking to expand their opportunities.

All you need to do is register for tender alerts on procurement platforms. The trick is to know which platforms provide the most value and give you a better chance of finding contracts that suit your services, products, or works.

The government’s Contracts Finder (low-value) and Find a Tender (high-value) platforms are a good place to start, but you can do better.

Independent tender alert platforms can be helpful, however, there are platforms and then there are platforms. Avoid registering on a rag-tag collection of platforms, which are difficult to manage.

Instead, choose a super-powered contracts finder database, like Supply2Gov (S2G). S2G is the biggest tender database in the UK and the Republic of Ireland (even bigger than the government’s database). Platforms like this excel in providing access to a wide range of tender opportunities and ensuring you never miss out on potential tenders.

It’s worth noting that contracts for very niche services are usually published on the relevant local council’s websites.

Now What?

Now develop a procurement strategy.

It’s ok to have a template that provides a basic structure or format, but you must tailor it to suit each contract.

For instance, social value is a very important factor in tender evaluation and assessment. But, not any old initiative will do. It must match the buyer’s values and ethics and align with any existing social value projects. 

Often, tender documents contain social value requirements, like focusing on community upliftment. You get to decide on the specifics. You could, for example, set up an apprenticeship programme to address unemployment in the local community.

What else?

Show off

This isn’t a time for false modesty. You must punt your exceptional services or products. However, this isn’t just a self-aggrandising fest. You must demonstrate why you are exceptional. Client testimonials are great, but, let’s face it, you’re only going to put glowing testimonials on your website.

Case studies – that’s where you demonstrate the quality of your work in the real world. It shows you’re not spouting hot air, but are actually more than capable of delivering completed projects that exceed expectations.

Keep watch

You register on tender portals to receive alerts specific to your services. Hopefully, they come in thick and fast, so you can pick and choose which contracts you want to bid on.

It’s a good idea to appoint someone on your team to monitor incoming alerts and sift through the most relevant – and lucrative – tenders once a day.

They can forward the most suitable tenders to the rest of the team and call a team meeting where tenders can be assessed in a group and given priority status. You can choose to submit several bids to increase your chances of winning a contract or focus all your attention on a single tender that is well worth the investment.

On that note

More haste, less speed

No matter how your business is doing, don’t rush into bidding on several contracts without fully understanding what’s required. 

The risks include:

  • Wasting time on fruitless bids that could be spent on developing services, products, or works
  • Being consumed by unsuitable tenders and missing out on tenders that are actually perfect.
  • Putting a rush on writing and submitting bids and not paying attention to compliance requirements.
  • Speeding through proofreading and submitting bids littered with spelling mistakes and poor grammar.
  • Bidding on contracts that are way out of your league and which you could never hope to deliver.

Taking time to evaluate bids on their merits is never wasted.

Speak their language

Buyers acting on behalf of contracting authorities aren’t necessarily specialists in your field. You have to consider this if you want them to keep reading your bid. 

Put yourself in the evaluator’s shoes and help them understand what you do in layman’s terms. However, this is about more than simple sentences and avoiding jargon. Your bid must be easy to read and that includes the structure and format.

Some tender documents provide a template or format for you to use when writing your bid proposal. If this is the case, stick to the instructions. Local councils provide a format for a reason and you have to respect it.

If the tender documents are free-form, you have license to create your own format.

BUT, you must remain clear, succinct, unambiguous, and layman-friendly.

The structure has to flow logically from one section to the next and you need to consider readability, for example, chunky paragraphs are out. Several short paragraphs and bullet points are in.

Think white space.

White space is good. 

Headings and subheadings neatly group data and flow into the next group. There’s a trick with headings, however. They must be balanced. This means don’t drop a subheading on every second line – that’s too disruptive.

But don’t carry on for ages before breaking up the content with a heading. A good rule of thumb is to keep the gap between headings down to five paragraphs. If there simply is too much info to cram into five paragraphs, you can use bold to highlight a sentence or point. Bold font breaks content to give your eyes a rest. 

A note on paragraph length; try to stick to five sentences or five lines. It should be sufficient for you to highlight the benefits of your solution and demonstrate your overall value.

Bring The Tender Process To A Close

There is one more step in the tender process and it starts when all is said and done. It’s a crucial step regardless of your success because it provides insight into your process for bidding on local council tenders. 

It’s getting feedback from the buyers. Buyers are actually obligated to provide feedback to everyone who submitted a bid, so you can request feedback if none appears to be forthcoming.

It provides an opportunity for SMEs to dive into their procurement strategies and address weak areas (a gap in services) and bolster strong points (social value). SMEs can also generalise the methods that led to success and apply them to other aspects of their service offerings.

Combine this feedback with advanced analytics and you’ll have the tools you need to perfect your procurement process.

Does Contributing To The Local Economy Have National Knock-On Effects?

Yes, it does. It actually has a significant impact on the national economy. SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK economy and the more they can be encouraged to participate in local council procurement and the broader public sector marketplace, the better.

It’s one of the reasons the UK government has committed to ploughing back £1 out of every £3 spent in the public sector to increase the number of SMEs in the market, especially within the public sector marketplace. It’s also why the Procurement Act is so SME-friendly. The more in the public sector, the merrier.

Get The Most Out Of Tender Alerts With Supply2Gov

S2G’s tender alert service is fully scalable, so you can increase your reach as your business grows.

Start out with free local alerts and see what your local council has to offer. Bump up your package to include regions within England. Broaden your horizons by exploring what the UK has to offer, especially with UK tenders that provide a wide scope of opportunities and payment plans tailored for businesses aiming to win these tenders without committing to a 12-month contract. Finally, hit the big time by setting up alerts for government contracts throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Register now and get your public sector journey on the road.