Bristol City Council and CCG commissioners respond to Voscur’s request for flexibility

3 April, 2020

Updated: 03/4/2020

Bristol’s VCSE organisations are playing an important role in the city’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and are working hard to maintain and adapt their services to meet communities’ needs. We had received feedback and some concerns about the challenges of bidding for contracts/grants while delivering services in increasingly complex situations and managing workforce challenges.

Consequently, we wrote to Bristol City Council and the Bristol, North Somerset and South Glos Clinical Commissioning Group about targets/obligations in current contracts and live, imminent and delayed commissioning/procurement processes. We asked for the consideration of relaxing targets/KPIs for Q4 2019/20 and Q1 2020/21, and that other processes are delayed – all of this to contribute to suppliers/bidders’ understanding that the system is being flexible to allow the coordinated, system-wide response to the pandemic.

Bristol City Council

Steve Sandercock, Interim Head of Strategic Procurement and Supplier Relation, says:

“With the unprecedented challenges that are presented by the coronavirus pandemic the Council is clear that efforts to tackle this will only be achieved through working effectively and supporting our key partners including the voluntary and community sector partners.  With this in mind the Council recognise the vital role our partners play and are working hard to support them through putting effective measures and approaches in place around our contracts and grant obligations.

The council encourages suppliers to prioritise things that will meet the community’s needs and that it trusts that details will be dealt with in relationships between contract managers and suppliers. Thank you to all in your engagement and continued support.”

Existing contracts - guidance has been issued to the council’s contract managers and suppliers. This guidance includes:

  • Consideration for service users and personnel “include ensuring all necessary personnel are aware of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, including high temperature, fever and persistent cough.”
  • “Consideration must be taken as to whether the contract should for a period of time be adjusted in how it is delivered”, including:
    • Delivering differently to avoid face to face delivery
    • Delaying or ceasing delivery
    • Reprioritising delivery to high risk vulnerable people/communities
    • Changing delivery timings to minimise contact with others
    • Changing delivery location
    • Limiting delivery to urgent/essential cases
  • If there are any risks impact of service delivery, suppliers are asked to consider risks arising from the outbreak of an infectious disease and:
    • Issue notices to the council
    • Advise the council of what is happening to prevent delay and ensure service delivery
    • Consider the formal risk assessment with the contract manager.
  • If suppliers have not been contacted by their council contract manager, they should get in touch with them directly.

In addition, Bristol City Council has made changes to its Procurement Protocols, which means:

  • Procurement/tendering for non-essential goods, works or services may be delayed or aborted
  • Expedient measures or urgent requirements may be put in place through existing contracts, established frameworks or direct awards
  • Maximise existing contracts.


Recipients of Bristol City Council grants should have been contacted by their grant officers to discuss how any targets will be amended or relaxed. If grant-holders have not been contacted by their council grant officer, they should get in touch with them directly.

Other grant processes have been suspended/postponed.

Bristol, North Somerset and South Glos Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

In a similar way, the CCG has also responded positively to Voscur’s requests with this letter. Summary of changes to CCG processes:

  • Current contracts – will be honoured if critical to the CCG or COVID-19 response. Potential support if not possible to deliver services; discussions about delivering differently. Contractors are advised to contact (details can be seen in the letter, dated 02/04/2020).
  • Procurement – no new procurements will take place during this period. Existing processes are likely to be paused, subject to joint commissioning arrangements.
  • KPIs/targets – will be relaxed for current contracts from Q4 January-March 2020 and Q1 April-June 2020.


VCSE organisations may also be interested to know that other funders have made recently changes to their programmes and that COVID-19 funding is available for organisations contributing to the community response.

Voscur is here to support the sector:

  • For advice about COVID-19 emergency grant funding, check the daily Grants Digest.
  • For advice about commissioning/procurement: contact Mark Hubbard, Head of Partnerships and Commissioning -email or call 0117 909 9949.
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