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Procurement in a Nutshell: Procurement Act 2023 – Light Touch Contracts

This Nutshell will analyse the new obligations on contracting authorities in relation to Light Touch Contracts, drawing attention to any key changes from previous procurement legislation which contracting authorities ought to be aware of.

On 26th October 2023 the Procurement Bill received Royal Assent and is now expected to come into force on 28th October 2024.

The Act will, in particular, revoke the following:

  • Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR)
  • Concession Contracts Regulations 2016
  • Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016

What’s new?

The Procurement Act applies the light touch regime, allowing specified services to be subject to more flexible rules than ordinary public contracts.

The Government, under Schedule 1 of the draft Procurement Regulations 2024, has produced a list of which procurements are to be covered by the light touch provisions. These regulations are due to be passed in May.

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The key differences for light touch contracts include (among others):

  • Minimum timescales for light touch contracts are not mandated (Section 54(3)).
  • There is no maximum term specified for a framework agreement that is a light touch contract (Section 47(5)).
  • Conditions of participation under framework agreements do not apply to light touch contracts (Section 46(11)).
  • Light touch contracts have the benefit of undertaking a direct award on the basis of user choice (Schedule 5).
  • The requirement to publish the Transparency Notice does not apply to direct awards for user choice contracts (Section 44(3)).
  • The Contract Details Notice must be published within 120 days, rather than 30 days (Section 53(1)).
  • The requirement to observe a standstill period does not apply to light touch contracts though you may choose to have a voluntary one (Section 51(3)).
  • Setting, assessing and publishing KPIs does not apply to light touch contracts. The requirement to publish Contract Performance Notices for poor performance or breaches of contract does not apply to light touch contracts (Section 52(6)).
  • The requirement to publish a Contract Change Notice does not apply to light touch contracts (Section 75(6)).

However, contracting authorities should note that the exclusion grounds in the Act apply in full to light touch contracts.

What does this mean?

The Act is broadly similar to the PCR 2015 in relation to the light touch regime, and so contracting authorities should continue as before and make use of the additional flexibility. Contracting authorities should, however, review the new exclusion grounds introduced under the Act as this will also apply to light touch contracts.

For more information on exclusions, please see our previous Nutshell.

For further information please contact Melanie Pears or Tim Care in our Public Sector Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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