Levelling Up department signs £20m deal for ‘urgent digital requirements’

DLUHC has awarded a contract for specialist external partners to provide the department with ‘multidisciplinary teams’ on demand and to support projects to be specified over the next two years

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has signed a potential £20m-plus contract for commercial partners to help meet “urgent requirements” for the development and support of digital services.

On 12 April, DLUHC entered into an initial two-year engagement with public sector digital specialist Made Tech. Another London-based software-development consultancy, Softwire Technology, is listed on the agreement as a key subcontractor.

The deal is intended to help address the department’s “urgent requirements for embedded capabilities for digital service design and delivery,” according to a newly published commercial notice.

Over the course of the contract, the suppliers will assist with these requirements by providing DLUHC with teams composed of various types of digital professionals. These teams will be provided to fulfil periodic and discrete statements of work agreed between all parties.

“[This contract is] to support the design and development of new digital tools and services which DLUHC is responsible for,” the notice added. “This contract will be used to fund multiple multidisciplinary delivery teams to tackle these problems, and design, build and run modern digital services which meet the [government] Service Standard and Technology Code of Practice.”

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DLUHC has committed to spend an initial sum of only £360,000 via the deal – but the text of the contract indicates that the department expects to spend £4m during the first 12 months of the engagement. Over its two-year term, as much as £19.5m – plus VAT of up to £3.9m – could be spent. This figure could rise further still if the department chooses to take advantage of an optional one-year extension.

The contract is characteristic of a so-called bench agreement, in which a large organisation retains an external partner – on a contract of unspecified value – to provide teams of expert staff at short notice, and for projects yet to be determined.  These on-demand arrangements have become popular in government in recent years, with agencies including the Home Office, Government Digital Service, and the then Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy among those that have appointed suppliers to multimillion-pound bench contracts.

The projects to be covered by the DLUHC deal will be specified by individual statements of work over the next two years that “will be agreed between both parties as required, agreeing each work package and taking into account any specific KPIs, milestones, data processing [or] security requirements”, according to the terms of the contract.

“Implementation plans and testing criteria can be included in individual SoWs if required,” it added. “The supplier will not begin work until each SoW is fully signed by all parties and a valid purchase order is received. Supplier to maintain a record of all completed, ongoing and pipeline SoWs and submit to the DLUHC contract manager on a monthly basis.”

Sam Trendall

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