Public Procurement


Regulated procurement

If you're connected with public procurement in any way, you'll probably realise just how complex, awkward and difficult to understand the EU procurement rules can be.

Yet public procurement accounts for nearly 20% of GDP across the EU - it's big business, and is vital to the achievement of value for money in public purchasing.

Nor is its remit confined to the public sector - utilities have their own EU procurement rules to comply with, and many third sector organisations have to follow public procurement rules.

Getting it right is not easy. Procurement law is a developing jigsaw, with some parts of the picture more complete than others. New procurement directives, adopted in April 2014, are now being implemented across the EU at national level, with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 having come into force in the UK in February 2015 and new rules for utilities, health sector bodies and concessions likely to be implemented soon. These herald the biggest change in procurement law for more than 20 years.

The aim of the new laws is to clarify and add flexibility, although the extent to which this actually happens remains to be seen. There is little doubt that the waters will be choppy for some time to come.

State aid

Even though they are different disciplines and are watched over by different parts of the European Commission, state aid rules and the procurement regime are, for various reasons, bedfellows. Getting one of them wrong can mean that the other becomes a big issue, too.

It's for this reason that our lawyers are dual experts in both state aid and procurement law, ensuring that you can tap straight into a complete one-stop shop of advice and support.

Why choose us?

We practice the art of the possible. Our aim isn't to tell you why an objective isn't achievable; it's to work out how it is, and to help you get there quickly, simply, and economically.

You might be a purchaser required to comply with the EU rules, a supplier having to incur time and expense in responding to OJEU notices and bidding for business through EU-regulated tendering processes, or a bidder in a moment of raw emotion, incredulous at the news that your bid has just been unsuccessful.

Whatever the situation, there are ways in which the EU rules can be made to deliver the positives - to work in your favour, rather than against. Based in our UK offices, our experts will help you get there.


With Gowling WLG, you can tap into a long track record of helping many organisations achieve their objectives. If you are a public body, a third-sector organisation or a utility, we will help you navigate the complexities of this regime and to steer you to the right outcome.

We help purchasers (public, third-sector or utilities) to:

  • plan their procurements effectively, so that there are no last-minute afterthoughts
  • get evaluation criteria right, and articulate them in the right way and at the right time
  • defend themselves against challenges by unsuccessful bidders, or decide on their options
  • run hassle-free, compliant procurements from end to end
  • mitigate procurement risks if an existing contract has to be modified
  • be alert to issues that may create the risk of state aid, and avoid running that risk

We help suppliers by:

  • acting as a 'critical friend' for them as they prepare their bids, stress-testing them against the evaluation criteria and helping them work out what will stand them with a good chance of success
  • advising them on what to do if they feel that a procurement is being unfairly run, but where everyone is still in the running
  • if they win a tender but the procurement is challenged, helping them manage their position effectively
  • if they are unsuccessful, helping them work out whether it is in their best interests to challenge the decision, and if so, how
  • helping them spot (and avoid) situations where they may end up in receipt of illegal State aid.

Some of our notable achievements include:

  • getting the NHS Midlands and East Strategic Health Authority through the first franchising of an NHS hospital in the country - Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire
  • advising on a multi-local authority residual waste treatment PPP for a grouping of London boroughs
  • supporting the preferred bidder in a major, high-profile central London development project, which was halted following a challenge by an unsuccessful bidder. Even though our client did not join in the litigation, we succeeded in persuading the court to impose enhanced protection measures into the disclosure process, specifically to preserve the confidentiality of our client's bid
  • advising an employee-led mutual on how to structure its bid for the Audit Commission's local audit work
  • helping a group of six local authorities identify the optimum model for establishing a shared services arrangement for revenues and benefits services
  • helping a London Borough set up and successfully maintain a Dynamic Purchasing System for the supply of assisted living aids, operated through a Local Authority Trading Company
  • advising NHS Strategic Projects Team (formerly part of NHS Midlands and East) on the East of England "Transforming Pathology Services" project


"[The] enthusiasm for the subject is infectious."

"Very helpful... an overwhelming subject!"

"A refreshingly common-sense approach."


Public, private and third sector organisations choose Gowling WLG to advise on procurement and state aid issues. These include:

  • St. Modwen Properties plc
  • Sanctuary Group
  • The Local Government Association
  • A multitude of local authorities across England, including metropolitan boroughs
  • NHS Greater East Midlands Commissioning Support Unit
  • Numerous NHS commissioners, providers and umbrella organisations