Fund bidders jockey for position

Organisations that want to bid to run the remaining £65m of government loan fund Futurebuilders are thought to be arranging themselves in partnerships and consortia to maximise their chances against existing contractor Futurebuilders England.

Six organisations, including Futurebuilders England itself, have submitted 'expressions of interest' to the Office of the Third Sector, but it is not clear exactly how many have been selected to remain in the bidding process. The fund is intended to help non-profits gear up for public service delivery.

Futurebuilders England, Charity Bank and the Adventure Capital Fund are the only third sector organisations known to have approached the OTS to run the fund so far. From the private sector, business consultancy Ernst & Young and public service contractor A4e also put in expressions of interest, but both were turned down.

Under the tendering procedure, the OTS evaluates primary submissions, then invites bidders with the necessary backgrounds for further dialogue. There are several more stages before successful applicants are asked to submit full tenders.

One group that is seeking an alliance with other potential bidders is the Adventure Capital Fund, which invests in community enterprises. It warned last month that it had only £500,000 left of the £15m of public funding it had been awarded in the past five years.

One sector expert, who did not want to be named, said the ACF would have to beware of deviating too far from its mission as mainly a supporter of community-based organisations, rather than of charitable and voluntary groups across the sector.

The OTS wants to award the contract by January so work can start by next April.

THE RUNNERS AND RIDERS

A4e

The starting prices: The public service contractor submitted an expression of interest

The official line: An A4e spokeswoman confirmed that the company had put in an expression of interest but was told it had not been shortlisted.

Adventure Capital Fund

The starting prices: The investor in social enterprise has submitted an expression of interest

The official line: Stephen Bubb, chair of the ACF, said the fund was interested in applying and was seeking potential tender partners. The bid will be discussed at a board meeting this week.

Big Lottery Fund

The starting prices: The lottery distributor is rumoured to have been encouraged to apply by the Office of the Third Sector

The official line: A BLF spokesman said the fund did not submit an expression of interest and is not a formal partner for any other tenders.

Capacitybuilders

The starting prices: The arm's-length government agency was suggested as a potential candidate but is now out of the running

The official line: A Capacitybuilders spokeswoman said the board had discussed bidding but decided against it.

Charity Bank

The starting prices: The bank that lends to non-profits has submitted an expression of interest

The official line: Jim Gilbourne, Charity Bank's deputy chief executive, said the bank was reviewing the situation and confirmed that the issue was discussed at a board meeting last month

Community Development Foundation

The starting prices: This non-departmental government body for community development was rumoured to be a likely candidate

The official line: Chief executive Alison Seabrooke said it had decided not to bid for the contract because "our work, and thus any grant administration scheme we undertake, focuses closely on development and support to communities, community groups and organisations"

Ecotec

The starting prices: The private sector economic and social development specialist was rumoured to be a likely candidate

The official line: An Ecotec spokesman said he could not confirm or deny that the company would tender

Ernst & Young

The starting prices: The professional services company did apply but was rejected by the Office of the Third Sector

The official line: An Ernst & Young spokeswoman confirmed this was the case but declined to say more

Futurebuilders England

The starting prices: The present incumbent has put in an expression of interest and confirmed it will fight to retain the work

The official line: A Futurebuilders spokeswoman said its tender would introduce a number of new ideas. "We remain confident that Futurebuilders England is the organisation with the best skills and experience to win the bid," she added.

Tribal Group

The starting prices: The company, which provides consulting and professional support, is rumoured to be a likely candidate

The official line: Tribal Group said it was unable to comment.

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