The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR) draw a distinction between “central government authorities”, being the Crown and the authorities listed in Schedule 1 of the PCR, and “sub-central contracting authorities” defined as all contracting authorities which are not central government authorities. For example, local authorities are sub-central authorities.
In practice, the most well-known impact of this distinction is the different financial thresholds triggering the requirement to run a PCR compliant procurement. The current financial threshold for central government authorities procuring public contracts for supplies and services is £122, 976. A higher threshold of £189,330 applies to sub-central contracting authorities.
There are also some flexibilities available only to sub-central authorities, such as use of a prior information as a call for competition and the ability to set the time limit for receipt of tenders by mutual agreement with all bidders in specified cases.
On 16 August 2021 a new Schedule 1 to the PCR will come into force, updating the list of “Central Government Authorities”.
Schedule 1 is now presented in two parts:
- Part 1 lists “GPA Annex 1 Contracting Authorities”, now aligned with the list of UK central government contracting authorities in the GPA
- Part 2 lists “Other Central Government Contracting Authorities” which are not listed in GPA but which are considered as central government authorities for the purposes of the PCR.
A particularly notable change is the expanded list of NHS organisations under the Department of Health and Social Care entry, which now refers to the NHS Commissioning Board (known as NHS England) and NHS Foundation Trusts. This is in addition to the NHS Business Services Authority and NHS Trusts which are listed as central government authorities in the current version of Schedule 1. From 16 August 2021, the lower financial threshold will apply to all of these organisations and sub-central authority flexibilities will not be available to them.
There are number of other additions and changes to the Schedule 1 list. Organisations with central government links, in particular, should check the revised Schedule 1 carefully to see if they are listed as central government authorities. Local authorities continue to fall within the definition of sub-central contracting authorities.
You can download a copy of SI 2021 No.872 and explanatory notes from legislation.gov.uk or by following this link.
 There are some limited provisions in the PCR applying to “Below-threshold” procurements, in particular in relation to publication of information on Contracts Finder and assessment of suitability