Government grants SMEs easier access to public sector contracts

New procurement rules could soon be on the way which will change the way that SMEs bid for public sector contracts.


In a radical shake-up, cabinet office minister Chloe Smith unveiled the prospective reforms to remove the barriers to entry.


They come as a result of Lord Young’s recommendations in May to create a more SME-friendly market for public procurement.


Under the plans, all public sector contracts totalling £10,000 or more will be accessible from one single website, making it easier for SMEs to find the contracts that are out to tender. Identifying such opportunities is just one of the challenges which SMEs regularly face in the present climate.


A single set of standards will also have to be followed when bidding for high value contracts, while the latest move intends to extend the payment plan across the entirety of the supply chain.


Furthermore, an anonymous complaints system will be available to name and shame those who pay beyond agreed dates.


The proposals have now entered a consultation period, with SMEs set to make their thoughts clear on the proposals in the next month.


Ms Smith has also confirmed that the changes will be implemented by the end of the year.


“With £230bn per year spent on goods and services right across the whole public sector, Government wants to seize the opportunity to help hard-working SMEs get on by competing for and winning this business,” she said.


“Historically SMEs have been shut out of government business. In the past bidding for public sector contracts was time-consuming, expensive and overly bureaucratic. We want great value for the taxpayer and we want to ensure that we are giving British business a great chance at the same time.”


She also explained that the process involved when an SME bids for a contract has already been made easier, as 12,900 opportunities have been published on the government’s Contract Finder since 2011.


That was specifically designed to help SMEs find opportunities more easily, with the latest methods said to have halved the procurement timescales in recent years.


Lord Young, the Prime Minister’s enterprise adviser welcomed the decision to act following his earlier recommendations.


“It reflects not only the huge growth opportunities that public procurement can offer small businesses but also the significant value these suppliers are delivering to all parts of the public sector,” he said.


“I want this to increase to reflect the growing number and importance of small businesses in the UK today.”


By Phil Smith

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