The changes which have been drafted in response to the Prime Minister’s Business Advisor Lord Young’s recommendations in May this year to create a SME-friendly “single market” for public procurement have been unveiled by Cabinet Office Minister Chloë Smith to help assist in removing the barriers for SMEs to enter government led contracts.
All public sector contracts valued over £10,000 will be accessible from a single website, which will make it easier and simpler for smaller businesses to find the contracts currently out to tender. It is planned that the changes and website live by the end of this year.
The Cabinet Office is also banning lengthy pre-qualification questionnaires for low value public sector contracts, introducing a single set of standard requirements to bid for high value contracts to replace them to ensure standards are upheld.
“We have consistently heard that the PQQs are cumbersome for SMEs,” explained Smith. “Small firms are asked to input repetitive information and questions are sometimes confusing. We mean to simplify the whole process and ensure that questions are standardised across the public sector, so whether small firms are bidding for contracts from local authorities or central government, the information they need to provide remains the same.”
“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, and 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,” Smith added.
Progress has already been made to make it easier for SMEs to bid for contracts, she added. Since 2011, 12,900 opportunities have been published on Government’s “Contracts Finder” to help SMEs spot opportunities more easily, whilst new procurement methods have halved timescales.
Lord Young, the Prime Minister’s Enterprise Adviser said: “I am pleased with Government’s response to my proposals, reflecting 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. I want this to increase to reflect the growing number and importance of small businesses in the UK today.”