Small firms still critical of government contracts

Small companies are still struggling to win public sector contracts despite recent claims by Francis Maude that measures designed to help are proving a success.  

Reflecting on the tendering process in April, the Cabinet Minister said the government’s efforts, including scrapping pre-qualification questionnaires on contracts worth £100,000 and less, had “already made a difference”.

But 40% of owner-managers feel the tendering process for public sector contracts is “too complex”, while more than a third think they get sidelined by officials who believe bigger firms must be better.

“While central government has raised its game, without a true culture change across the public sector as a whole the government's initiatives will have little impact,” said the Federation of Small Businesses, which polled 2,700 of its member companies.

To that end, the federation wants the government’s newly created Procurement Pledge to be extended to “all parts of the public sector,” whereas currently its adoption is only “encouraged.”

Four out of ten owner-managers say public sector bosses tendering contracts should be required to evaluate based only on experience and ability, rather than on the bidding firm’s size and turnover.

A similar proportion of companies want a softer approach, saying the government and its bodies should be encouraged to award contracts to the smallest firms, or consortia of SMEs, “where possible”.

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