Jumping through hoops for public sector work

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 18 February 2011

Have you ever tried to bid for a public sector contract? If you have, I'll bet you've never had to wade through so much red tape and jump through so many hoops in your entire life.

If you haven't, you're not alone. Nearly three-quarters of small firms rarely or never bid for public service contracts.

Just five to ten per cent of public sector business is awarded to small and medium-sized businesses - despite the fact that small businesses account for close to half the UK's turnover. And that public sector business is worth billions.

But there's good news for small firms this week.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to help more small businesses bid for and win public sector contracts. His aim is to see 25 per cent of all government contracts being awarded to small and medium-sized firms.

It has to be said that there is some confusion over whether he means 25 per cent of the value of all contracts or 25 per cent of the number of contracts. But who's quibbling — the difference is only a few billion quid.

Still, it's a step in the right direction.

So how's he going to do it?

He's pledging to break up large contracts into smaller chunks. And where that's not possible, he'll encourage large suppliers to increase opportunities for small firms in the supply chain.

Forgive my cynicism but I can't see larger suppliers giving up a slice of the pie.

However, let's focus on the positives. With this announcement comes the launch of a new online tool — Contracts Finder — that will show all central Government tender opportunities.

Best news of all is that the Government has removed the need for bidders to fill in a PQQ (pre-qualification questionnaire) for smaller contracts. In addition, David Cameron is promising much less red tape and more transparency.

Will it work? Let's hope so. It could be a brilliant boost for small firms. And, with the Government promising to publish figures on the amount of contracts going to smaller businesses, we'll be able to measure their success.

In the meantime, tell us about your experience bidding for public sector contracts and watch this space.

Rachel Miller, editor, Marketing Donut

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