SMEs have slim chance of winning Government work

SMEs are still struggling to compete for public-sector contracts - despite Government help.

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

At least that's the latest from the House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Small Business Group (or, for those who favour snappy acronyms, the APPSBG), which has just published a report on the matter. It seems that lucrative public-sector contracts are too complex and costly for smaller firms - and that the government's pledges to make things easier have yet to bear fruit.

Cynical readers may be sensing a familiar story: the Glover review, announced in November last year, advised the Government on how to help small firms win public procurement contracts. Yet now along comes a report saying that those recommendations don't amount to a hill of beans - not even a small-to-medium one.

The report is backed up by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, which has said, quite sensibly, that many SMEs are put off tendering altogether, feeling that time spent prepping bids for contracts they're not going to get is better spent actually earning some cash, especially at times like these.

The APPSBG has a huge list of suggestions, including making the tendering process clearer, reducing red tape, setting ‘ambitious' tendering targets for small businesses, and viewing small businesses separately from medium ones, since there's a gulf in the resources and credit they can access.

The Forum for Private Business has now thrown its hat into the ring, saying that the government should introduce help for small businesses into the forthcoming Budget. Many of the Glover Review's measures aren't due to come into play until 2010 and the FPB says that, by pushing them through now, the Government could help SMEs pick up valuable contracts and stimulate the economy at the same time.

It's an admirable cause, but we can't help thinking it might never happen. The SMEs' square peg has never seemed to fit with the public sector's distinctly round hole. So the SME community probably shouldn't hold its breath. The Government has proven slow to act before, and with this Budget it has certainly got several other big-to-bloody-enormous fish to fry.



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