SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and in particular those with less than 50 employees (small) and less than 10 (micro) often suffer when it comes to competing for large public works contracts. SMEs win only 24% of these contracts in the UK, compared to 44% in France, and this figure is even worse for small and micro businesses at 11%. This despite the SME sector making up nearly 50% of the UK’s total turnover.
The Government has finally woken up to the issue and has taken a number of steps, including online help, changes to the Pre Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) processes and giving them a voice. Small businesses often do not bid for these contracts and tenders either because they are unaware of them; they consider that there is too much red tape surrounding them, or both.
Business groups, including the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), have welcomed the move. Commenting on the changes, John Walker of the FSB said that, in order for the changes to be successful, there needs to be a complete culture change within Government to the needs of small businesses. He added that removing the need for a PQQ will only work if the Government does not replace it with something even more bureaucratic.
The Government will now publish the number of contracts that are awarded to SMEs, which should help towards ensuring that the process is more transparent. In some areas, supplier frameworks that have already been procured, have been put in place by Local Authorities and other public sector organisations and have been in existence for some time, which has helped smaller businesses to access opportunities.