SME Legal Experts Back Government’s Public Procurement Proposals

Measures In New Consultation ‘Recognise Importance Of Growing Businesses’

20.09.2013

By Rob Dixon

Legal experts have welcomed new Government plans to make it easier for SMEs to bid and win public sector contracts, but reiterated calls that growing businesses would need quality advice to take advantage of such opportunities.

The Government has launched a consultation on recommendations made by Lord Young to create a ‘single’ market for public procurement which offers greater opportunities to SMEs.

Unveiled by cabinet minister Chloe Smith, the proposals in the consultation include the introduction of a requirement for all public sector contracts over £10,000 to be accessible on a single site, a ban on pre-qualification questionnaires on low-value contracts and a single standardised requirement for high value alternatives.

The consultation will also examine whether performance bonds used as a financial guarantee for suppliers can impact adversely on SMEs.

All of the proposals have been welcomed by legal experts at Irwin Mitchell, who specialise in advising businesses for all sizes on public procurement issues.

Laurence Gavin, a Partner and commercial expert at Irwin Mitchell who specialises in public sector issues, said: “These proposals are a welcome step and we are hugely supportive of anything which makes it easier for entrepreneurs to win business from the public sector

“Public procurement has historically favoured large providers who have staff who deal with tenders routinely and small businesses often cannot produce bidding material that can compete with their bigger competitors.

“This can be frustrating at a local level, where local authorities, hospitals etc may want to use small local businesses but are unable to because of the tendering processes. In addition, smaller firms have been encouraged previously to group together to make bids, but in practice this is difficult to organise.

“As a firm, we see have seen many initiatives aimed at helping SMEs come together in consortia to bid for public sector contracts but it has always been difficult to make this sort of thing work. Hopefully this newly proposed approach will prove to be an effective way forward.”

Steve Beahan, a Partner and member of Irwin Mitchell’s specialist SME group, added: “These plans would offer a clear roadmap to smaller firms on how they can get involved in important public sector projects.

“This consultation is another sign of the Government recognising the important role that SMEs have to play in the ongoing economic recovery and this is only positive.

“The key issue for SMEs is to ensure they are fully prepared to take advantage of such opportunities and we would urge them to ensure they have quality advice on hand to help them make the most of the chances which come their way.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to SMEs