Small firms given help to compete for public contracts

The Prime Minister David Cameron has outlined a series of reforms aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses compete for public sector contracts.

Under the new system, entrepreneurs will be able to pitch directly to Whitehall buyers as part of the Government’s efforts to make public procurement more accessible to smaller firms.

The requirement for businesses to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) before bidding for contracts worth less than £100,000 will also be abolished – a move welcomed by many business groups.

In addition, Mr Cameron announced the launch of a new website which enables firms to search for public sector contracts worth more than £10,000. A similar type of website already exists in Scotland and is reported to be a success, with around 50,000 members registered to the site.

‘Too many contracts are signed off behind closed doors with little or no public scrutiny. That can be good for the contractors who can charge over the odds without being properly challenged but it is not good for the taxpayer who is being short changed and denied value for money,’ commented the Prime Minister.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which has been campaigning for the Government to remove the red tape surrounding public procurement, hailed the decision a ‘victory’ for small enterprises.

‘The FSB is pleased that the Government has recognised that these barriers exist and has committed to making the process simpler,’ it said in a press release. ‘The initiatives, such as the reform of the PQQ process and more transparency through a new contracts website, as well as providing a dedicated voice for small firms’ views to be heard, will mean more small businesses having the potential to access work’.

However Susan Anderson, CBI director for public services, said the plan ‘could be much more radical by opening up all government contracts and public services to a range of innovative and expert providers.’

The Institute of Directors (IoD) added that the changes were ‘long overdue’, but it questioned whether the move would deliver real change. ‘It remains to be seen whether today’s changes will benefit small businesses or whether risk-averse bureaucrats will soldier on with safe choices of big brands,’ said the IoD’s Alexander Ehmann.

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