September 27, 2021

SMEs call for public sector ‘to do more’ to remove tendering barriers

Over 90% of British SMEs believe the public sector should be doing more to remove the tendering barriers they face when bidding for public sector contracts, according to new research.

The findings have been detailed in a new report Navigating the Public Procurement Minefield, which has been carried out by tender training platform Ultimate Tender Coach. It comes as the UK Government is preparing the next stages of its Transforming Public Procurement strategy that aims to speed up and simplify the procurement processes faced by bidding parties and to reshape public procurement for generations to come.

The UK Government wants £1 in every £3 of public procurement spend to go to SMEs by 2022, a level that would represent a huge leap from the current rate of around 12% of the £290bn spent by the UK public sector on procuring goods and services annually.

From a raft of proposals contained in the Transforming Public Procurement Green Paper, which closed for consultation earlier this year, a new, more flexible approach to procurement is planned to emerge that will favour smaller businesses.

At its launch at the end of 2020, Cabinet Office Minister, Lord Agnew, highlighted the focus the Green Paper has on creating a more equitable procurement system for small businesses. He said: “The measures outlined today will transform the current outdated system with new rules, providing flexibility to the public sector and less burden on business.

“These long-standing plans have been developed with international procurement specialists and will help unleash innovation across the country and provide a fairer system for small businesses.”

The survey of British SMEs drawn from a diverse range of sectors and service lines, revealed that 91% of SMEs agreed that for the Government to achieve its ambition of a more inclusive procurement landscape, barriers need to be removed for SMEs to create a more level procurement playing field.

Among the barriers cited by SMEs were the overall complexity of the procurement process (44%) and the lack of publicity for opportunities (41%), which were both highlighted by over two-fifths of respondents.

Also, over a third were dissuaded either by finding the process too time consuming (37%), difficulty meeting mandatory qualifying criteria (35%) or by finding the process too costly based on being unsuccessful in the past (34%). While one fifth were concerned that the incumbent supplier would simply be reappointed.

David Gray, Managing Director of AM Bid, the creator of Ultimate Tender Coach, said: “SMEs have given Government a clear signal that they want to be involved in tendering and winning work from the public sector but also that they want the barriers removed. They want Government to do more.

“The perception that public contracts are a closed shop can be a real deterrent to businesses. They want to bid for contracts and are prepared to do so but there are barriers in their way, so many throw the towel in even before they start.

“Government must use the opportunity of its procurement reforms to favour small businesses and help build a fairer procurement landscape where businesses of all sizes have equal opportunities and stand a greater prospect of winning lucrative and bankable contracts.”