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Government supports SMEs…

“Could the Private Sector be doing the same?”

SMEWe published an article today in our online newspaper, The Conference Doctor Weekly, which came from The Telegraph. It was by their Enterprise Editor, Rebecca Burn-Callander, and the headline was “Tendering red tape holds firms back”

Data company Spend Network, working alongside the Open Data Institute, analysed more than £1trillion in EU procurement data, and found that the UK’s tendering process is 45pc slower than the EU average.


Over the course of 2013, the Government spent £94.76bn with UK companies, or £417.4m per working day. Given the 53-day lag, this results in £22.13bn worth of cash that is held back from the economy. In addition, it takes UK businesses an average of 174 working days — almost nine months — to apply for government tenders. Only Greece and Ireland have longer lead times for tendering for government contracts, at 221 days and 185 days respectively.

The Government’s inefficient tendering system has created a £22bn bottleneck in the allocation of public funds Rebecca Burn-Callander, 10 Mar 2014

A spokesman from the Cabinet Office commented on the findings, saying: “Part of this Government’s long term economic plan is to make it easier for a diverse mix of suppliers to win public service contracts. Our own figures show that our radical programme of reform has seen average procurement timescales halved from 208 to 102 working days and our spend with SMEs has increased from £3 billion in 2009/10 to £4.5 billion in 2012/13.”

This is very topical given the forthcoming General Election here, and the next running of our course, Love Me Tender Improve your RFP Results in a Day, tomorrow. It is not me spotting an opportunity to plug our course that prompted me to pick up my keyboard! As I review the pre-course survey results it is interesting how the same topics come up before each course. Especially as delegates attending are from both SME and big businesses, previously attendees where all in the small business camp, which seems to indicate these challenges are not unique to SMEs…

Level playing field… Understanding the selection process… The time it takes to complete a tender… Shorter lead times

We published a post back in June of 2014, To RFP or not RFP that should be the question, which tackled the cost of managing the RFP process for an organisation and it is beyond debate that it is a significant investment for both those who issue, and those who respond. I do believe the government policy, Making sure government gets full value from small and medium-sized enterprises, is well intentioned and they are achieving their goal for 25% of central government spending to go to SMEs by 2015.

They should also be applauded for attempts to level the playing field by stating that departments must not rule out SMEs who are financially sound simply because their turnover is low. The implementation of Contracts Finder for the wider public sector to publish opportunities online, tips for SMEs bidding for government contracts on and the Mystery Shopper service help people to understand the selection process.

Abolishing PQQs for contracts with a value of less than100k is one step in reducing the time it takes to complete a tender, but frameworks with no guarantees of volumes and a requirement for transparent procurement may not address short lead times or the number of contracts put out to tender.

By February 2015, the Mystery Shopper service had investigated 818 cases: 4 out of 5 of these resulted in a positive outcome where changes are made to existing procurements or recommendations are accepted for future contracts.

Whilst only on the journey at the moment their commitment to transparency may mean that the Public Sector are an easier target, as gripes around procurement practices are by no means solely aimed at government targets. Our industry could cite multiple cases where best practice does not appear transparent and perhaps it is time to get a working party together to unite all sectors. There are enough articles in the industry press from agencies moaning about corporates that unification behind a commitment to establish working practices and guidelines could be the best way for all involved.

Jim Quintrell and Paul Hussey BlogContact us for a house visit and get our completely impartial view on how  our procurement approach is delivering for you, and your suppliers.



Author The Conference Doctor               Published 31 March 2015