10 August 2009 | Paul Snell
The UK government is to drop the subscription fee it charges for suppliers to access its website for public sector tenders.
From this month the £180-a-year charge to search for potential contracts on the supply2.gov.uk portal has been scrapped.
Business minister Shriti Vadera (pictured) said: "Small businesses are facing significant pressure in this downturn and new contracts are essential for their return to growth. We want to support small businesses by making it easier to access the thousands of government procurement opportunities that are directly relevant to them."
When the site was initially launched in 2006, it was strongly criticised by vendor groups for the fees that could total as much as £750 in a year (News, 28 April 2006). Last year the government ran a free three-month trial on the site as part of its Enterprise Strategy (Web news, 1 May 2008).
The decision to increase access to the site is also in response to the Glover review, which said buyers in the public sector were missing out on innovation and savings because small businesses cannot access contracts (News, 11 December 2008).
"FSB research shows that half of SMEs do not tender for public contracts because the process is too complicated and the contracts are too difficult to find in the first place," said Debasish Sen, trade and industry committee member at the Federation of Small Businesses. "Making supply2.gov free to access is a first step in the right direction and something the FSB has been pushing for, for a long time."
From next year, a new sector-wide website will exist for all contracts, not only the largest value deals.