21 June 2011 | Lindsay Clark
UK central government may have to double its spending with
small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to reach its target of giving them 25
per cent of all opportunities.
Last year, the Cabinet Office said that a quarter of
Whitehall deals should go to SMEs in order to boost the
However, the government’s own adviser on the subject,
Stephen Allott, crown commercial representative for SME’s at the Cabinet Office,
said that it did not have a base figure for the SME spending target. Speaking
to SM, he said: “We don’t know where
central government is at the moment and don’t know how long it will take to
reach the target.”
It could be the lifetime of the government before the 25 per
cent figure was reached, he said. “That would probably double what we are now –
we’re probably half that,” he said.
As reported by SM, Prime Minister David Cameron said in February that he wanted to boost the
amount of government work awarded to small and medium-sized enterprises
from around 5 per cent to 25 per cent. In order to do that, he said, it needed
to overhaul the way it does business and would support central government purchasers who take a chance on smaller
Allott quoted researchfrom the European Union
that found that across the UK public sector as a whole, spending with SMEs was
around 24 per cent, ranking it 24th of the 27 member states. It
found France spent 44 per cent of its public procurement with SMEs, while in
Germany the figure was 52 per cent.
He said that if the UK central government reached its 25 per
cent target and other areas of the public sector also increased the proportion
spent with SME suppliers “then we could be as good as France or Germany”.
In February, the Cabinet Office launched a programme to help
SMEs gain access to government contracts. This includes a contract finder
website, the launch of SME product surgeries and a strategy to eliminate Pre-Qualification
Questionnaires for contracts of less than £100,000.