South East urged to help SMEs win public deals

1 March 2011
News focus: Procurement in SME catch-22
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An SME-friendly framework

1 March 2011 | Lindsay Clark

A UK public sector agency is calling on the councils and fire authorities in its area to give smaller businesses easier access to local government work.

Improvement andEfficiency South East (IESE), which brings together public bodies to help them become more efficient, has developed a standard pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) to make it easier, faster and cheaper for small firms to bid for council contracts.

The organisation believes the standard PQQ could help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) get a fairer chance of winning some of the south east’s £4.5 billion of council deals.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has joined the IESE in calling for the 74 local authorities and nine fire authorities in the region to adopt the standard questionnaire to avoid suppliers entering the same information every time they bid.

Deb Sen, procurement spokesperson for the FSB, said: “Despite progress that has been made opening up the public sector marketplace in recent years, small firms are still put off bidding due to excessive paperwork. Small firms provide councils with better value for money, better quality of service and greater innovation in the delivery of public sector contracts. The adoption of a common PQQ, completed once, has long been a goal of the FSB and we are pleased to lend our support to this campaign.”

Councillor Paul Bettison, chairman of IESE and leader of Bracknell Forest Council, said: “SMEs play a vital role in driving economic growth but they tell us that they are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of time bidding for public sector contracts. This is the last thing they need at a difficult time. A standard PQQ is an important step to dramatically streamline the process for SMEs by cutting unnecessary red tape and I urge all councils in the south east to see how they can implement it locally.”

The PQQ will be available through the South East Business Portal, a website run by IESE which is designed to improve council procurement processes and make public sector contracts more transparent.

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