A government pledge to help small businesses acquire transport contracts is far from a “job done,” the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said.
The Department for Transport (DfT) committed this week to directing a third of public procurement spending towards small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by 2022, in a move which it said would “level the playing field” for small businesses.
The policy, dubbed the SME Action Plan, has also seen grants awarded for transport innovation projects, worth a total of £700,000. Of the 23 grants, 14 went to SMEs with less than 250 employees.
The projects include the development of universal disabled access ramps for trains, and an app to help deaf and hard of hearing people access live travel information such as changes to train times.
Transport minister Jo Johnson said he was proud of the department’s record of supporting small businesses.
“With this new action plan, we are leading by example by making it easier for these businesses to bid for contracts, and we will continue to support them over the coming years,” he said.
But FSB policy chairman Martin McTague said this was just the “next step” for the government in becoming “more attuned to the needs of small businesses”.
“It’s good that government is starting to talk more about how to increase spending with small businesses,” he said, but “there’s still a lot of work to do”.
The FSB would continue pushing the government to “use the talents and expertise of the UK’s small business community, rather than increasing risk Carillion-style by awarding a handful of mega contracts to few massive corporations,” he added.
“Other departments must follow the Department for Transport’s pledge to ensure that more small firms are given the chance to secure opportunities. DfT should not consider this job done, but instead as the next step in a process that needs to get ever faster and more attuned to the needs of small business.
“Government needs to continue working to reform the procurement system, making it fairer, simpler and more transparent, while ensuring small firms are paid promptly.”