Losing the public sector battle

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Small businesses are still struggling to win public sector contracts despite the Government’s efforts to make it easier, the latest figures from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) show.

The ‘Voice of Small Business’ survey panel of FSB members in England reveals 40% of small firms believe the tendering process for public sector contracts is too complex, while 37% think they are sidelined by public officials who believe bigger firms must be better.

The findings come despite the Government’s launch of its Contracts Finder website designed to make it easier for small firms to find and bid for public sector work.

The survey of more than 2,700 FSB members showed that although one in seven firms had bid for a public sector contract in the last year, 41% failed to secure any business from any of the bids they had submitted.

Of those firms that had won contracts, only a quarter (27%) said they had found the Contracts Finder website useful, with twice that number (55%) relying on personal contacts and referrals.

Commenting on the findings, FSB Cornwall’s development manager Ann Vandermeulen, said: “Procurement departments, in whatever public sector realm they may be, must first realise that a small business does not have their own ‘department’ or even a dedicated member of staff to deal with bidding for contracts.

“Tender submissions can be complex and along with the need for many qualifications like ISO, policies on diversity, environment, health and safety etc, it is a big undertaking to even apply.

“Small businesses are keen to apply for contracts and the public sector could be missing out on some good value, high quality business partners because small businesses just don’t have the administrative resources to justify making a bid.”