SMEs struggle to access Public Sector Contracts


Small firms are struggling to access public sector contracts, with nearly three–quarters admitting they never or rarely bid for government work, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).


A joint survey of more than 500 SMEs by the FSB, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA), found that small firms still face considerable barriers when it comes to winning public sector contracts.

The research found that more than three–quarters of SMEs still find it difficult to find out about government opportunities, while more than half feel that the tendering process and timescales require too many resources to respond effectively.

The findings come despite Chancellor Alistair Darling’s pledge in this year’s budget to provide greater assistance to SMEs to win government contracts. While the FSB acknowledged the usefulness of websites such as, which allows registered businesses to search for contracts worth under £100,000, it said that more practical measures were needed to support SMEs.

“Small businesses can often be put off by the time and technical jargon involved,” said an FSB spokesperson. “Contracts should be simpler and written in plain English, and there should be a minimum of three weeks to respond to tenders to allow sufficient time for SMEs to develop solutions. Appropriate support, such as guidance documents and meet the buyer events should also be available.”

Responding to the report, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) emphasised that the Glover Committee was set up earlier this year to review how SMEs can participate in public procurement.

“It builds on previous work to assist SMEs carried out by the OGC and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform,” said an OGC spokesman. “The Committee has considered issues such as improved tendering procedures, providing better information for SMEs and reducing the barriers SMEs may face when competing for public sector contracts.”

The Glover Committee is expected to report its findings later this year.

For more information about public sector tender opportunities, visit the website

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