Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Report on Public Procurement
Monday 23rd July saw the publication of a report from the FSB, incorporating research undertaken by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), about local authority spending with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). For details of the report and the supporting research, see: http://www.fsb.org.uk/frontpage/assets/local_government_procurement_report_final.pdf
The report attracted a fair amount of press coverage both nationally (Supply Management “Councils ignorant on SME information”) and locally (East Anglian Daily Times “FSB calls for openness on council procurement SME spend”).
The report was not particularly complimentary about local authorities; for example, “49% of councils do not record the size of the business they are trading with”. However, the Local Government Association (LGA) has been keen to stress the ongoing progress by local authorities on this agenda and have cited the following as examples of good practice:
- Using aggregated local and regional portals to advertise contracts opportunities and linking to the national portal ‘Contracts Finder’
- Publishing a contracts registers of upcoming opportunities on council websites
- Publishing a ‘How to do business with the Council’ guide or similar
- Standardisation and simplification of tender documentation
- Supplier surgeries to encourage take-up of council contracts with SMEs and Voluntary Sector
- Changing approach to PQQs from ‘one size fits all’ to a proportionate risk based approach – either dispensing with PQQs altogether or reducing the complexity
- Moving to local, regional or national portals that only require single registration of details
Nationally, there are a number of SME-friendly initiatives which are supported by the LGA and are referenced or recommended in the FSB report:
- The national advertising portal, Contracts Finder
- Use of the government standard PQQ as a default
- The removal of a PQQ stage for lower value, lower risk contracts
The current revision and re-issue of the National Procurement Strategy for local government and the publication of the draft Local Government Procurement Pledge look certain to formalise some of these recommendations and good practice for adoption by the local government sector.
Colleagues are urged to consider any impact on their own procurement strategies and procedures caused by this shift in government policy and the raised political profile resulting from this latest FSB report. If you would like any help and support with this, particularly any smaller districts who may lack in-house procurement expertise, then please contact Eddie.firstname.lastname@example.org
at Improvement East for assistance.