The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has entered the battle to help SME suppliers win more lucrative contracts, after its research found that the public sector does not consider SMEs when tendering.
Suppliers, including channel partners, and public-sector bodies such as the NHS have been in long-running negotiations to ensure that smaller suppliers do not miss out on contracts. Now the FSB has released a 10-point guide that it believes public-sector organisations should follow.
According to the guide, public-sector bodies should advertise contracts more widely, buy from SMEs more frequently, improve access to approved supplier lists and appoint specialist purchasers trained to recognise the potential benefits of contracts with SMEs.
Local authorities should also improve procurement expertise, avoid buying from small numbers of big suppliers and stop assuming that SMEs are high-risk.
The public sector spends about £117bn a year on products and services in the UK, but largely ignores SMEs when putting its services out to tender. The FSB said only three per cent of SMEs' main customers are local authorities.
Daniel Mazliah, a representative of the FSB, said the guide is designed for local procurement public-sector officers. "SMEs can benefit from public-sector contracts, as can local councils. It's almost a win-win situation. SME contract money goes back into the local authority," he said.
However, Lee Masters, managing director at reseller Thor UK, said: "SMEs just don't have the financial resources or infrastructure to be able to cope with large public-sector contracts."
But he added: "It's not that difficult to work with the public sector. SMEs can handle smaller contracts with ease."
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