Smaller mobility firms given boost in their bids for public sector equipment contracts

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Smaller mobility businesses could have a better chance of winning contracts to supply authorities with things like community equipment and wheelchair provision services after a package of tough new measures was announced this week, designed to level the playing field for smaller companies.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden announced proposals to exclude suppliers from major government procurements if they cannot demonstrate fair and effective payment practices with their subcontractors.

Other plans include allowing subcontractors to have greater access to buying authorities to report poor payment performance, which is part of the government’s aim to improve payment practice.

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The package of measures is designed to ensure that more businesses – including smaller firms – will be able to supply goods and services to the public sector, while also making public procurement more transparent.

Mr Dowden, Minister for Implementation, insisted that the government is listening to the business community and is “committed to levelling the playing field for smaller suppliers to win work in the public sector”.

“We have set a challenging aspiration that 33% of procurement spend should be with small businesses by 2022 – and are doing more than ever to break down barriers for smaller firms.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy, and play a key role in helping us to build a strong, viable private sector that delivers value for taxpayers and jobs for millions all over the UK.”

Emma Jones, the government’s Crown Representative for Small Business, said that securing a government contract is a way for small firms to bring in a steady income stream to help the business to grow.

Mr Dowden discussed the plans during a round table event in March, attended by the Federation of Small Businesses, the Confederation of British Industry, and industry bodies representing social enterprises, entrepreneurs, and Chambers of Commerce.

It is estimated that this group of organisations represents more than 2m small businesses across the UK.

The Federation of Small Businesses’ National Chairman, Mike Cherry, said: “Each year, the UK public sector spends over £200bn on goods and services from third parties. As such a large and prominent customer in the economy, the government has a pivotal role to play in demonstrating what it is to be a good client.

“It is right then that the government today announces, as part of a new package to boost SME procurement, that it will clamp down on poor payment practice throughout public procurement supply chains.

“Companies who pay late should not be rewarded with public sector contracts. We need a robust public procurement process that holds larger companies to account for their payment practices.”

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