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Breaking down the barriers to the public sector market for SMEs

In this blog, we explain the impact of new legislation brought in at the end of the Parliament to help small businesses.

Just before Parliament dissolved, the Houses passed the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment (SBEE) Act.

The Act contains a broad range of measures aimed at supporting smaller firms, and includes two new clauses, which will help ensure that public sector procurements are run in a timely efficient manner whilst also being SME friendly.

techUK responded to the Government's consultation on the SBEE Bill. In addition we responded to Cabinet Office's earlier consultation addressing the recommendations in Lord Young's report "Growing your Business", (2013) which focused on the need to give SMEs better and more direct access to public sector work; Reforms implementing these recommendations have just become law in the Public Sector Regulations 2015.

We were pleased to see many of our recommendations included in both the SBEE Act and the Public Sector Regulations.

Public Procurement provisions included in the SBEE Act – a summary

1. Section 39 - Delegated power to make regulations on procurement

This provides the new Government with the ability to implement measures in the future, which will remove unnecessary barriers for small businesses and make procurement practices across the entire public sector more streamlined and efficient. This may include measures on;

-running an efficient and timely procurement process,

-improvements to procurement processes and the management of contracts, including, for example, pre-procurement market engagement, and giving appropriate consideration to small businesses within procurement strategies

-making available, free of charge procurement information or documents

-electronic invoicing, including, for example, making appropriate use of electronic invoices.

2. Section 40 – investigations on procurement practices

This provides a new general power that enables government to investigate procurement processes. In particular, it places a general duty on those contracting authorities in scope to co-operate with investigations to enable investigations to proceed more efficiently.

New measures in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015

The following is a summary of measures which came into force on 26 February 2015, as part of the new Public Sector Contracts Regulations 2015.

These aim to ensure that smaller firms have better and more direct access to public sector contracts:

  • Abolition of a pre-qualification stage for procurements below the EU thresholds, and a requirement to have regard to guidance on qualitative selection issued by Cabinet Office for above EU threshold procurements.
  • A requirement for contracting authorities to insert provisions in all public contracts to ensure 30 days payment terms are passed through the supply chain
  • The requirement to advertise new public sector opportunities in one place (the new Contracts Finder portal), and to publish award notices for contracts and call-offs from framework agreements.

techUK will be working closely with the Cabinet Office on implementing these reforms, once the new Government is in place.


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