The government have announced measures to make it easier for small firms to work for the public sector according to a BBC report.
The current requirements for contract applications will change: "There will be a single, standardised Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) across all departments, which will be required to publish not only their procurement contracts but also how many of them are awarded to SMEs, small or medium sized businesses," the Forum of Private Business (FPB) said.
"The government is investigating utilising more ‘open frameworks' or ‘dynamic purchasing systems' to tackle what is often still a closed procurement system," the FPB said.
The FPBs chief executive welcomed the government measures: "Following the spending cuts, it is important the Government addresses the key areas...in order to achieve a real private-sector-led recovery with small businesses at its heart," Mr Orford said.
At a summit for small business at the Department for business, innovation and skills, (BIS) ministers announced measures to firstly, improve access to finance and secondly, to make it easier to do business with the public sector.
To improve access to finance the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, (EFG) will continue for four years. It will be extended to the tune of a further £2bn being made available to small firms.
In another move, a small firm's bank loan is guaranteed by the government for 75% and by the bank for 25% making it easier for banks to lend money because they have an assurance on repayment.
This is linked to the Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF) for which the government is committed to an extra £200m.
Other changes include aiming to pay for completed contract work within thirty days.
To make it easier for SMEs to obtain government contracts certain barriers are to be removed.
Accessing the Lambeth local government web page shows their current conditions for applying for contracts. Looking at the lists I could see that the type of barriers could include some of the following.
The necessity to have certain systems in place using tracking finance software, to be of a certain size to qualify or even to be registered with certain health and safety recognised bodies which are fee paying.
For example there is an approved suppliers list for which there appear to be registration costs.
Certain approved suppliers lists are run by Exor management services. They have a national database for different categories of work and state that the contract should not exceed 25% of annual turnover.
The Exor application also mentions SAFE contractor status, a method of assessing the safe working practices of council approved contractors.
The FSB stated that their research shows that health and safety legislation costs small businesses £2.1billion a year.
However there is also mention of a free online public procurement course, 'Winning the contract'.
This is in addition to the business link information titled 'Overview of selling to government'. Here you can find help in 'where to find out about potential contracts' and 'the kind of procurement process you may have to undergo'.
Clearly, with the current shifts there is no time to lose in bidding for contracts.
It is worth keeping in mind that local authorities are required to include new suppliers in their list of approved companies.
Changes are therefore expected on the local government websites about contract tendering. Currently, for the Lambeth pre-qualification process there is a business questionnaire to complete.
Any small business finding they are excluded could contact Business Link pre-empting the barriers that are to be removed and pointing this out.
With the Landscapejuice forum, there is an opportunity of sharing skills and putting in a joint bid.
It will be interesting to hear feedback from members about the usefulness of the information.
Related information: The government report titled Backing small business .