Central government must make contracts more accessible to SMEs

More needs to be done to increase government spending with SMEs
More needs to be done to increase government spending with SMEs

The G-Cloud, now on its eighth iteration, is an online marketplace of government accredited cloud tech services suppliers.

The G-Cloud allows public sector organisations to buy services online without running a full competition procurement process; they can use the online store, the Digital Marketplace, to search for services covered by the framework instead. The vast majority of suppliers on the G-Cloud are SMEs.

Following the recent concerns published in the Public Accounts Committee report on government spending with small businesses, SME spoke to G-Cloud champion Simon Hansford from Skyscape to see what lessons can be learned from recent years.

Hansford said: “I am in agreement with the main thrust of the PAC’s latest report on government spending with SMEs. This is not in any way to diminish the excellent work that government has done over the last 5 years to make itself more accessible to SMEs: the 25% spend target, the introduction of the Lord Young reforms, and above all the introduction of G-Cloud. Whilst it is encouraging that government has raised the SME spend target now to 33%, it isn’t yet clear what additional measures it will put in place to achieve this, although the establishment of the CCS SME Panel may help.

“SMEs will be the powerhouse that drives the UK’s digital economy. G-Cloud consistently outpaces the government SME targets by a significant margin. Procurement practice is key. The commercial principles that underpin G-Cloud should logically be extended to other ICT and digital procurement categories.”

Hansford claimed that central government buyers should be mandated to think about the wider societal and economic benefits of what they are buying, including a supplier's tax affairs, a practice already widely adopted in local government. He also called on the government to produce clearer guidance and coaching to make it easier for SMEs to bid for government contracts.