Which buyers award contracts to Small Businesses?

Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

This is the second article in a series looking at the government’s contracting data to create new insights into the government market. This month, we’re looking at the buyers that are awarding contracts to small or medium businesses (SMEs).

We looked at the data published on Contracts Finder to determine what percentage of individual contracts went to small SMEs. To feature in our analysis each buyer had to have published at least 50 tenders, our top ten is as follows:

GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

62%

LINCOLNSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

61%

REDCAR AND CLEVELAND BOROUGH COUNCIL

49%

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

44%

WAKEFIELD CITY COUNCIL

43%

NORTH YORKSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

39%

LEICESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

39%

KIRKLEES METROPOLITAN COUNCIL

38%

SOUTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL

38%

STOCKTON-ON-TEES BOROUGH COUNCIL

37%

Clearly, these councils are making the extra effort to engage with small businesses and their procurement teams should be proud of their efforts to engage with smaller businesses. It is worth noting that the highest performing councils have an award rate that is nearly double that of the tenth placed council Stockton-on-Tees, showing that there really is a large spread of performance, even amongst the top ten buyers.

On a more disappointing note, the highest placed central government buyer was the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), who placed 47th with just 9% of their tenders being awarded to SMEs. It is understandable that central government agencies find it harder to award contracts to small businesses, they buy a less diverse range of services and their needs are substantial, but to see just one central agency in the top 50 is disappointing. Given that the majority of contracts let by CCS are frameworks and they also have a remit to drive SME engagement, we would have hoped to see more contracts going to SMEs.

The next best performer in central government was the DWP with just 5% of tenders going to SMEs. While this is probably quite good for a large spending department, it is a long way short of the 30% target for spending with SMEs, even when you consider that this target includes direct and indirect spend.

What of the NHS? Just three bodies were making any progress in this area, all the others had either fallen below an award percentage of 10% or had published a barely credible number of tenders.

CENTRAL AND NORTH WEST LONDON NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

30%

SOUTH LONDON AND MAUDSLEY NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

24%

OXLEAS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

20%

The NHS data shows how little care is being taken of the Contracts Finder data. We’ve written about this before, but if you’re an SME seeking to win business in government, you really should use OpenOpps.com, where every public sector tender is freely available to everyone, with 73% more opportunities than on Contracts Finder.