PLANNED changes at European level are set to make it easier for small firms to bid for public sector contracts.
The EC has published plans aimed at simplifying public procurement procedures and encouraging public sector organisations to adopt a more SME-friendly approach when they put contracts out to tender.
Public procurement still accounts for around 17% of the EU’s GDP despite cuts in public funding, but SMEs only win around 31% to 38% of these contracts despite being responsible for half of the EU’s total turnover.
Karen Andrews, a partner in the public sector team at Newcastle-based law firm Ward Hadaway, said: “This move is sure to be welcomed by a whole range of businesses who have previously found it either too time-consuming or too complicated to bid for public sector contracts.
“Simplifying the procurement process will hopefully make it much easier for SMEs to compete on a level playing field with larger businesses.
“Even though there have been cuts to public spending in the UK and EU, the public sector still represents a potentially huge market to all kinds of small and medium-sized businesses and this move should help to free up access to that market.”
The EC’s proposal include sub-dividing contracts of more than €500,000 into different “lots” to allow smaller businesses to bid more effectively for work; limiting requirements making companies eligible to bid for work; cutting red tape and ensuring EU member nations provide support structures offering legal and economic advice, training and assistance to businesses in preparing and conducting procurement processes.
If approved, the changes are scheduled to become law by June 2014.