Guidance

Small and Medium Business Hub

Centralised guidance for SMEs and departments on government’s commitment to support start-ups and small businesses via government procurement, and commit to paying them on time.

Overview

Government has a commitment to obtain value for money and support small businesses and start-ups through procurement. We understand the challenges and barriers, especially for smaller firms, and are committed to tackling them. We want to tackle obstacles that they face when supplying or contracting with government departments and agencies.

How are we supporting the commitment?

Paying suppliers on time

Government has a target of paying 90% of its invoices within 5 days, and all of them within 30 days, to ensure we pay our suppliers on time. Each department reports their payment performance progress and it has been listed within ‘How are the central departments supporting SMEs?’ (below).

Since 1 September 2019, any organisation that bids for a central government contract in excess of £5 million a year needs to demonstrate it has effective payment systems in place to ensure a reliable supply chain.

As a part of this, the government has set a standard of 95% of all supply chain invoices to be paid within 60 days for organisations who want to do business with government. Suppliers who do not comply with the Prompt Payment standard could be prevented from winning government contracts. This will help ensure good payment practice gets passed down to small subcontractors.

Increasing visibility of tenders and contracts

Register with Contracts Finder to keep updated on new and upcoming contracts worth over £10,000 with the government and its agencies. You can use Contracts Finder to:

  • search for contract opportunities in different sectors
  • find out what’s coming up in the future
  • look up details of previous tenders and contracts

From 1 January 2021, you will also be able to use Find a Tender to view public procurement notices published by UK contracting authorities. You will still be able to use existing portals such as Contracts Finder, MOD Defence Contracts Online, Public Contracts Scotland, Sell2Wales and eTendersNI to view low value or location specific notices.

Helping strengthen procurements and reclaim monies owed

The Public Procurement Review Service (PPRS) sits within the Cabinet Office and allows government suppliers and potential government suppliers to raise concerns anonymously about potentially poor public sector procurement practice.

If you have a concern you’d like to raise about a procurement process or a problem with payment on a public contract you can let them know by sending an email to publicprocurementreview@cabinetoffice.gov.uk, and they will investigate for you.

PPRS report on the trends in the issues raised, and makes recommendations on how to improve. They also publish monthly results from their investigations.

Working with SMEs and removing barriers

The SME advisory panel, made up of entrepreneurs and leading business figures boasting a wide range of experience, is working with the government to remove barriers and increase spend in goods and services with small and medium-sized enterprises. The panel was formed in November 2016 and are currently looking at strands of government procurement activity.

Working with departments and monitoring delivery

The Cabinet Office Small Business team works with the departments and external stakeholders to:

  • capture and continue to improve the quality of central government spend data
  • oversee the development, publication and delivery of SME Action Plans
  • ensure effective performance management and sharing of best practice on SMEs across departments
  • ensure effective stakeholder engagement with SMEs, working with sector bodies, the SME advisory panel and the Crown Representative for SMEs

How are the central departments supporting SMEs?

Departments have appointed SME Champions to lead on supporting SMEs. They have also created their own individual plan. Each plan details the steps they plan to take to make it easier to do business, how to become a supplier, and what they are achieving to increase spend with SMEs.

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory - SME Action Plan

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy - SME Action Plan

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport - SME Action Plan

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - SME Action Plan

Department for International Development - SME Action Plan

Department for Education - SME Action Plan

Department for International Trade - SME Action Plan

Department of Health and Social Care - SME Action Plan

Department for Transport - SME Action Plan

Department for Work and Pensions - SME Action Plan

HM Revenue and Customs - SME Action Plan

HM Treasury - SME Action Plan

Home Office - SME Action Plan

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government - SME Action Plan

Ministry of Defence - SME Action Plan

Ministry of Justice - SME Action Plan

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority - SME Action Plan

How do we measure success?

SME spend data

The government wants small and medium sized enterprises to benefit from central government procurement spend, either directly or indirectly via the supply chain.

Reports on this aspiration, Central government spend with SMEs, are published on GOV.UK on an annual basis.

Case studies

Departments have a number of case studies about how they are working with SMEs, and making it easier for small businesses to win government and public sector contracts.

Crown Commercial Service

Department for Education

Department for Transport

Home Office

Ministry of Justice

Minister of state - Lord Agnew

Small Business Commissioner - An independent public body set up by government under the Enterprise Act 2016 to tackle late payment and unfavourable payment practices in the private sector

SME Crown representative - Martin Traynor

Upcoming deals with CCS - Framework opportunities to join and win government work

Social Value - Information and guidance on the Social Value Act

Modern Slavery - Information and guidance on the Modern Slavery Act

The Sourcing Playbook - Government guidance on service delivery, including outsourcing, insourcing, mixed economy sourcing and contracting

The Consultancy Playbook - Government guidance on how to commission and engage with consultants more effectively, achieving better outcomes, better value for money and improved Civil Service capability through the transfer of knowledge and skills

Procurement Policy Notes - Guidance on best practice for procurement for public sector organisations, together with supporting documentation

Consortia guidance - coming soon. When published this guide will give support on bidding for Public Procurement opportunities as a group of suppliers in a Consortium

Selling to government guide - coming soon. When published this guide will give simple advice to Smaller Businesses on how to find and bid for government contracts

Social Media

Keep up to date by following accounts:

Contact us

For general queries for the Small Business Team, email smallbusinessteam@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Published 28 September 2020
Last updated 16 June 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated link to the new Home Office SME Action Plan.

  2. Added links to the Sourcing and Consultancy playbooks.

  3. A Department for Education case study has been added to the case study section.

  4. The 'How are the central departments supporting SMEs?' section has been updated to link to the'Defence Science and Technology Laboratory - SME Action Plan'.

  5. Updated to link to new action plans for Department for International Trade and Department of Health and Social Care

  6. First published.