Reflecting on a momentous year of collaboration and achievements, I had the honour of joining esteemed colleagues at 10 Downing Street last week. As a member of the Cabinet Office SME Advisory Panel, our discussions centered on a year marked by collaborative strides and shared successes in shaping policies crucial for SME growth across the UK.
Through 2022/23, the diverse and committed SME leaders and Cabinet Office policy representatives achieved numerous key milestones in shaping modern government policies that better support SME growth across the UK and drive meaningful change in Government procurement practices. These are critical areas of policy where the SME Advisory Panel has campaigned and advocated for change for over a decade, following the impact of the global financial crisis on SMEs and their significant contribution to a UK economy that is resilient, diverse and growth-minded has been better appreciated.
SME Advisory Panel Achievements
These shared successes have been achieved because Cabinet Office was genuinely open and receptive to working together with SME leaders on delivering modern and progressive change across government, such as:
- The Procurement Act, which received Royal Assent, now stands as a vital piece of legislation with a keen focus on fair and equitable treatment of SMEs. Our Panel actively contributed to shaping and refining the Act’s provisions, emphasising the need to remove or make proportionate barriers to public sector contracting opportunities for SMEs and ensuring prompt payment of SMEs within supply chains. Notably, the SME Advisory Panel members offered real-world insights and proposals that have led to an obligation on public sector contracting authorities to alleviate unnecessary burdens and barriers to SMEs’ participation in bidding and contracting opportunities.
- Additionally, I and other Panel members supported culture and capability development initiatives across the public sector and marketplace, including Learning and Development products that explain the Act’s new procurement framework and practices, such as the recently launched ‘Knowledge Drops’ which outline regulatory changes and actionable steps that help SMEs and public sector procurement professionals to better prepare for the changes. Link below!
- The SME Panel’s efforts in advocating for SMEs across government and encouraging the public sector to reflect on how it can be a positive force for good in delivering better social and economic value through progressive spending behaviours, have yielded strong positive results. The latest figures reveal a record-breaking £21bn allocated to SMEs across Central Government procurement for 21/22. Recognising that there is still more that can be done, this is great progress towards improving access to contracting opportunities for small, medium, and growth-minded scale-up businesses across the UK. These procurement changes encourage SMEs to invest in developing innovative solutions and upskilling staff to better serve public sector buyers, whilst also contributing positively to our society and city-region economies.
Getting ready for the Procurement Act
The Procurement Act receiving Royal Assent is a major win for SMEs up and down the country. However, in order to get the most out of the new legislation, we all need to plan and prepare for it.
In September, I was asked to speak at the Westminster Insight Forum Reforming Public Procurement Conference where I addressed procurement teams from across the public sector on the benefits that these reforms will have on being able to deliver better outcomes and broader public value. I also covered some of the resources that the Cabinet Office has invested in to support teams in transitioning to the new system. You can find those in our blog post here on preparing for the Procurement Act.
Since delivering that address, the Cabinet Office has delivered the first of its SME Knowledge Drops which are guidance designed to provide crucial information of the changes to the procurement regulations and aimed at those who have regular interactions with procurement. You can follow the link here to understand more about the reforms from a supplier and contracting authorities’ perspective.
In 2024, I will continue to collaborate and engage with public and private sector colleagues on how we can take action to ensure that the Procurement Act delivers on its promises of a fairer, more diverse public procurement market.
Championing a Growth Mindset
I’m immensely proud to be a Cabinet Office Panel member since 2012 and to be a part of a dedicated team of civil service leaders and SME business leaders that have helped build understanding, shape better policy, and deliver this significant progress.
Having founded and grown Informed Solutions, a successful multi-award winning company that works with government, as well as corporates, and developed a high performing partner ecosystem that enables us to bring together consortia that take on large digital transformation and innovation partnership contracts in the UK and internationally, I know what it takes to foster a growth mind-set and build a sustainable, purpose-driven business.
It is vital that government policy supports a resilient, diverse, and aspirational supplier marketplace and that procurement policy enables these economic outcomes. There needs to be space for SME and businesses of all sizes to help raise, grow, and make more productive the UK and our city-region economies.