The Forum of Private Business (FPB), an SME lobby group, is advising small and medium businesses to use the government's supply2.gov.uk portal to win public contracts, following the government's decision to scrap its £180 a year charge to access the site.
The government said yesterday that the site, which lists government contracts worth up to £100,000, would be free in future. This is the first step to creating a single portal for advertising all government procurement bids, worth some £175bn a year.
Tim Williams, managing director of Millstream Associates and the FPB's advisor on public sector tendering, said business owners should act quickly. "Public spending levels are staying constant at the moment and some spending is being brought forward to boost the economy, but there will be cuts in future, so make hay while the sun shines," he said.
The move to cut the access cost follows recommendations made in the Glover review of public procurement, which found that public sector buyers were missing out on innovation and savings because too few small businesses knew about contracts on offer.
One of the Glover review's key recommendations was to give greater transparency to public sector tenders via better advertising and more information accessible through a single, free-to-use and easy-to-search online portal.
The FPB urged the government to fast-track the other measures in the review, most of which are scheduled for 2010. "They will help save more small firms and provide a catalyst for economic recovery," said the FPB's policy representative, Matt Goodman.