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Stephen Allott has stepped down as Crown Representative for SMEs and taken up a new role in G-Cloud and Digital Marketplace development.
The Cabinet Office told Computer Weekly the SME post would be filled “in due course” and no replacement had yet been decided.
Allott has played an important role in the technology buying policy that was introduced after the 2010 general election, when the coalition government promised to increase its spend with SMEs. He worked to build a dialogue between the government and suppliers, but the delay in replacing him has raised doubts about the government's commitment to SMEs.
Naureen Khan, associate director for central government at techUK, said Allott had done a fantastic job of going out and talking to SMEs and that it was critical for smaller suppliers to have a single point of contact in government.
“It’s really important that he is replaced and that SMEs have a point of contact to act as a voice for SMEs in government,” she said. “It’s a symbol of the government’s commitment to businesses.”
Khan said there was no question about the new government's commitment, as evidenced by the Tory manifesto, G-Cloud and the GDS digital marketplace, but there were still barriers for SMEs, particularly relating to government procurement.
The government announced yesterday that it has signed a new four-year deal with long-time government supplier Oracle, and earlier this month the Ministry of Defence signed two contracts, together worth almost £1.5bn, with Atlas Consortium and Fujitsu, illustrating its commitment to big suppliers.
Computer Weekly reported in February that the government’s direct spend with SMEs had fallen slightly from £4.577m in 2012/13 to £4.389m in 2013/14, a figure representing 10.3% of all its technology procurement spend. When including both direct contracts between government and SMEs and indirect spending, which takes into account larger firms subcontracting business to SMEs, the figure was £11.4bn, or 25% of the total spend.
A series of Crown Representatives were appointed in 2011 by the then Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, in an effort to change the way the government deals with its suppliers.
The appointment of Crown Representatives meant that government departments would no longer be able to sign up to separate contracts with the same supplier without any central co-ordination.
Allott is not the first Crown Representative to leave his post with no replacement lined up. Michael O’Toole, Crown Representative for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, left the Cabinet Office in September 2014 to join drug and alcohol awareness charity Mentor. He is also yet to be replaced.