On Thursday last week there was an attempt to improve the prospects for businesses that have the greatest impact on our economy across our Nation. Sadly there were some gaps but the questions were a good start. Two Conservative MPs raised a vital question to the Government on behalf of SMALL Businesses and although it was not a complete question as it did not include MICRO Businesses it was certainly a good start. Sadly it did not lead to a complete response partly because of the role of the person who answered the question and so it needs to be followed up. It is important that these type of questions become a frequent issue to be raised in the House of Commons so we need these MPs and indeed many others to do so, but let us hope that next time the MPs will add in the reference to Micro Businesses. The two MPs who raised the question were Sally-Ann Hart from Hastings and Rye and Craig Tracey from North Warwickshire. They both asked the same question which was
What steps the Government are taking to increase opportunities for small businesses to bid for Government contracts.
The reason that this question is so important was that many years ago the Government focused on offering contracts to Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) which is a phrase that covers three groups of businesses. The three groups are Micro Businesses (0-9 employees), Small Businesses (10-49 employees) and Medium Sized Businesses (50-249 employees). The challenge with is this is that Governments always appears to prefer to do work with the bigger companies within SME and sadly also ones that fund the party. So most of their SME contracts go to Medium Sized Businesses along with ones that are owned by Tory supporters. However there is very clear evidence that Small Businesses and Micro Businesses can have a much more significant way of employing new people and putting the economic benefits back into their communities much more than the bigger Medium Sized Businesses. Also there needs to be a much more balanced approach so that the vast majority of businesses that have no political interest will start to benefit. Sadly along with the lack of Micro Businesses, the answer came from someone whose role is not directly linked to the way in which the Government deals with its procurement even though Amanda Milling should in theory be aware due to the previous roles she has had. She is the Minister without Portfolio and the Co Chair of the Conservative Party so she would be very aware of the companies that are funding her party which is also a very dangerous element of the way her Party is dealing with this theme. Nevertheless her website main page starts with the comment
I’m Amanda Milling, the MP for Cannock Chase and Conservative Party chairman. Here, you can find my latest news and campaigns. I’m here to help, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
So perhaps local Micro Businesses and Small Businesses that are not necessarily supporters of her party such as those promoted by Tony Robinson could get in touch. Anyway back to her responses. Tragically she began by ignoring the Micro Business gap and went straight onto ignoring the difference between Small and Medium sized Businesses which is even more disturbing.
Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our UK economy. That is why it is vital that we are ensuring that the power of Government spending supports that vital sector, as part of both the economic recovery from covid-19 and our levelling-up agenda. We are increasing opportunities for SMEs in a variety of ways, and our measures are working. Those measures include breaking up contracts into smaller chunks, transparently publishing contract pipelines and removing complexity from the bidding process. Additionally, our new social value model explicitly allows greater weight to be given to those bids that help drive post-covid recovery.
The response to this statement was a second question from Sally-Ann Hart
Hastings and Rother Federation of Small Businesses has highlighted the need for small business-led levelling up. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that small businesses in places such as beautiful Hastings and Rye have opportunities in public procurement processes, in line with a rebalancing of local economies?
And the answer was
I agree that SMEs play a vital role in our levelling-up agenda. We want to see a greater variety of companies delivering Government contracts from every corner of our country. I am sure that our new social value approach will mean more opportunities for SMEs and social enterprises to win Government contracts by demonstrating the full extent of the value that they will generate, not just economically but taking into account the additional social benefits that can be achieved from the delivery of contracts.
We clearly need to try to persuade the Government and Ministers like Amanda Milling to stop making the Small Businesses and Micro Enterprises getting constantly treated as though they are like Medium Sized Businesses and then linking them all together as SME’s which then removes the prospect of the Small Businesses and Micro Enterprises from getting a chance to bid for Government contracts. This is because it is very clear that they don’t welcome them to do so based on the various aspects that I have explored.