The measures, which comes into force today, will open up Government contracts to local small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) like never before.
Paying businesses on time is critical to the cash flow of smaller businesses in the West Midlands where almost two thirds of local SMEs see late payment from customers as a hindrance to growing their business. Under these new rules, the public sector is now required to pay undisputed invoices within 30 days, and this requirement will now flow all the way down the supply chain.
Research also shows that almost half of SMEs in the West Midlands don’t know where to look to find new business opportunities. Today the Government launched a refresh of its Contracts Finder website, offering a much improved search including by location. The site covers current and future public sector contracts above £10,000 in central government and £25,000 in the wider public sector. It’s free to use, including from smartphones and tablets, and so local businesses will be able to search for contracts close to them.
Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: “As part of our long-term economic plan this Government is overhauling public procurement to open things up to businesses of all sizes. I am so pleased that our reforms have ensured that innovative SMEs benefited from £11.4 billion of business last year alone. Over a quarter of central government spend now goes to SMEs but we know there’s much more to do to support small businesses in the West Midlands, and these new reforms show just how determined we are to finish the job.”
Piers Linney, co-CEO of Outsourcery and member of the Government’s SME panel, added: “We know government business has been incredibly complicated and costly to bid for in the past, and that was reflected in the tiny proportion of spend going to SMEs. This new legislation and the new site create a huge opportunity for SME businesses with reduced cash flow risk. They need to educate themselves on their rights under the new legislation and really get under the skin of Contracts Finder to make sure they can seize that opportunity
SIGN POST SOLUTIONS, TIPTON
One example of a West Midlands SME already benefiting from Government contract work is Sign Post Solutions (Signfix)
The innovative Tipton firm has been in the Highways industry for over 40 years and provide a range of signage and signpost fixing solutions to the Highways management industry.
The firm is therefore playing a vital role saving taxpayers’ money and maintaining safety on the motorways.
Following a brief and draft design from Highways Agency’s tier one supplier, EM Highways, Sign Post Solutions developed “Rejuven8” on their behalf.
When road sign posts come to the end of their serviceable life they rust and must be replaced, but, most of the footings (base) remain sound. Sign Post Solutions developed a solution for replacing the sign posts, but reusing the footings – reducing costs, labour, and being environmentally friendly.
The “Rejuven8” solution features a welded lower section on the new post which has a slightly smaller diameter than the existing post and fits well into the root below after the old post is cut away.
The cost is almost three times less than replacing the entire road sign and also negates the need for a full land excavation and replacement concrete bases: saving time, money, and labour. There are also added benefits of less danger for the roadworker, as the time spent in potential danger working on the highway is reduced from one hour to just 20 minutes.
Through their main contractor, EM Highways, Highways Agency has rolled out the new approach on roadworks schemes across the south west of England.
Sign Posts Solutions have benefited from the direct work with the Highways Agency and EM Highways – the work has given them the opportunity to develop a bespoke product that they would not have otherwise, that they have sold to other customers, and highlighted the product at the yearly Traffex exhibition.
Alan Nicholas, Sales and Marketing Director at SignPost Solutions notes: “Rejuven8’, like many new innovations was created from the needs of a customer, in this case EM Highways. Their embryonic idea was taken, developed, prototyped, independently strength tested at Coventry University and finally site tested to ensure that it would provide the solution required. The project took just over 14 weeks to complete but the results have been dramatic in terms of saving costs not just for Enterprise Mouchel but also for a number of other contractors working for the Highways Agency”
Source: Black Country LEP