A new standard public sector contract has been introduced across government today as part of an effort to meet the Whitehall target for one third of its procurement budget to be spent with small- and medium-sized firms (SMEs).
The changes, led by Chris Stanley, a lawyer within the Government Legal Department's (GLD) commercial law group, have condensed and simplified the existing Crown Commercial Service (CCS) contract terms into a new slimline public sector contract framework.
The new terms will offer SMEs a more user-friendly route to government work and a quicker, more streamlined way of working, according to GLD. They will be applied first to the facilities management contracts from today.
The contract has been developed across government by GLD, CCS and the Government Digital Service, with assistance from the law firm DLA Piper. This multidisciplinary team is working to bring policy and digital together to deliver contracts using user research, content design and interaction design.
One key change is cutting down the size of the government contract and interpreting legal phrases into plain English in order to help small organisations or companies to better understand the contract, Stanley said.
Greater clarity will also help public sector bodies, he added. “There are some smaller organisations that may not have extensive procurement experience. They are run by skilled people but they won’t always have the resources to deal with complex contracts. Without a user-friendly government framework they are likely to pay a far higher price for goods and services using less favourable terms.”
Welcoming the launch, Digital Marketplace director Warren Smith said it showed "One Team government working at its best and gives us a solid platform on which to build further reforms", while CCS director Jason Waterman said it was "a key initiative and will set a new standard for government contracts bringing our offering in line with the very best in commercial practice".
The new terms come after Cabinet Office data published in October showed that government spending with smaller firms fell from 27.1% in 2014-15 to 24% in 2015-16, despite a government target for SMEs to benefit from 33% of procurement spend by 2022.
Caroline Nokes, Cabinet Office minister for government resilience and efficiency, told CSW at the time that the government had set a “challenging target”, but that it was the right ambition for the country.
“SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy, fuelling economic growth and providing more than 15 million jobs. These businesses also play a vital role in helping government to deliver efficient, effective public services that meet the needs of our citizens and provide value for money for taxpayers,” she said.
“This government is doing more than any previous government to break down barriers for SMEs who want to supply to the public sector. We are confident these new measures will be welcomed by small businesses throughout the UK.”