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60% of IT contracts remain in south-east as government fails to spread opportunuties

South-east England has taken almost 60 per cent of all government IT contracts since 2010, reports The Guardian, despite government promises of making IT procurement opportunities less London-centric.

The contract stats comes at a time when the government is being criticised in some quarters for paying too much attention to Tech City in east London, instead of fully supporting tech clusters in places like Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol.

After coming into power the government developed the Contracts Finder website, which since 2010 has listed all government procurement opportunities worth over £10,000.

Of the 1,034 IT contracts listed on the site, says The Guardian, 587 (57 per cent) went to companies in the south-east, with 264 of them based in London.

But other areas with sizeable tech clusters have been largely excluded, with Manchester gaining just 21 of the contracts, and Bristol winning only 22 deals.

Smaller tech clusters including Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham had a total of 50 contracts awarded to them in the last three years, said The Guardian. The remaining contracts went to companies spread around the UK and to other countries, which included Ireland, Germany and Holland.

In 2010, 70 per cent of government IT contracts went to just seven large companies. The new government promised to award 25 per cent of IT contracts to SMEs instead, as well as addressing south-east centric procurement.

When asked about the south-east bias displayed in the contract stats, the Cabinet Office told The Guardian, "We've created a more open and competitive marketplace by breaking down the length and size of contracts to no more than £100 million, sharing procurement needs earlier and simplifying entry requirements and application procedures.

"This opens up opportunities to dynamic SMEs and encourages innovation in government IT. We want to make sure that we get the very best value from every contract, and where long-legacy IT service contracts are still operating [with large established IT suppliers], we're reviewing, renegotiating and improving them."

The Cabinet Office also pointed to its adoption of cloud procurement via its G-Cloud, which aims to make it easier for SMEs to compete. But as The Guardian highlights, none of this addresses the south-east centric awarding of government IT contracts.