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Tech SMEs to government: You're just not listening

The government has more work to do if it is to reach its SME spending targets, according to software company Softwire’s managing director, Zoe Cunningham.

Whitehall is currently aiming to do 25 per cent of all business with SMEs by 2015, with the aim of allowing a wider range of companies to do government business and cut costs.

However, speaking at a roundtable on Labour’s digital government review hosted by TechUK, Cunningham expressed her concern, claiming the UK is “nowhere near” this target.

“It still much easier for us to work with private businesses than government,” she claimed.

Other representatives from tech SMBs warned not much progress is being made towards the goal and government hasn’t changed its behaviour enough to truly help smaller firms with contracts.

Although 60 per cent of the services purchased via the G-Cloud framework are said to be bought from SMEs, this equates to just 20 per cent of total Whitehall spend.

Only 9.4 per cent of this was done directly with the companies themselves over 2012/2013, as most business done with SMEs is actually sourced via large suppliers.

Lack Of Skills In Government Creates Barrier

The meeting was attended by Labour Shadow Minister Chi Onwurah, who claimed a lack of skills within the civil service was a “key issue” that is holding government back from properly engaging with SMBs.

Her comments were met with approval by others at the meeting, including Francis Toye, CEO of software company Unilink.

“Government doesn’t know how to handle innovation. Procurement people often feel reluctant to buy anything unless they are 100 per cent informed about it,” Toye claimed.

In March this year, the Labour Party formally launched its “Digital Government Review,” which will explore various areas related to public sector technology.