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Small Business Friendly Concordat

Volume 453: debated on Monday 27 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) whether the Small Business Friendly Concordat is planned to be made a compulsory agreement; and if she will make a statement; (102541)

(2) what percentage of authorities has signed up to the Small Business Friendly Concordat voluntarily; and if she will make a statement;

(3) when her Department plans to hold the first evaluation of local authority procurement under the Small Business Friendly Concordat; and if she will make a statement;

(4) what assessment she has made of the (a) extent to which the percentage of contracts handed to small to medium-sized enterprises has changed in the authorities which have adopted the Small Business Friendly Concordat and (b) impact of the concordat on overall procurement costs; and if she will make a statement;

(5) whether the Small Business Friendly Concordat has affected the level of local authority procurement from local businesses; and if she will make a statement.

The “Small Business Friendly Concordat: Good Practice Guidance” was launched by the then ODPM, the Local Government Association and the DTI’s Small Business Service on 1 March 2005. The concordat is a voluntary, non-statutory code of practice that sets out what small firms and others supplying local Government can expect when tendering for local authority contacts. The concordat also sets out actions that local authorities will take to make their contracts more accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). There are no plans to make the concordat a compulsory agreement.

Records maintained by Communities and Local Government indicate that currently 120 local authorities in England have signed up to the concordat, equating to approximately 31 per cent. of councils. Estimates from research commissioned by the Department suggest that as at January 2006 around 63 per cent. of local authorities had either signed up to the Small Business Friendly Concordat or were planning to do so by the end of 2005-06. We continue through a range of means to encourage authorities to sign up to the concordat, for example, as part of a series of 10 roadshows around the English regions attended by both buyers and suppliers.

The Department's research evaluation of the local Government procurement agenda primarily focuses on monitoring local authorities' achievements against the National Procurement Strategy for Local Government. The next output of our evaluation, expected to be published by early 2008, will assess progress in a number of areas of local Government procurement, including continuing progress with the concordat. Further research is under way through the Regional Centres of Excellence to analyse the external spend of local authorities, which may include an assessment of the proportion spent with SMEs.