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Micro businesses register with new tender alerts service Supply2Gov

It has been over a week since we launched our new brand Supply2Gov. The tender alerts service for sole traders and micro businesses aims to make the public sector marketplace more accessible to smaller businesses.

Registration for the new service is currently free. If you want to find out more, we have all the details below.

Designed for micro and small businesses

Supply2Gov is a fresh and friendly brand that talks to micro and small businesses about the benefits of public procurement. Supply2Gov users can create new and lucrative revenue streams from the public sector supply chain.

With a modern look and feel, Supply2Gov can be a free and easy way for micro businesses to find more tender opportunities. Our application simplifies the whole registration process and presents an intuitive customer journey.

Flexible payment options

Completely new to the market, Supply2Gov tender alerts gives customers the option to ‘pay as they grow’, with a cost-effective monthly plan as well as a new biannual option.

This means customers have the scalability to work with a solution that’s aligned with their business model and suits their cash flow.

Coverage Options

BiP has introduced simplified and comprehensive coverage options, with Supply2Gov starting with free local area coverage and then moving directly to home country cover.

This gives customers full free access to relevant opportunities on their doorstep with the option to upgrade and access their regional market opportunity.

With more growth potential available and payment plans to support phased expansion, the new Supply2Gov is an excellent introductory solution for micro businesses and sole traders looking to break into the public sector marketplace.

Tender alerts for micro businesses

The team behind the brand are delighted with the final product and are excited to see that many sole traders and micro businesses are already interested in the tender alerts service.

Senior Marketing Executive Melissa Russell says: “Our team are all really excited to see Supply2Gov go to market and really kick off 2018.

“We know how time-consuming tender searches can be, especially if you’re a small business. That’s why we’ve made it as easy as possible for users to find procurement opportunities as soon as they become available.”

Reduce the amount of time your business spends on manual searching with Supply2Gov. Find out more about Supply2Gov and tender alerts on the brand’s website.

For a better insight into all our brands, visit our website.

EU Referendum: Business Finance Implications

EU Referendum

Rely on facts not feelings

With just two weeks until the EU Referendum vote have you considered how it will affect the money you make?

Both SMEs and large corporations need business finance to grow and employ new staff, functions that will be impacted should access to this finance change.

Both sides of the EU Referendum debate claim that cash flow will rise – or at least not fall – should voters back them. Theses arguments are analysed in BiP Solutions White Paper EU Referendum: The Ins and Outs for Business. The White Paper examines the referendum and its potential implications for UK exports, trade arrangements, business finance, procurement legislation and jobs – all of which will affect the country’s livelihood.

Here’s a sneak peek at the fourth  chapter of EU Referendum: The Ins and Outs for Business – covering Business Finance.

Pro-Brexit commentators argue that high street banks have traditionally provided the major source of SME finance and that this arrangement would be unaffected by a Brexit, as Centre for European Policy Studies Director, Daniel Gros, reflected in the Guardian newspaper.

He said: “Finance to SMEs – and households – is usually provided by local retail banks. In this sense there is no reason why leaving the EU would have a material impact on the availability of finance for SMEs.

“Part of the UK’s retail banking system is owned by EU banks. This investment would of course have a different legal status after Brexit, but presumably the change in legal status would not have a direct impact on retail operations, such as lending to SMEs.”

They also cite the increasingly intercontinental nature of foreign direct investment in the UK, which they argue would largely be unaffected by a Brexit.

However, pro-Europe campaigners forecast that leaving the EU would cause economic uncertainty and devalue UK sterling. An article in the Independent newspaper highlighted the wider implications a Brexit could have on UK business finance. The article published minutes from the Bank of England’s meeting, which said a vote to leave the EU would “result in an extended period of uncertainty about the economic outlook including the prospects for export growth”.

Teamed with this, they say a Brexit would lead to the removal of all EU subsidies, such as CAP, upon which many UK firms depend.

Northern Irish Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “In terms of Agriculture and Rural Development, we will have drawn down over £1.9bn of European funding between 2014 and 2020. I fear that a significant reduction in direct support would see production go into free-fall.”

While acknowledging the challenges a Brexit would bring, Vote Leave campaigners argue that it would also bring opportunity to reform UK banks and rid them of the bad habits they have adopted. In the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA)’s Brexit thesis competition, the winning report, Britain outside the European Union, suggests this could be achieved by introducing a free banking system, which would rid the UK of “excessive financial regulation, central banks and an inconvertible paper currency”.

To read more about the economic implications of the EU Referendum, download EU Referendum: The Ins and Outs for Business.

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Expanding Healthcare Supply Chains: P4H

Edward James

Pushing on with its efficiency drive, the UK NHS is streamlining its healthcare procurement, while trying to maintain quality of care and SME engagement. Discussing the scope and possible solutions to this challenge, NHS London Procurement Partnership (LPP) Workstream Lead Edward James will be speaking at the P4H conference on 13 July, at the NEC Birmingham. BiP Solutions journalist Julie Shennan heard his top procurement tips ahead of the conference.

Background

In his work with LPP Edward James manages its estates, facilities and professional services. Currently this includes managing 14 frameworks and two Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) as well as preparing another framework and further three DPS for delivery this year.

Bringing this wealth of knowledge to P4H, Mr James will talk at its Buyer Skills Development Training Zone, in a session titled The Solution to Boosting SME Participation in Public Sector Contracts? Dynamic Purchasing Systems.

The Problem

During the session, Mr James will highlight the barriers that SMEs face when entering the healthcare supply chain, such as contracts where the value is too high for them to enter the tender processes.

He said: “Under the Public Contract Regulations suppliers can only bid for contracts up to twice the value of their annual turnover. If there is an even greater consolidation of procurement departments, then contract values will be higher, which means that more local SMEs will be excluded from bidding for the contracts because their turnover will be too low.”

Mr James explained that this was an unintended consequence of NHS efficiencies and increased collaborative procurement.

He added: “Healthcare buyers face the conflicting priorities of trying to drive down costs but also trying to engage with SMEs, as part of a localism agenda. NHS finances are as tight as they have ever been, so now all buyers must find ways of driving down cost without compromising the quality of care.”

The Solution

Mr James cited Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) as a good way of getting more SMEs into the healthcare supply chain without compromising on cost or quality.

Similar to an Electronic Framework Agreement, a DPS provides a shortlist of suppliers from which buyers can conduct an e-competition for tenders. Unlike a Framework Agreement, suppliers can apply to join the DPS at any point during its cycle.

However, Mr James acknowledged that DPS were a high maintenance procedure, with invitations to tender mandatory for each DPS requirement; replies to PQQs needed within 10 days; and no limit on the number of suppliers that can join.

Choose the Right Route to Market

Mr James advised supply chain professionals to think through their route to market, whether Dynamic Purchasing System, Framework or other.

He said: “Buyers must ensure that they select the best procurement route for the goods, services and works required.”

Just as buyers must choose the tender procedure most likely to produce their desired results, suppliers must enter the tender procedures they are most likely to win.

Choose the right E-procurement Solution

As well as utilising the correct tender procedures, Mr James said buyers and suppliers must use e-procurement tools to help them enter or manage health contracts.

He said: “The Minor Building Works DPS [delivered by LPP] showed LPP that buyers must strive to find an e-procurement system that meets all of their requirements to get the best results.”

Learn from your Past and your Peers

Finally, Mr James suggested procurement officials should evaluate projects they or their colleagues have worked on, repeat the elements that were successful and avoid making the same mistakes.

He said: “Buyers must share best practice among their peers and avoid the protectionist attitude that can come with local government procurement.

“The best procurement people will utilise the knowledge and skills of those around them to get the best results for their customers.”

How P4H can Help

P4H can help buyers and suppliers meet all of Mr James’ recommendations.

The event will allow delegates to share pearls of wisdom through its Buyer Engagement Village, Product Showcase Exhibition and Collaboration Zones, Keynote Arena, Best Practice Case Study Zone and Procurement Advice Hub.

Meanwhile, e-procurement products and services will be demonstrated live on the P4H conference floor, giving guidance to those seeking to boost their business while e-procurement will also be the focus of one of the Training Zones.

In addition, the Buyer Skills Development, Supplier and Best Practice Case Study Training Zones will offer CPD certified sessions to reinforce and expand on the advice and ideas available throughout P4H.

Don’t miss your chance to attend.

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Referendum Reflection for British Business: Professor Bovis

Bovis

With Britain facing a European referendum on 23 June many questions remain about the implications of Brexit for the UK supply chain. Here BiP Solutions reporter Julie Shennan hears from European Procurement law expert Professor Christopher Bovis on the way the decision could shape British business.

Christopher Bovis JD, MPhil, LLM, FRSA is Professor of Business Law at the Business School of the University of Hull. He is an internationally renowned specialist in European public procurement who, in 2011, was leader of an EU/United Nations procurement training scheme.

Having written extensively on European business in publications including the European Public Private Partnerships Law Review and Encyclopaedia of Competition Law, the professor has given considerable thought to the implications of the EU referendum for business in the UK.

He encouraged others to share his interest, stressing that the referendum would impact the whole supply chain.

Prof Bovis said:

Businesses of all sizes must prepare themselves for the referendum by educating themselves. Big businesses have done this quite well; however, SMEs are still ill-prepared.

“The Stay Camp [Britain Stronger in Europe] must address the SME business community and make them aware of the implications of a Brexit.”

Brexit [Vote Leave] rhetoric argues that SMEs export less so – to them – the advantages of membership of the EU’s common market are outweighed by its tax and legislative burden.

Professor Bovis explained that he believed this rhetoric to be inaccurate: “In theory, UK businesses could have more autonomy if there were a Brexit. They could release themselves from the bureaucracy of Brussels, plan ahead and decide the countries with which to do business. But in reality it would be completely the opposite.

“Autonomy is only wishful thinking; most of the European rules (on things like business takeovers and acquisitions) are heavily influenced by the UK procurement codes of practice. It is impossible to claim that a Brexit would cut red tape, as the UK helped to create this red tape.”

Procurement bureaucracy, Prof Bovis said, would be further complicated by a Brexit.

He explained: “If there were a Brexit, the biggest challenges UK business would face would be trying to implement an alternative corporate rules system. If you were going to enter the common market, which promotes freedom of goods and freedom of movement, then you would have to implement a system that has similar freedoms of capital and labour, but also in revenue or customs.

“Trade systems need to create a depth of integration between different countries and sectors in order to benefit from economies of scale.”

Any change in legislation and trade agreements would, Prof Bovis said, create economic uncertainty that would shake inward investment.

He added: “There would be a disincentive for countries to inwardly invest in the UK, as the fundamental freedoms of investment and capital would be removed, so companies wouldn’t be sure of the UK tax systems. The service and investment community would be handicapped for many years to come.”

This, Prof Bovis said, would have a knock-on effect on the UK’s critical national infrastructure: “The UK doesn’t publicise it, but it is one of the global leaders in attracting foreign investment to its service markets, such as the utility sector.

“To lose this framework of freedom in provision of services in the UK would create a market segmentation which would be detrimental.”

While internal investment would be complicated, Prof Bovis said the greatest impact of a Brexit would be seen in the exports market.

He explained: “UK companies would lose the opportunity to compete unlimitedly in the areas of the European market and its engagement with World Trade Organisation markets would be complicated by its change in government procurement structure.”

“A Brexit would take a huge chunk out of UK exports in the first year and this downward trend would continue year upon year, because worldwide competition is dynamic and without the benefits of the European common market the UK would be lost.”
One of these benefits, Prof Bovis explained, is EU market subsidies.

He said: “In the case of a Brexit, the agricultural industry would be decimated because it would take the subsidies away from the production and distribution of agricultural products, leaving a huge gap in the funding that brings the products to market.

“If the CAP and the fisheries funding was removed from UK, these industries would be detrimentally affected.”

However, Prof Bovis acknowledged that other industries may – temporarily – benefit from a Brexit.

He said: “I suspect that the service industries would benefit in the short term from a Brexit. This would be because it is an inward looking industry, so it could avoid competition from outside the UK. However, the industry would only benefit temporarily, as exclusion from the EU would hinder its productivity and chances of expansion.”

The limitations of a Brexit are recognised by the ‘Stay Camp’, which has the backing of the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

Mr Tusk drafted the report which formed the basis of the negotiation of an alternative EU membership deal for the UK.

Talking of the Tusk Deal, Prof Bovis said it was a good starting point.

He added:

The Tusk deal would provide some discretion in applying the EU levels of control in procurement. It would also provide a blueprint for a safeguard against monetary union. Monetary union didn’t work 100% for the Eurozone, so this Tusk deal would rule against the UK adopting the Euro or shouldering the burden of European welfare state.”

But he said the deal needed development, explaining: “The Tusk deal fails to answer many of the issues the Brexit camp has around the welfare state and immigration.”

Concluding, Prof Bovis reiterated his call for business leaders to educate themselves before the referendum.

He said:

“It is vital that people vote with their minds and not their hearts; we need to make serious business decisions not emotional decisions. The European Union is an economic integration project; it is for prosperity, not emotions.”

For more information on the EU Referendum, keep following the  BiP Solutions Website.

FSB Scotland: Government must do more to help small businesses

SMEpic

UK Government data from the last financial year shows that, despite affirmative action, small businesses only supplied 27.1% of central government contracts by value (£12.1bn). Here, FSB Scotland spokesman Stuart Mackinnon tells BiP Solutions journalist Julie Shennan how this figure can be improved.

In financial year 2014/15, 27.1% of central government buying was with small businesses, either directly (10.9%) or through the supply chain (16.2%).

The figures, although low, exceeded the target set during the last Parliament, which aimed to see 25% of central government goods and services spent via small businesses by 2015.

To help meet this target, the UK Government got 33 strategic suppliers to sign the Prompt Payment Code. By signing the Code, these companies promised to pay their suppliers in good time, making business run more smoothly for small sub-contractors.

This was just one in a series of government measures taken to encourage small businesses to compete for public sector contracts; others included:

  • Requiring the entire public sector supply chain to be paid within 30 days;
  • Abolishing pre-qualification questionnaires for low-value public sector contracts;
  • And requiring the public sector to publish its contracts on Contracts Finder.

While these measures have helped many small businesses, Stuart Mackinnon, a spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, argues that they do not go far enough to support small and micro businesses – which employ the majority of Scots.

He said: “This government data reveals that it is still difficult for smaller firms to win public work. However, this isn’t just a challenge for HM Government departments.

“Scottish Government figures reveal that the Scottish public sector spends less than 7% of its procurement budget with firms with fewer than ten employees. These enterprises, dubbed micro businesses, account for nine in every ten businesses north of the border.”

Mr Mackinnon added: “We’ve seen helpful efforts to reduce the bureaucracy associated with bidding for public contracts. However, the concerted drive to get better value for the public purse through aggregation makes it much more difficult for less established operators to win work. 

“While it would be fair to highlight that many smaller firms will benefit through the procurement supply chain, many firms would argue that the primary contractor will take the lion’s share of the profit.

“Furthermore, primary contractors benefit from public sector prompt payment. Also, those currently winning public works can highlight this experience when bidding for more contracts in the future.”    

He continued: “What can be done? Well, we can disaggregate contracts and make the case for proportionate terms and conditions – such as insurance requirements.

“Public sector leaders can also encourage purchasing professionals to build their systems and processes with smaller players in mind.

“Lastly, we need to see purchasers being encouraged to take a small amount of risk. New and smaller players will never get a bigger chunk of spend if those that have always won the work continue to do so.” 

For further public sector business comment, keep following the BiP blog…