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19 March 2019 | By Martin Traynor Community

Prompt payment a priority for the new Small Business Crown Representative

Martin Traynor has been appointed as the government’s new Small Business Crown Representative. So what can CBI members expect from his time in the role?

I’m delighted to take on the role of Small Business Crown Representative – a position designed to drive a better relationship between the government and small businesses, by advising ministers on the government’s engagement with them, and identifying the barriers facing small firms in the process.

The landscape for SMEs has personal significance for me. I come from a business background and understand many of the issues that firms face. My early career was spent in the hospitality sector, managing various hotels across the UK. I then spent the next 14 years as Group Chief Executive of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce (including the Business Link service).

In recent years, I have moved to a portfolio career where I am a Non-Executive Chairman of three leisure businesses, Deputy Chairman of a large teaching hospital trust, and have just completed two three-year terms on the Government Regulatory Policy Committee. Throughout, I have worked to try to improve the conditions smaller businesses face. It is hugely exciting to continue that work in this role.

The opportunity – and the commitment

The government buys a huge range of goods and services from businesses right across the country: from major rail and road projects to fresh food and specialised services to help people find work. Central government spends around £50bn a year on third party contracts and that represents a huge opportunity for many of the UK’s five million small businesses. 

Since my appointment I’ve met some of government’s major business services suppliers and our SME Advisory Panel – 22 entrepreneurs who advise on how to make things work better so that we can increase the amount of business government does with SMEs. At the meetings, Oliver Dowden, the Minister for Implementation, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to see one pound in every three spent with an SME and to ensure they are paid promptly.

So what are my priorities?

Firstly, I’m full square behind the government’s aspiration to spend more with SMEs, both directly and through supply chains. This means working with colleagues across government to make contracts more accessible, and ensure they are structured in a way that allow SMEs to bid, confident they’re getting a fair crack of the whip. I will also be working with our larger suppliers to ensure that supply chain opportunities are open to the country’s smaller businesses.

Another priority for me is to ensure that SMEs are paid promptly and I welcomed recently announced measures to exclude those suppliers from major government procurements if they cannot demonstrate fair and effective payment practices with their subcontractors.

I urge CBI’s members who bid for major government contracts to review their payment practices and performance, and ensure they are doing all they can to meet the expected standard of paying 95% of invoices within 60 days. If they are not, then it’s vital to show how they are making necessary improvements now, in time for the September 2019 deadline.

This will build on existing measures already out there: Large companies should be publishing their payment performance on gov.uk following the introduction of the Payment and Performing Reporting requirements. The government has also published guidance for public sector buyers on the new measure, which businesses will also find useful.

CBI members can find out about government opportunities, and many more from across the public sector, on the government’s Contracts Finder website.

I will be working with colleagues from across government to tackle barriers to SMEs in our procurement processes, and won’t hesitate to recommend changes that will make it easier for SMEs to do business with government.

And you can help us identify these challenges. If you find a contract opportunity that seems unfair, then you can report this to the Public Procurement Review Service, (formerly the Mystery Shopper programme). This service will investigate concerns and also has the power to make recommendations for improvement -

As you can imagine, to move this whole agenda forward is going to be a significant task. I very much welcome the CBI’s continued support, the support of its members, and I look forward to working with your businesses.

If members have any thoughts, ideas, or observations, then please feel free to contact me at martin.traynor@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

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