Workshops launched to help Suffolk businesses win more public sector procurement opportunities

Suffolk businesses are being urged to attend one of six workshops aimed at helping them better understand public sector procurement procedures and so boost their chances of winning new contracts – not least as the public sector in Suffolk spent £1.9 billion in 2017.

Jointly organised by the Suffolk Growth Programme Board (SGPB), which works on behalf of the public sector in the county, and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, these workshops are a direct response to the results of a study into local business awareness and experiences of public sector tendering.

They follow survey responses from nearly 400 local businesses, from a representative range of company sizes and sectors, run by Suffolk Chamber and commissioned by the SGPB which produced both positive and challenging insights into the experiences of private sector bodies in tendering for public sector contracts.

Although many companies reported they had tendered for contracts in recent years – and a number had been successful, the research also highlighted a number of key challenges faced by SMEs in particular, including: 

·     The eligibility criteria are often too rigid

·      Public bodies using procurement as a tool for social and/or environmental policy often favours corporate businesses

·      It is difficult or costly finding out information about available tenders in the first place

·     Having to complete the same basic information for every tender

·     The lack of a single Suffolk portal with information about all public sector tenders

·      There is no weighting in favour of local/SME businesses

Amanda Ankin, Suffolk Chamber’s operations director, said “we believe that these forthcoming workshops will help address these concerns and enable Suffolk’s businesses to better identify and then bid for public sector contracts.

“For any business wanting to bid for a slice of that £1.9 billion spend, attending one of these workshops is an absolute must.”

The workshops bring together a number of key experts in the field of procurement.

Three speakers have been booked for each of the workshops: Rex Clarke, head of commercial services at Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies, Mark Fisher, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils’ procurement manager and Jane Garnett, the procurement lead for the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group.

They will be outlining how local firms can find out about new business opportunities and sharing their knowledge on how to get the best out of tendering opportunities.

In addition, there will be an interactive session in each workshop whereby attendees will prepare an outline response to a tender document, giving them the chance to put all the learning they have obtained into practice.

Stephen Baker, chair of the Growth Programme Board, said: “we have ambitions to grow Suffolk through increased public sector investment in our infrastructure, services and buildings – ensuring local firms are positioned to bid for and benefit from this investment is crucial if we are to deliver on our ambitions.”

The first three workshops have been announced:

·  Wednesday 24 October –Ivy House Country Hotel, Lowestoft (8.30am – 12.15pm)

·  Thursday 29 November – Ashlar House, Bury St Edmunds (8.30am – 12.15pm)

·   Friday 30 November – Ipswich Town Football Club (8.30am – 12.15pm)

For further information and how to book:

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