Dragon Piers Linney to turn up heat on Whitehall over fairer outsourcing to SMEs

There are fears that smaller businesses have been shut out of state contracts because of excessive red tape and outdated procurement practices

Associate business editor

The Dragons’ Den star Piers Linney has vowed to make the Government “walk the walk” on helping small businesses to win lucrative work in Whitehall, as he joins a specialist Cabinet Office panel.

Mr Linney, co-chief executive at the cloud IT consultancy Outsourcery and a dragon on the BBC show for the past two series, has been asked to join the Government’s SME panel.

The 43-year-old has been asked to advise on how small, innovative IT businesses can be helped to win government contracts, ensuring that they are not always divvied up among just the biggest technology behemoths.

There are fears that smaller businesses have been shut out of state contracts because of excessive red tape and outdated procurement practices.

The Cabinet Office has set a target of 25 per cent of central government spending to go to SMEs by 2015, against 6.5 per cent when the Coalition took power four years ago.

Mr Linney said it would be a “crying shame” if bureaucracy blocked SMEs from gaining their fair share of work. “The changes they [the Government] have been working on are gathering pace and they’re quite focused on the digital side of things,” he added. “I’ll be ensuring that they are not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.”

Stephen Allott, the Crown Representative for SMEs, said that the Government is already getting “huge value” out of SMEs specialising in IT.

Crown representatives were introduced in 2011 as intermediaries between government and potential suppliers. They try to foster improved commercial relationships between the state and SMEs, social enterprises and voluntary organisations.

Mr Linney’s appointment comes as Outsourcery, founded as the result of a management buyout of Genesis Communications from Dixons in 2007, looks to turn around its recent poor share performance. Last August the shares were at 125p and they remained above 100p until April, but have since slumped to 32p, valuing the business at £12m.

Mr Linney hopes the new role could see Outsourcery compete for government work and a new IT platform would allow government departments to quickly select suppliers in the future.

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