Minister blames over-cautious public sector clients for shutting out SMEs

Vince Cable has criticised public sector clients for shutting out SMEs from taxpayer-funded construction work as they are “too terrified” of European procurement rules.

The business secretary said public sector clients were issuing overly-bureaucratic tenders that effectively preclude SMEs out of a “misplaced” fear of contravening European rules.

“They don’t need to act like that,” Cable said.

The business secretary also acknowledged that the government’s flagship green construction policy, the Green Deal, had “got off to a very slow start” and “needs energising”, although he did not go into specifics.

On housing, Cable said the government was right to focus on boosting the private ownership market through policies like Help to Buy, but admitted this was causing “a problem of affordability”.

“We’re grappling with that in different ways,” he added.

Cable was speaking at the National Federation of Builders’ (NFB) annual conference in London last week.

Outgoing NFB chief executive Julia Evans told the conference she was pleased the NFB and the construction industry in general were now getting greater attention from government.