The National Federation of Builders is launching a campaign challenging councils’ exclusion of small firms from their framework schemes

Julia Evans, the NFB’s chief executive, said there had been a rise in SMEs calling to complain about being pushed out of framework contracts during the downturn.

Local authorities have been accused of bundling work together, making it difficult for smaller contractors to win work.

Two years ago, a survey by the NFB found that a third of 460 SMEs that responded said they were doing less work for the public sector than five years ago. “Since then, we’ve received a significant increase in the number of complaints from contractors saying that the situation is worse than ever,” Evans said.

“Increasingly, public sector clients are bundling up smaller work streams that SMEs were previously in a position to bid for, into packages of a value too high for SMEs to compete.”

The campaign is due to be launched at the end of the month.

The Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group and the Electrical Contractors Association said they had had similar complaints from their members, and the Federation of Master Builders said it would be lobbying the government on the issue.