Government move will hit smaller outfits

Well, it was all very interesting to read ’Buyers’ guide’, your article about the Associate Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group’s long-awaited report on public-sector design procurement (News Analysis, DW 4 March), but the group doesn’t seem up to speed with recent events.

Some 200 design suppliers to the public sector were called to a meeting in Sheffield on 2 February, where it was announced that it was the Government’s intention to route all design work through either the Central Office of Information or through a new ’Integrated Service Provider’ once existing department framework agreements have elapsed. Existing suppliers were told they could bid individually, or via a consortium, for the ISP contract (valued at £30m-£50m annually for four years).

With only three design companies in the Design Week Top 100 boasting a turnover of more than £20m, an angry audience came to the conclusion that their days of serving the public sector were over. ’RIP public sector design’ shouted one audience member. Despite assurances that no existing supplier would be prevented from bidding on the basis of size, few believed that senior Government procurement officials would award such a huge contract to anything other than the largest of companies. One could surmise that the likes of WPP and Imagination are rubbing their hands. A crumb of comfort was thrown out saying that companies could apply to the ISP to become a ’second tier’ supplier, or sub-contractor. How likely is that to happen?

I am amazed that such a sea-change in public-sector design procurement has had so little publicity, given that it will probably put a number of specialist companies out of business.

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