Emma Jones isn’t technically in the government, she’s officially the new small business Crown representative. Also, she’s been in the job for a month – the announcement just coincided with May’s bloodbath. For those of you who are not aware of what the Crown Commercial Service does, it’s essentially tasked with bringing together policy, advice and direct buying – providing commercial services to the public sector and saving money for the taxpayer.As the new Crown representative for SMEs, Jones will be continuing with much of the work she’s been doing with her own business – Enterprise Nation – chiefly encouraging government to spend more with small businesses and exposing this demographic to the benefits of bidding for public sector contracts. Jones, an entrepreneur herself, was approached by Matthew Hancock, freshly anointed the position as minister of state responsible for digital policy at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. She’s known Hancock for some time now, partly because of his previous role as minister of state for business and enterprise under former business secretary Vince Cable. She explained to Real Business that a search for a new SME representative began at the turn of 2016, and Hancock personally asked her to apply when he spoke at an Enterprise Nation event. First rebuffing the minister because of her day job, Jones was reassured that it was a “manageable” one day a week role – and so applied. “I heard in March I’d been shortlisted for interview, which was my first in 20 years. There were three civil servants and Simon Devonshire [entrepreneur-in-residence at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS)], and I set out what I would do in the job. “A few months went by before I got a note saying the minister would like to see me and that I had the job – I said yes on 28 May. June was then spent meeting representatives from the Crown, and working on the focus of my role.” Jones will be zeroing in on supporting the government’s target of making sure £1 in every £3 it spends by 2020 is with British small businesses. The powers that be, Jones believes, are doing a “huge amount” to make this a reality, and it’s now her job to assist in any way she can. The entrepreneur, and champion of British small businesses, will be both working with government buyers to explain the virtues of purchasing from small firms and banging the drum to convince these enterprise leaders that selling to the government is a good thing. She has first-hand experience of both winning and losing public sector contract bids, and has some clear ideas regarding how the process can be improved and streamlined. The 33 per cent of government spending target has already been revised up by Hancock, from Francis Maude and Lord Young’s initial 27 per cent goal. Jones and the government have some work to do if it’s going to get to a third from its current level of 27 per cent. However, before we got on to the task at hand for Jones, Real Business wanted to know what her take on the breakup of BIS was. As well as putting together a new-look cabinet, hiring Boris Johnson as foreign secretary and creating a minister specifically charged with Brexit, the fourth prime minister of this centruy decided the department looking after economic growth would be more effective sliced up and portioned off to other departments. “I think what is happening is that entrepreneur and small business promotion is going across all departments,” she explained. “Last week I went to a meeting of what are called ‘SME champions’ – people across all departments all focussed on this procurement issue. It’s a good thing that this goes across all of government and if we do have a new small business minister, I don’t know if BIS is their natural home.” Former small business minister Anna Soubry, who was only in the job for just over a year, was one of those jettisoned by May. We’ve yet to learn whether the space will be filled, but all evidence points to the end of a ministerial role dedicated to supporting small enterprise. Read more about Theresa May’s new government:
- Philip Hammond named chancellor of the Exchequer as George Osborne abandons Theresa May
- With David Cameron out, how will new prime minister Theresa May impact UK business?
- The world is struggling to come to grips with Boris Johnson being made foreign secretary
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