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The number of government contracts being won by small businesses has increased, according to official figures.

Data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shows out of the £4.7bn worth of contracts up for grabs this year, £1bn worth was awarded to small businesses, representing 22 per cent of the total value. The figure was up on the 18 per cent recorded during 2004.

Business groups have attacked ministers over recent years claiming too many small firms are being ignored when it comes to allocating public sector contracts.

While welcoming the figures, small business minister Barry Gardiner recognised the need to increase the proportion of smaller companies winning deals.

"The public sector must do more to ensure that it is making the best possible use of the innovation and dynamism that the small business sector can bring," he said.

To raise awareness amongst public sector procurers of the value for money and quality of service small businesses can provide, the DTI's Small Business Service has joined up with the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) to publish a special guide.

John Oughton, OGC chief executive, said: "I am confident that the programme to assist SMEs in bidding for government contracts is delivering.

"OGC's regional training seminars for procurers have been well received, standardised prequalification documentation is being used and work with major suppliers to open up their supply chains is progressing well."

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