The BSA today publishes the ‘Just Another Paperclip?’ report by Professor Gary L. Sturgess. Speaking on the report’s publication, BSA Chief Executive Mark Fox said:

“I welcome this report by Professor Gary Sturgess and thank him for the time and work he has put in to producing it. Gary has a long and distinguished career in this area as a practitioner, thinker, and analyst in this space here in the UK and in many countries around the world.

It is sometime since an in depth look at public procurement and markets was conducted and this report is a timely contribution to the ongoing discussion in this area. It is an independent report and it contains interesting comments and suggestions which will challenge all those involved in the procurement and delivery of public services and projects.

It is not a statement of the position or the views of the Business Services Association and its members – and is all the more interesting for it being independent of a ‘corporate’ position.

Since 2015 much work has been done to improve the relationship between government and those who seek to partner with it in the delivery of services and projects. This though is an ongoing learning experience for all those involved. It is a continual process of improvement and building on what has been learned.

In any relationship that involves government it is of course the government that is the dominant partner. It is the government that sets the rules, devises the procurement process, makes the decisions, moulds the shape of the market, and awards the contracts. This is as it should be because it is the government, through Ministers, which is accountable to Parliament, and through Parliament to the taxpayer and the voter. Public services and projects are delivered in the public arena, which is what essentially distinguishes them from business-to-business service and project delivery.

Delivering public services and projects is a complicated and challenging endeavour. There are never easy solutions and there are many examples of good partnering and project delivery. There are, of course, examples where lessons need to be learned. This is the responsibility of all those involved, to embrace those lessons, and move forward in a constructive and co-operative spirit.”

To read the report in full, please click here.


On 31st January the BSA, in conjunction with Associate Member Trowers & Hamlins, held an event to discuss the culture, ethos and practicalities of running commercial councils. With ongoing constraints on public finances, local councils continue to face significant challenges to the delivery of good quality public services. However recent years have also prompted innovation across England’s local authorities, with councils taking action to partner with the private sector and act in a more ‘commercial’ fashion. With the devolution agenda set to continue across the UK, councils have the opportunity to rethink how they run services and actively promote new ways of thinking.

For a detailed write-up of the event please click here


Commenting in response to the Institute for Government’s publication of the Performance Tracker report, BSA Director of Policy, Melanie Maxwell said

“This important report from the IfG proves government needs to get tough on making transformation happen. The experience in social care shows that unless services are on a sustainable financial footing they could even cease to exist. It’s time to support all those who have the leadership and vision to avert such a crisis – whether they are from the public, private or voluntary sectors. Too often the private sector is brought in to cut costs when really its expertise is in enabling the kind of organisational change that is now needed”.

To read the IFG Performance Tracker report in full, please click here.


The Chancellor struck the right tone and announced sensible measures in what is a marathon not a sprint. The BSA has campaigned on improving technical education for young people so we are pleased to see a focus on this. We look forward to exploring ideas as to how private sector can work in partnership to improve skills, public sector efficiency, infrastructure investment and innovation.


The BSA has offered its Spring Budget submission to the Chancellor ahead of its publication in March. In the submission we urge the Government to focus its attention on three areas that will boost productivity and provide the economy with the foundations it needs to succeed in future. These are long-term capital investment in infrastructure, greater digital connectivity through an expansion of full fibre broadband, and investment in education.

For the full BSA submission to the Spring Budget, please click here.



The BSA has published its submission to the government’s green paper consultation on disability, work and health. The BSA welcomes the government’s ambition to halve the disability employment gap and we have outlined what could be effective measures aimed at achieving this.

To read the full submission, please click here


Employers in Northern Ireland should be able to use apprenticeship levy funding as flexibly as possible, the BSA has said. Responding to a consultation from the Northern Ireland government, the BSA called for a better flow of information between Westminster and devolved governments. The response also highlighted the important role of business service companies in the Northern Irish economy, employing 70,000 people. To read the full BSA response, please click here.


The BSA has published its submission to the government’s green paper consultation on corporate governance reform. The BSA welcomes the government’s ambition to improve trust in business and we have outlined where we believe reform can take place while retaining the UK’s world-leading corporate governance structure.

To read the full submission click here.


On Friday 2nd December the BSA, in partnership with DWF, held the latest in a series of events focused on regional transport. The title of the latest instalment was the ‘Future of Regional Transport’. Speakers included Midlands Connect, Transport for Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, IPPR North and BSA members Balfour Beatty. The session looked at the strategic transport priorities of different UK regions and the potential impact of both elected mayors and Brexit.

For a detailed write-up of the event, please click here.


The BSA has offered its submission to the Inclusive Growth Commission on how to ensure communities across the UK benefit from economic growth. The Commission is chaired by former BBC Economics Editor, Stephanie Flanders and seeks to devise new models for place-based growth, which include the widest range of people.

Devolution, public-sector commissioning, skills and the Industrial Strategy are all central to the BSA’s submission. Accounting for 8% of the UK’s economic output and three million jobs across the country, the business services industry has an important role to play in the development of inclusive growth.

For the full BSA submission to the RSA’s Inclusive Growth Commission, please click here.


In a recent interview with Kevin Anderson of BSA Associate Member, New Street, BSA Chief Executive Mark Fox shared his latest views on the business services sector.

The Business Services Association (BSA) is the leading industry body for companies that provide outsourced, infrastructure and construction services across the private and public sectors. The industry employs over three million people and accounts for about 8% of economic output.

Approximately 70% of business services is business to business, and 30% is public to private. But it is the public sector element of service provision and project delivery that tends to grab the most of the public attention.

The role of the BSA is to provide a forum where these businesses can come together to talk about public policy, common values and interests. The BSA leads discussion with Government, Regulators and other bodies, together with organisations we seek to do business with, to explain who we are, what we do and how we can help.

The BSA has represented members since 1993 and during the 20+ years, membership has broadened and deepened its engagement as the sector itself has matured and become more coherent. BSA representation has evolved to reflect the very dynamic nature of the members and the BSA itself has grown organically from 14 members to over 60 members in the last eight years and it continues a path of steady and managed growth.

Impact of Brexit?

In our discussions with members of our committees and our Council, we have been preparing mentally and administratively for Brexit since the general election in 2015.

Post-vote, we have continued those discussions but it is far too early to fully understand the true impact of Brexit because, of course, Britain hasn’t actually left the European Union at the moment so everything is as it was. We will not know what the architecture of Britain leaving the EU looks like until the Government tells us.

As they shape their strategy we are having excellent engagement across government – the Brexit Department (the new department that has been created to manage the process) and all other departments are engaging extremely well with business. In parallel, government departments across the piece are working to ensure they collect the relevant data and absorb views. They are listening and communicating well.

Brexit signals the end of Devolution?

Of course not! There is still an enormous opportunity for devolvement – and this is across the UK. The political complexions matter much less than they would have 20 or 30 years ago. We are leading a regional programme and devolved administration programme across the UK. We are meeting with mayoral candidates where the mayoralties are being set up – and where there are existing administrations, we are meeting with them.

The regional programme is a really, really important part of what the BSA is doing; members are extremely interested. If anything, the post-Brexit attitude has hardened the desire for redistributing power from central government out to the regions.

But it is not just the BSA who are engaging the devolution stakeholders at a local and regional level. BSA Members are too – and we strongly encourage it. We are a facilitator; we are not meant to be a barrier.

Changing Political Landscape

This year we started off with a relatively new government, though – as it was a Conservative Government – we have had the core agenda of working through the priorities in a post-coalition phase. Tightening of budgets was the central theme.

Then we had the European vote which obviously created a lot of interest and stimulation that caused central government politicians to focus on different things. The ramifications were, in effect, another new government with Mrs May as Prime Minister and a huge turnaround in ministers and civil servants across central government.

With devolution, we have new mayors and combined authorities being set up so that has meant a steady recalibration. We had elections in Scotland and Wales which were important, and so on.

It has been a very political-centric year. Our focus has been on helping members navigate their way through the political change in an era where scrutiny, accountability and the pressure for value for money is ever increasing.

But it is more than just navigating through the “politics”. That is a means to an end – it is about commercial opportunity; or about partnering if we’re talking about the public sector, to drive future opportunity for the Business Services sector.

Closing Thoughts…

In 2017 we expect the issues to remain fundamentally the same as 2016 and we have got to make sure that the BSA and its members are as informed and as plugged in as possible. We need to remain innovative and fresh in the way that we provide services to our members.

Business cycles follow the path of a sine curve. We know this. Any economist can provide you with as good a guess as to when we are going to have the next upturn or the next downturn. But it is always our view that the political environment is the most unpredictable and also the most impactful, particularly within the Business Services sector.

Whether it is referendums or devolution to Scotland, Wales and English regions, there will be a profound impact for all businesses everywhere who need to stay closely in touch with public opinion.

We need to understand what people are thinking in the communities in which we’re all living and working. We are not just businesses, but people who live and work in these communities. We are quite canny in our sector because we are used to delivering services by just keeping an ear open as to what is going on and responding to it. Why? Because we are very flexible, very adaptable, very robust, and that is what the role of the BSA is; to walk along with the members, staying alert. How can we freshen up what we do? How can we stay in tune with what’s happening?

Mark Fox was in conversation with Kevin Anderson, Principal – Business & Support Services within New Street:


The BSA has responded to the National Infrastructure Commission’s call for ideas.

The Commission’s call comes after it conducted specific studies on high-speed rail in Northern England, London transport, energy storage, the 5G rollout and the MK-Cambs-Oxford corridor, the last two of which are still due for publication.

The BSA’s response calls on the Commission to conduct an in-depth analysis of skills in the construction sector, making particular reference to the National Infrastructure Pipeline. Both the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan for Skills and the recently published Farmer Review present a clear need to boost construction skills.

The BSA response therefore calls on the Commission to examine which areas of the construction sector already have skills shortages and where they could potentially arise. To read the full BSA response, please click here.


The Secretary of State chaired the meeting alongside ministers Robin Walker and Lord Bridges, engaging with business and industry stakeholders to ensure their views and experience help to inform the UK’s negotiation strategy.

A British success story, the professional and business services sector includes the legal, advertising and accountancy industries. The sector is worth £177 billion and grew by 5% between 2014 and 2015. It is the single largest exporter in Britain and accounts for 13% of all jobs in the UK.

Among the topics of discussion were the terms of trade for services once the UK has left the EU, the movement of skilled workers and opportunities to increase the sector’s global competitiveness in future.

The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis said:

“The government is committed to making sure that the UK remains the best place in Europe to run and grow a business, and having a strong professional services sector is key to doing that.

As well as challenges to overcome there will be numerous opportunities to seize as we leave the European Union. Capitalising on the expertise of industries that service British businesses is crucial as we approach our negotiations and by working together I am confident we will get a deal that protects and promotes enterprise in the UK.”

Chief Executive, Business Services Association, Mark Fox said:

“Our industry is one of the most productive in the UK and we will continue to support businesses and encourage investment in Britain throughout the Brexit process.

Today’s discussions were a productive step in our continued positive engagement with government. We will continue to work with DExEU to ensure that businesses who have come to rely on the UK for important services continue to do so going forward.

By engaging with business leaders and key stakeholders both through roundtables and regional visits, the government is building a national consensus on the approach to the negotiations and and the UK’s future relationship with the EU.”


The BSA has responded to the Scottish Government consulation on the UK apprenticeship levy on behalf of our members.

BSA full members employ over 17,000 apprentices across the UK and provide around 845,000 days of training each year. The business services sector considers apprentices to be a key part of their workforce and provides schemes across a wide range of services and skills areas, from engineering, construction and security to facilities management, cleaning and food services; from customer service, ICT and business development to finance, human resources and administration. Alongside Modern Apprenticeships, our members also offer SVQs, support Foundation Apprenticeships and provide graduate level schemes in Scotland.

The BSA welcomes the additional investment in skills and training which the levy will enable, but calls for the UK government to engage and coordinate more effectively with the devolved governments as it is introduced.

The focus of the funding must remain on increasing skills in the labour market to reflect those needed by employers. We therefore urge the Scottish Government to use this consultation to work closely with levy-paying organisations to provide information and surety on their plans and to identify areas in which consistency and cooperation across borders would produce better outcomes for apprentices and employers.

The full BSA response can be found here


The BSA has responded to the Department for Communities and Local Government consultation on proposed changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations. BSA members welcome the proposals to implement policies on Fair Deal which will create consistancy across the public sector pension schemes and promote uniformity in approach by local authorities.

The BSA submission highlights areas where further information and clarity is required to ensure that the regulations can be implemented successfully and smoothly. Greater input is needed on funding agreements, guarantee bond requirements and the basis for pension valuations. The BSA would welcome the publication of additional guidance supporting the proposed new reuglations to cover these areas and to outline the pension information required at tender.

The BSA’s Fair Deal Employers’ Forum works closely with the Government on Fair Deal matters and looks forward to continued constructive engagement as the policy is applied to Local Government Pension Schemes.

The full BSA response can be found here.


The BSA has published its response to the National Infrastructure Assessment call for evidence, welcoming the announcement of the National Infrastructure Commission and setting out the business services sector’s priorities for infrastructure development in the UK.

We urge the Government to focus on the following key areas:

• Skills – Building a diverse skills base aimed at meeting infrastructure needs

• Connectivity – Ensuring the UK’s large cities and small towns are better connected to improve productivity

• Devolution – Clarifying how combined authorities and local government fit into national infrastructure planning

• Funding – Maintaining and improving the flow of infrastructure investment and building comprehensive business cases

• Technology – Understanding how technology influences construction, skills, and how people interact with infrastructure

Read the full consultation response here.