New expert will champion small businesses across Government


Shirley Cooper OBE has been appointed as the new Crown Representative for small businesses.

An experienced entrepreneur has taken up a key role to promote the needs of small businesses to government and ensure suppliers seize the benefits of the Procurement Act.

Shirley Cooper OBE, former chair and president of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, met Parliamentary Secretary Alex Burghart for the first time as Crown Representative for small businesses earlier this month.

They discussed priorities for the next 12 months, with a focus on the implementation of the Procurement Act in October, which will see further benefits for start-ups and small businesses wishing to work with the government. These include simpler processes, greater transparency and access to opportunities, as well as strengthened payment terms which will maximise value for money and innovation in the government market.

Ms Cooper will lead on the overall relationship between the government and small businesses, making sure the government gets best value from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and that they in turn have the best possible opportunity to work with the government.

Shirley Cooper OBE said:

“I am delighted to take up this role and build on the work of my predecessor, Martin Traynor.

“I look forward to working with colleagues across Government to make sure small businesses can seize the fantastic opportunities available to them in the public procurement process.”

She will build on the work of Martin Traynor OBE, who is retiring after a five-year tenure in the post which culminated in the reforms of the Procurement Act 2023.

Ms Cooper will also support the commitment to, and delivery of, increasing central government spend on SMEs. This spend has risen every year since 2016/17, and stood at a record £21.0billion worth of work in 2021/2022. The Government spends around £300billion every year on procurement.

She will be an advocate for small businesses, promoting their agenda both in government and externally.

Parliamentary Secretary Alex Burghart said:

“I am delighted to welcome Shirley to this role. Small businesses are vital to our economy and I look forward to working with her to make sure our procurement regime is fully accessible to them.

“Shirley’s appointment comes at a critical time for small businesses with reforms of the Procurement Act, which will dismantle barriers to them competing for government contracts, coming into force later this year.”

In 2011, she co-founded the award-winning start-up law firm Tapestry. Previously, she was global procurement director of Impellam and board adviser to Lorien Resourcing, both recruiting specialists. She was also procurement and supply chain director of Computacenter, and executive director of WEConnect International – both technology and services providers.

Ms Cooper has extensive experience of first-class financial, commercial and operational leadership across both the private and public sector. Earlier in her career, she held senior positions at Leeds Hospitals and Tetley’s.

Ms Cooper also supports many charities and non-profit organisations that drive economic development and have a social impact. She was a trustee and treasurer at UN Women UK for nine years, chair of the International Women’s Forum, vice chair of the Civil Society Women’s UK Alliance and co-founder and chair of the Blueprint Club for women who hold senior procurement roles.

The business leader was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s 2020 Birthday Honours for services to women’s empowerment, equality and procurement.

Ms Cooper will play a key role in implementing the Procurement Act. She will work with the Cabinet Office’s Small Business Advisory Panel, departments, suppliers and trade bodies to further level the playing field for small businesses, start-ups and social enterprises and ensure they can compete for and win more government contracts.

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