A nationwide study to determine how long local authorities in England take to pay supplier invoices has shown just marginal improvements in average payment times since 2009.
The Forum of Private Business carried out identical research three years ago, yet despite government-imposed targets for councils to pay suppliers within 10 days, on average only 51 percent of council invoices in the 2011/12 year were settled within this time frame. That compares to 45 percent in 2009.
The data also reveals suppliers are now paid, on average, after 17.5 days – a fractional improvement from 2009 when it was 17.9.
The research, which was carried out using Freedom of Information requests issued between May and July, also points to something of a postcode lottery up and down the country for suppliers, ranging from excellent to dire.
On the whole, councils in the North West were the quickest payers, while those in Yorkshire were the worst.
The figures show a number of councils paying extremely high percentages of their invoices in under 10 days. Tonbridge and Malling were the best performing for this indicator at 97.1 percent, with South Northamptonshire second on 96.1 percent, and Waverley third on 94.2 percent.
The worst performing council for payment in under 10 days was Ashfield District Council in Notts with just 0.9 percent of invoices paid within this timescale.
Overall, just eight councils indicated that the average time taken to settle bills was over 30 days, with Worcestershire County Council by far the slowest payer – taking 65 days on average to settle up. Worcestershire reported fairly average response times for the proportion of bills paid within 10 and 30 days indicating that there may be a small number of contracts that were paid very late.
Leicester were in the bottom 10 of proportion of bills paid within 10 and 30 days, although the average time taken to settle their bills was 28 days, putting them just outside the bottom 10. North East Lincolnshire and Hammersmith and Fulham were also highlighted as consistently slow payers by the research.