During a parliamentary session looking at late payment, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) told a cross-party group of MPs that the issue remains a significant concern for UK SMEs.
Giving evidence at the inquiry chaired by Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, the not-for-profit employer support organisation said over a million SMEs had experienced problems with late and slow payment, and urged MPs to look at new ways to tackle the problem.
Among the proposals suggested by the Forum was for all prime contractors bidding on government contracts to sign the ICM’s Prompt Payment Code (PPC); for government to provide legal clarity on how the FPB can use a new power (EU Directive on prompt payment) to represent its members on the issue; and for wider adoption of e-invoicing in the public sector.
It also suggested that any public organisation dispensing taxpayers’ cash to small business – including the likes of police forces and NHS hospital trusts, should also sign the PPC.
The Forum’s Head of Policy, Alexander Jackman, says research has suggested 35 percent of small businesses have seen a reduction in profit and 16 percent have seen a noticeable reduction in turnover as a response to late payment or bad debts:
“Late payments are also having a knock-on effect, leaving many SMEs in a vicious circle of in turn paying their suppliers late. It starts at the top and tends to wash down the entire supply chain. Our own research backs this up, with 77 percent of businesses that reported being paid late in turn failing to pay their suppliers on time too. In short, it starts with big businesses, and it’s down to big businesses to clean up their act and stop it.
“A cultural attitude of late payment has developed in the UK. We need to reverse it quickly before more small businesses go under.”