SMEs doubt Government pledges on late payment

A new poll shows that small and micro-businesses are doubtful that the Government's new small business commissioner will adequately tackle the issue of late payment.

After a two-year search, the Government has appointed Paul Uppal to the post of small business commissioner, with a brief to crack down on late payment practices across the UK.

However, a new survey by cloud accounting software provider FreeAgent has found that just 2% of micro-business owners believe the Government and the commissioner will take the issue "seriously".

According to data from FreeAgent, only half of all invoices (51%) sent in the UK last year were paid on time - based on analysis of hundreds of thousands of invoices.

Micro-business owners surveyed said they would like to see more stringent penalties put in place for those who don't pay invoices. Seven in ten (70%) said they wanted to have the opportunity to secure compensation from late-paying clients, while 59% said they wish to see a code of conduct being implemented and adhered to. Just 29% believe naming and shaming of late-payment offenders would be of use.

Ed Molyneux, ceo and co-founder of FreeAgent, said: "It's good news that the Government has finally appointed a small business commissioner, with the specific remit of dealing with the late payment problem faced by micro-businesses. However, the reality is likely to be that Mr Uppal will actually have limited power to punish companies who routinely pay late, aside from just naming and shaming them.

"Micro-businesses and their owners are acutely affected by late payments," added Molyneux. "Unlike bigger companies who can often wait to be paid, micro-businesses need to get paid promptly to keep their business in the black. We need to see a complete cultural shift when it comes to paying invoices, so that these types of smaller businesses are not put at risk."

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