The total value of overdue payments owed to UK small businesses has rocketed by an astonishing £1bn in just six months, according to a new report.

The survey by small business financiers Liberis found that the average SME was waiting on £11,000 in outstanding payments. When extrapolated across the country’s 5.5 million small businesses, that generates a total figure of £14.9bn - up by a billion on findings from just six months ago.

The Church of England fears that it could be forced to sell off some of its prized cathedrals in order to stave off bankruptcy - and is seeking to pass news laws to prevent that happening.

At the General Synod of York - the CoE’s equivalent to Parliament - bishops were presented with a report detailing the financial difficulties of diocese including Exeter and Peterborough, both of which are centred around historic cathedrals.

The concept of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ is something of a myth in business. Technically speaking, a verbal understanding between two parties is enforceable under contract law, as long as certain criteria relating to contracts are met.

But there lies the rub. If nothing is ever written down, if everything is done on a nod and a handshake, how do you ever prove things like intention to enter a contract and due consideration by both parties?

The Government’s flagship initiative for helping small businesses when they face unpaid invoices has been dealt something of a PR blow - by the man they appointed to lead the scheme.

Speaking to The Times, Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal, who ran a construction business for 20 years before becoming a Conservative MP, insisted he understood from experience “the real anguish” not being paid on time creates for SME owners.

If there is a way of defrauding your company out of money, someone, somewhere has already thought of it. In fact, they are more than likely already sitting on a hefty pile of cash from the profits they’ve made illegally.

A lot of attention is paid these days to the sophisticated digital scams carried out by international cybercrime syndicates. But that doesn’t mean anyone can afford to take their eye off the ball when it comes to less technologically advanced tactics.

For video game fans of a certain vintage, it was a beautiful dream. A plan to reboot the classic ZX Spectrum console of their childhoods, but this time as a handheld device.

The company behind the proposed ZX Spectrum Vega+, Retro Computers Ltd, launched a crowdfunding campaign through IndieGoGo to finance the project. Enthusiasts rushed to back the plans, based on the promise of receiving one of the consoles hot off the production line upon launch. More than half a million pounds was raised in no time.

There have been plenty of stories in recent times of large corporations going bust, leaving a trail of out-of-pocket suppliers and creditors in their wake.

But it would be wrong to assume this is the kind of thing that only happens in the world of big business. Even down at the ‘grassroots’ level of microbusinesses and one-man-bands operating in niche cottage industries, where the principles of trust and your word being your bond are still believed to hold sway, things can go wrong.

Latest official figures have confirmed what most people in business already suspected - the UK economy isn’t looking in too great a shape. Growth has stalled to a virtual standstill, just 0.1%, following the worst quarterly performance in five years in the first three months of 2018.

Confidence is low amongst both businesses and consumers, with investment and household spending both down - two factors which, of course, feed one another. In addition, the early months of 2018 have witnessed a succession of big-name company failures, from high street chains like Toys R Us and Maplin, to public sector outsourcing giant Carillion.

It seems that no news is good news when it comes to tales of insolvency and corporate debt across the UK economy at the moment. Maternity and baby specialist Mothercare is the latest name to join the swelling ranks of high street retail chains teetering on the brink of collapse.

Mothercare has announced plans to close a third of its stores - a total of 50 outlets - as part of a proposed Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) to offset losses of £72.8m in the last financial year. If approved by creditors, the move is expected to see up to 800 jobs cut.

The Parliamentary report into the collapse of disgraced outsourcing giant Carillion has certainly pulled no punches.

Amongst the tastiest soundbites, MPs have accused bosses of ‘stuffing their mouths with gold’ while the company’s finances floundered, summing up their behaviour as ‘recklessness, hubris and greed’.

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