Credit Control

An initial review of payment practices under the government’s Prompt Payment Code has found 17 signatories in breach of the code’s commitments.

A total of five companies - BHP Billiton, DHL, GKN Plc, John Sisk & Son Ltd and Twinings - have been kicked out of the scheme completely for non-compliance and for failing to produce an action plan for how they intend to bring their payment practices in line with the stipulations.

It can’t be too often that small suppliers find themselves in agreement with notoriously hard-nosed retail tycoon Mike Ashley, owner of the Sports Direct Group. But on the subject of troubled department store Debenhams’ recovery options, there may be some common ground.

In the past week, Debenhams has secured a £200m refinancing package to help it restructure its debts, cut operating costs and rationalise its store holdings. Mike Ashley and Sports Direct, Debenhams’ biggest shareholder, are vehemently opposed to the plan, even going so far as to write to shareholders alleging misconduct from directors in a bid to get them to block the plans.

New figures exposing the extent of the UK’s late payment culture have revealed that more than 100,000 companies waited an average of 57 days for payment from clients last year - almost double the government’s statutory payment terms.

The research, carried out by insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor, found that one in 10 of these contractors and suppliers went out of business - 1000 firms in total.

Another week, another tale of company administration, job losses and suppliers facing an anxious wait on whether they’ll ever get anything back on unpaid invoices.

The collapse of Flybmi, the small regional airline based at East Midlands Airport, has resulted in the ‘majority’ of the company’s 376 staff being laid off with immediate effect. Following Monarch last year, it is the second UK airline to go under in less than 12 months.

Sadly, after reporting in our last blog on the issues digital magazine The Pool was having with paying freelance contributors, its financial issues have come to a head. Talks to save the ailing publication with an injection of new cash apparently made no headway and it has entered administration.

As well as meaning 20-plus members of staff now face redundancy, the development leaves freelancers who are still awaiting payment on long overdue invoices in an even more precarious position.

Lifestyle magazine The Pool has suspended all freelancer commissions after it emerged it was facing a sizeable backlog of late payments owed to contributors as well as to staff.

New editor Cate Sevilla took the decision to halt all new work requests for freelance journalists and photographers, including from regular columnists, after being inundated with queries over unpaid invoices since she took the job in September.

So it is that time of year again, businesses are scrambling to get things finished for the big Christmas shut down and, for a few days at least, you can leave your problems in the office - no chasing invoices, no worrying about cash flow, no playing the diplomat with awkward suppliers or clients.

But at the risk of dampening the festive spirits, it is only a temporary respite. Those payments you are struggling to get finalised will still be outstanding come January. But on the other hand, the New Year is always a great time to make a fresh start. So as our Christmas present to you, here is our 12-step guide to what you can do to maximise your chances of getting paid on time in 2019.

The rhetoric surrounding the UK’s late payments culture was ramped up another notch this week as an influential Parliamentary committee recommended a mandatory 30-day payment term to stamp out the problem.

Publishing its Small Business and Productivity report, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee concluded that ‘disgraceful’ behaviour by big firms in particular on payments was seriously hampering output and growth amongst SME suppliers.

It feels like we have been here before somehow. Lots of well-meaning words, a tough-sounding stance… and then what? Rinse and repeat.

The latest announcement from the government on the subject of late payment culture has come in the form of a “call for evidence” from Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst specifically on how to end the abuse of SMEs by large corporate clients.

It's not often a company like ours faces problems with payments, after all most of our customers are more than happy to be charged by us as this usually means we have recovered what they are owed. But like all businesses we occasionally encounter issues with clients that don't like to pay on time, or in fact at all. That's why we've chosen to open our "2018 Safe Collections - Late Payment Hall of Shame" featuring companies that have failed to honour their agreements with us.

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