The UK Government has started a recruitment search because it intends to appoint a commissioner who will deal with disputes between small businesses who haven’t been paid by, or are in dispute over payment with, bigger firms.
The new position will be appointed by the Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Greg Clark in consultation with SME organisations including the FSB. The new role has been brought into being because of increasing concern regarding consistently late payments to SMEs from large firms from the FTSE100 down.
Clark says he has evidence from the FSB proving “widespread retrospective discounting of payments” and also last minute querying of invoices to further delay payments.
What remains to be seen is whether such an appointment will have a significant impact on the problem and whether the commissioner will have powers to force payment that would tangibly improve the situation. With 5.5 million SMEs in the UK will the Commissioner have any more than a symbolic role to play because surely they won’t be in a position to adjudicate and force payments from big companies to smaller ones on a case by case basis.
That said, it’s positive that this problem is visible at the top level of government and hopefully we’ll see an improvement in full and swift payments in future.