The Conservative-led coalition government, and also the two Conservative governments since, have pursued policies looking at helping small businesses who suffer at the hands of bigger companies making late payments. The government has set up a dedicated website here.
You can find a summary of the new regulations and powers in this post from the head of the ICAEW Clive Lewis. Included are measures called the Prompt Payment Code, Payment Practices Reporting Regulations and the appointment of a Small Business Commissioner.
And now the new Small Business Commissioner has been appointed: it’s Paul Uppal. He was a Tory MP from 2010 until 2015 and has himself extensive small business experience and remains a company director.
Of his appointment he says: “Running your own business can be a very lonely experience and my priority will be ensuring small firms feel supported as well as helping to create an overall impression that business isn’t necessarily cut throat. In fact, successful businesses are built on integrity, entrepreneurial spirit and trusting relationships and I want to highlight that Britain can be the best place in the world for new entrepreneurs to establish and grow their own businesses.”
His role will include giving general advice, handling complaints and also directing small businesses to existing dispute resolution services. But, crucially, he’s the man you can complain to about late payments and he has the power to publish public reports in response.
The idea and intention behind the creation of the new post is in essence a good one. There can be no doubt that many small businesses suffer cash flow problems due to slow and late payments of invoices. Although, that isn’t necessarily just a vice of big firms. And so there is genuine concern that the office holder won’t have teeth. He may get a £120k salary be he has no legal power to enforce his rulings and cannot force payment.