By Daniel Hunter

Manchester City Council is the slowest paying council in the Greater Manchester area, according to figures from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The FSB made a freedom of information request after 55% of its members in the region labelled late/slow payments as their biggest concern.

The information showed that of the ten councils, Manchester City Council takes an average of 20 days to pay invoices to suppliers. It was also the worst performer in terms of late payments (past the 30 day mark), with 15.6% of its invoices settled late. However, there was positive news for Manchester City Council with 61% of all invoices paid within 10 days.

Wigan Council faired best in terms of average number of days taken to pay suppliers, at 9.9. It also managed to pay 71% of all invoices within 10 days.

The FSB study, however, also revealed only one council in Greater Manchester (Bolton) is requesting via contractual obligation that all suppliers will also pay any sub-contractors involved within a 30 day time frame following receipt of invoice. This is an initiative that the Government is planning to legislate for, and is also something the FSB has been lobbying on since 2013 to help ensure the benefits of prompt payment reach everyone in the supply chain.

FSB’s Regional Chairman for Greater Manchester & North Cheshire, Richard Gregg, said: “We carried out this research after a poll of our members revealed late payment is still a major headache for many of our member businesses.

“What it shows clearly though is that big organisations dealing with thousands of invoices on a monthly basis can pay invoices promptly — often an excuse of slow paying big businesses. The local authorities across the region, bar none, are quite evidently showing the big private sector players how it can and should be done — and for this we applaud them.

“Special hats off to Wigan whose average payment time of just 9.9 days is frankly astonishing."

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth and creator of the award winning Be Fair — Pay on Time campaign, said: “We need more councils to follow Bolton’s lead by insisting that their suppliers ensure prompt payment all the way down the supply chain, as recommended by the cross-party late payment inquiry that I convened and chaired last July, which the FSB took part in.

“Two of the eleven key recommendations focused on the public sector procurement process; recommending that the Government should make fair payment a contractual requirement for new contracts with set times for payment; and that the Government should require all their new contracts to include pre-qualification questions on past payment performance, as well as considering the payment history of companies as part of the bidding process.

“If local authorities are to really determined to get to grips with late payment, show the private sector how it’s done, and support their local small businesses they need to start acting on these recommendations now.”

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