By Daniel Hunter

MP Sir John Stanley did the honours at an awards ceremony which recognised Tonbridge & Malling Council as the country’s fastest paying local authority.

Nationwide research carried out by the Forum of Private Business into the speed at which councils in England pay supplier invoices saw the authority scoop top honours after the employer support organisation’s research showed it paid 97% of its suppliers in less than 10 days.

The Government has asked all councils to aim to pay in less than 10 days to help struggling firms improve their cash flow during lean economic times.

“The Council is very aware of how critical prompt payment can be to the cash flow of businesses and we are therefore very pleased to be an approved signatory to the Prompt Payment Code introduced by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills," the council’s CEO, Julie Beilby, who collected the certificate from Sir John, said.

“We are delighted that our achievement of 97% within 10 days hit the ‘top spot’ within the survey undertaken by the Forum of Private Business.”

CEO at the Forum of Private Business, Phil Orford, added: “Our members tell us that one of the biggest problems they have is slow payment from big business, so to hear a local authority is paying so many suppliers and so quickly is really quite astonishing — but also most welcome. The private sector could learn a lot from this example.

“Businesses need a steady cash flow to survive and grow, and late payment remains a real issue for many businesses, particularly SMEs.

“While we are continuing to work alongside industry bodies in the UK to encourage more businesses to sign up to the Prompt Payment Code, it is important that the public sector leads the way, and that’s certainly the case here. Well done Tonbridge.”

MP Sir John Stanley commented: “It gives me great pleasure to be able to present this award today. When I was Minister of State for Housing and Construction between 1979 and 1983 I came across so many businesses that experienced financial difficulties because local authorities and national government agencies for whom they were working were so slow in paying.

“For Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, which represents over three quarters of my parliamentary constituency, to be the recipient of this award is therefore particularly pleasing and I congratulate them wholeheartedly.”

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