I have been celebrating with A&P their success in winning a valuable ten-year MOD contract that will secure skilled employment in the docks and could enable investment for the long term in our port infrastructure. A&P have a large supply chain of local businesses that provide goods and services to their operation so the benefit of the new £239 million contract will be felt far beyond the dock gates.
Small and medium sized businesses are the life blood of our local economy so I listen carefully to their ideas and concerns. Two concerns often arise from our conversations; not being paid on time and the cost of utility bills, especially energy, water and telecoms.
Following on from actions such as improvements in access to quality business advice and finance for small businesses and the appointment of the small business commissioner, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy unveiled more policies last week.
While over the past five years the amount owed to businesses in late payments has halved, we need to make sure all our small businesses are treated fairly. So, a new consultation seeks ideas on how best to close this unacceptable gap.
This will help identify the most effective way possible to tackle this issue once and for all and ensure small businesses are on a level playing field with their larger counterparts.
According to BEIS, nearly a quarter of UK businesses report late payments as a threat to their survival, and research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) indicates that tackling a late payment culture could add £2.5bn to the UK economy and keep 50,000 extra businesses open each year.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Late payment is the biggest challenge affecting small businesses and it is good to see the government getting serious about this issue, especially when it comes to large firms paying their supply chains promptly. The voluntary prompt payment code is not working when it allows signatories like Carillion to pay on terms of over 120 days, so we want to see a new tough and transparent compliance regime being proposed.”
While government is leading the way in paying its bills on time, it aims higher with a target of 90% of invoices paid within 5 days. I am asking Cornwall Council to review its policy to enable faster payments.
The government also announced an independent review of utilities regulators to ensure that they are fit for purpose. It is essential that regulators develop resilient utilities, able to face the challenges and opportunities of our time as well as improve outcomes for customers. While it has become easier to switch energy suppliers, I believe that smart regulation and smart new technology could make it even easier. All too often loyal customers have inferior deals to those offered to new customers, so it’s important that we take action to prevent people and businesses paying more than necessary and enable more switching to low or no carbon suppliers of our energy.
First published in the West Briton 11/10/18