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Small Business Commissioner

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Small Business Commissioner

Small Business Commissioner

Established in mid-2016 and with its inaugural holder, Paul Uppal, appointed in October 2017, you may not yet be aware of what the Small Business Commissioner (“SBC”) is and how the office can assist your growing business.

Appointed by the government, the SBC is a free to use, impartial and independent public body to provide small businesses in the private sector with the support that may be required to tackle late payment and unfavourable payment practices that otherwise impede their growth.

By government estimations, 33% of the payments to the UK’s 5.7 million small businesses are late, causing 20% of them to suffer cash flow issues as a result. The macroeconomic result of this effect on small business is a cost to the UK economy of £2.5 billion each year. On a positive note, the same estimations suggest that this problem is getting better with the amount owed to small businesses having decreased from £30 billion to £14 billion over the last five years. It is hoped that the implementation of the SBC will further help with these issues.

  1. Principally, the SBC plans to support small businesses through three main methods:
  2. Providing general advice, including assisting in resolving disputes;
  3. Identifying and publicising to small businesses other existing support and dispute resolution services;

Consider complaints about payment issues between small business suppliers (businesses with less than 50 staff) and their larger customers (businesses with more than 50 staff) and making recommendations on how the parties should resolve theses disputes.

The SBC also has plans to ‘name and shame’ any large businesses that are serial offenders.

The SBC has already provided some general advice to small businesses on how to deal with unfair and late payments and advises businesses to:

  • Check – ensure that all necessary information has been accurately provided for an invoice to be paid
  • Chase – effectively follow up when a payment is overdue
  • Choose – establish your options for further action if an invoice remains unpaid, including the option of lodging a complaint to the Small Business Commissioner

At this very early stage it is unclear exactly how much impact the SBC can have in assisting small businesses, although the collapse of Carillion may prove to be an early acid test to what we can expect in the future.

Ultimately, no one expects the SBC to be a universal remedy for the payment issues faced by small businesses. However, it should, at the very least, be a positive first step towards changing the culture of late payments that causes substantial cash flow problems for many of the UK’s small businesses.

If you would like further information on the Small Business Commissioner, please contact Kirsty Simmonds, or you can call us on 0345 070 6000.