Small Talk: Late payers are still pushing small companies to the wall despite the efforts of ministers

Lobbyists for special interest groups invariably demand tough action from government in favour of their particular cause – often seeking new legislation. Yet as small businesses have found out to their cost, even when such legislation makes it on to the statute book, there's no guarantee it will have the desired effect.

Seven years ago, after years of complaints from SMEs fed up with their cashflow being squeezed by bigger business partners, the Government passed the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act. The aim was to speed up payments, particularly to vulnerable smaller companies. Unfortunately, the legislation has not delivered.

Research from Experian, the credit reference agency, shows that, on average, the typical British company now takes 60 days to pay its bills, a full two days longer than it did prior to the change of law in 2005.

As ever, it is SMEs that suffer. They take less time to pay their own bills – an average of 59 days – but have to wait more than 80 days for payment when working with a large company. And for every type of business, Experian's research suggests that the problem of late payments is getting worse rather than better. This year's figures are a marked deterioration on the position last year.

So what can be done about the problem, which groups such as the Forum of Private Business believes is driving otherwise viable SMEs to the wall? Well, the Government's response has been to reform a working group that disbanded four years ago after failing to persuade ministers to take further action on late payments.

Mark Prisk, the Business minister, insists that this time around, the late payment working group will be taken more seriously in Whitehall – but clearly, it is going to take some time to achieve anything meaningful.

In the meantime, Mr Prisk's government has disappointed many SMEs by failing to fast-track a new European directive on late payments into law. Ministers had previously suggested the legislation, which will set 30 days as the standard bill payment term, would be introduced this year – now they say the directive won't come into force until 2013, when it takes force across Europe.

Still, the last attempt at tackling the late payments problem with legislation suggests that without meaningful penalties, such initiatives are doomed to failure. And as one of the biggest contractors with the private sector of all, government does have real power. A ban on companies that repeatedly pay bills late from bidding for public-sector contracts might be just the stick that's needed.

Fluorite miner gets teeth into South African operation

Fluorspar, or fluorite, is not a mineral with which many people will be familiar, but it is used in products ranging from toothpaste to non-stick frying pans, as well as in industrial processes such as aluminium manufacturing. And one of its leading producers is a British company listed on the Aim.

Fluormin got its listing through a reverse takeover of Mahgreb Minerals last September, and has assets in South Africa and Tunisia.

In the latter country, the miner already has agreements in place with the commodities giant Glencore, but the latest news concerns its operation at the other end of the continent. It now owns 97 per cent of its flagship mine in South Africa, having just moved closer to the complete takeover of Sallies, the miner on the ground there (having bought all its ordinary shares, Fluormin is now mopping up its debentures).

The positive news has helped the company to hold on to the gains it has made since the shares dipped below 40p in November, with the stock now trading at 58p.

Security fears boost surveillance specialist Datong

Aim-listed Datong supplies governments and security agencies with covert tracking and location technology to combat crime and terrorism. Revenues have been resilient throughout the economic ups and downs of the past five years. last week a court ruled in its favour in a five-year patent case against a rival and Datong's shares closed on Friday at 28.5p, a gain of more than 15 per cent on the week.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
John Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

JQuery Developer (JQuery, C#, front-end, JQuery, UI, Tomcat)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organ...

Linux Systems Administrator - UNIX, Linux, Shell, Bash

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Linux Systems Administrator - UNI...

UNIX Systems Administrator - Oracle DBA, UNIX, Scripting

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Systems Administrator - Orac...

Linux Systems Administrator - (Support, Linux, UNIX)

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Linux Systems Administrator - (Su...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil