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Were businesses right to have no confidence in late payment tsar?


The effectiveness of the government’s small business commissioner is causing concern after a freedom of information request revealed that uptake has been slow.

Since former Conservative MP Paul Uppal was appointed in December 2017, the commissioner has received just 42 complaints relating to 14 companies. Of those he has “commenced consideration of two cases, with four cases pending, awaiting further information from the complainant,” according to information obtained by The Times

Whilst the move to introduce a small business commissioner was widely welcomed as a step in the right direction, many businesses predicted that the new role would have little impact on the UK’s late payment culture.

Before the appointment of the late payment commissioner last year a poll found that only 2% of UK freelancers and micro-businesses thought that the forthcoming Small Business Commissioner would be able to do anything about the UK’s payment problems.

And given that the commissioner has received on average little more than ten complaints a month since he took on a dispute-handling role last year, it appears they may be right.

His main role is to support Britain’s 5.7 million small businesses to resolve payment disputes and tackle larger businesses unfair payment practices to drive culture change.

He is able to make non-binding recommendations on how parties should resolve their disputes but cannot levy fines.

His limited powers and the slow uptake have caused some concerns in the business community. As a result, some business leaders are calling for a review of his role, despite it only being active for a few months.

Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors group, said: “The government must review the role to give him greater powers to investigate companies suspected of abuse of small firms and, in the most serious cases, to fine them.”

A spokesman for the commissioner said to The Times: “We are a new organisation and we need a certain amount of space. We are being proactive in raising our profile and awareness using a number of methods.”

What do you think? Were businesses right to have no confidence in the late payment commissioner, or is it too early to tell? Let us know in the comments below.


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