Some councils are failing to pay any of their suppliers within 10 days, a major study has revealed.
The Forum of Private Business issued Freedom of Information requests to local authorities across the country to see whether they were achieving prompt payment targets.
It is a year since the Government urged town halls to settle invoices within 10 days to help small businesses maintain their cash flows during the recession.
But the FPB found massive variations in payment practices, with the average time taken being more than 19 days.
About 52 per cent of bills were settled within 10 days in the West Midlands, but just 11 per cent were paid within that timeframe Northern Ireland.
Two councils said 0 per cent of payments were made within 10 days – Argyll and Bute in Scotland, and Down District Council in Northern Ireland.
Wakefield District Council in Yorkshire paid 1 per cent of invoices within 10 days.