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Public-sector payment probe underway

The Forum of Private Business has started a mammoth research project into how long Government clients take to pay suppliers.

The small business support body is submitting Freedom of Information requests to every council and health trust in Britain.

The project comes almost a year after the Government urged councils and the NHS to commit to paying their suppliers within 10 days to help counter the recession.

Statistics recently released by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills show many Government departments are achieving this aim. But the FPB believes its members are much more likely to work for a council or health body than a Whitehall department.

The not-for-profit organisation then intends to name and shame those with poor practices, while highlighting the work of those which pay suppliers in good time.

FPB policy representative Matt Goodman said: “We believe that our requests under the FOI Act will paint a telling picture of how long small businesses across the UK are waiting for their local health trusts or councils to settle their bills.

“With the recession hitting home, being paid on time can mean the difference between success and failure. The issue of late payment is a huge one for smaller businesses but many of them are reluctant to speak out about it because they are afraid of losing work.

“By finding out this information, we will be fighting their corner for them and putting pressure on any councils or trusts who aren’t paying in good time to change their ways. But we’ll also use it to highlight those who are helping small businesses in their areas by paying promptly.”