In June this year the government announced its backing for the Prompt Payment Code (PPC). It also announced its intention to appoint a Small Business Commissioner to provide help and advice to businesses. However, whilst the government stated that it wished to work with larger employers to strengthen the voluntary prompt payment code, it stopped short of committing to a strict enforcement of the 30-day payment rule under the Prompt Payment Code (PPC).
Under the Prompt Payment Code signatories agree to a maximum payment term of 60 days. Members also pledge to aim to pay within 30 days when possible. So far more than 1,800 members have signed up to PPC.
Although the announcement was broadly welcomed, self-employed workers and business owners are now calling on the government to act on its promises. The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) believes that backing for the PPC, in itself, is not enough for the small business community: what it wants to see is the immediate appointment of a Small Business Commissioner, or ‘late payment tsar, to oversee the process.
A letter written by Margot James, the small business minister, confirmed new government measures to support the PPC, including the 30-day payment window to honour invoices to contractors and external suppliers. However, whilst the contractors’ group welcomed this re-affirmation of government policy, it said what was frustrating many businesses was the lack of certainty over when a Small Business Commissioner will actually be appointed to oversee such a regime. What businesses want, the IPSE claims, is the immediate appointment of a Small Business Commissioner.
Simon McVicker, director of policy and external affairs at the IPSE, said:
“We need a strong figure who can lead on better payment culture now.”
“Being paid late, or not being paid at all, can have a devastating effect on self-employed people,” he added.
Although Mr McVicker believes Ms James’ letter will offer reassurance that the issue of late payments is still firmly “on the agenda,” he believes that the selection of a Small Business Commissioner is now a matter of urgency. Although the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has re-iterated that it would ‘shortly consult’ on the operation of a Small Business Commissioner, the IPSE believes the appointment cannot wait until 2017.