Firms take longer to settle their bills

Published:  30 January, 2012

MANCHESTER: Businesses took an average of 25.97 days beyond terms to settle their bills in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 25.84 days in the corresponding period of 2010 but down from 26.17 days in the third quarter, according to new figures today.

The biggest improvement came from larger firms. But Firms in the northwest are still the worst in the country for settling bills on time, although their performance has improved. Research by information services company Experian found companies took 35.54 days beyond agreed terms to settle bills with suppliers during the fourth quarter of 2011, the longest time for any region in the UK but an improvement of 1.2 days over the previous three months and almost six days less compared with the same period of 2010.

Dr Brian Sloan, chief economist at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said the situation in the northwest was "worrying and very disappointing".

He added: "The culture of late payments in this country has gone on for far too long, but if persistent offenders do not change their behaviour, an unwanted legislative solution will be forced upon the business community."

Phil McCabe at the Forum of Private Business, said: "While big businesses might be waking up to the fact that paying their suppliers late erodes the supplier base and is harmful to them as well as small firms and the economy, it appears that the north is still lagging behind.

"This means northern firms are in greater risk of closing as a result of subsequent cash flow problems and, at the very least, it potentially fuels a north-south competitive imbalance. More must be done to make prompt payment, in full, the norm across the whole of UK."

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