‘Paying quickly has never been more important’ UK Small Business Commissioner Liz Barclay has a seasonal message for large business finance teams


Given the number of shoppers I saw out and about over the weekend, the bumper pre-Christmas spending spree shops, restaurants and pubs were hoping for won’t have materialised. Indications are that footfall in town centres was significantly lower than researchers and retail groups were expecting. Optimism about Christmas celebrations this year is being replaced by caution about Covid variants.

If you’ve still got shopping to do, think small and local, and if you’ve got payments to tidy up before the holidays, please pay the small suppliers as a matter of urgency. They need all the help they can get to survive.

We’ve been hearing from small suppliers that previously good customers, renowned for paying well, are now delaying payments. Many firms are struggling to pay their suppliers because their customers aren’t paying them. If you’re sitting on cash and you’ve got debts to settle with small suppliers, it’s not acceptable to delay payments.

We will come out of this crisis, and if you don’t pay talented suppliers now, they won’t be there when you need them next year. Paying quickly has never been more important.

There’s a particular set of issues being faced by the hospitality industry. Restaurants are pleading for help because bookings have fallen through the floor. I feel for business owners who have stocked up to meet bookings for meals no longer required. I have friends in hospitality who are very scared for the future.

If you’ve got payments to tidy up before the holidays, please prioritise any payments to small hospitality firms. December is often an opportunity to build a reserve that can support a quieter January and February. With future customer numbers uncertain for now, settling payments to end the year will help sustain restaurants and pubs into 2022.

Small businesses facing issues with payment from their larger customers can contact the Office of the Small Business Commissioner for help, advice and guidance. Call 0121 695 7770 to speak to one of the Office’s professional caseworkers, or email enquiries@smallbusinesscommissioner.gov.uk


Contact: Ian Dexter on 0121 221 2510

Notes to Editors:

The Office of the Small Business Commissioner (OSBC) was set up by government at the end of 2017. Following growing concern about the amount of money owed to small businesses (those with fewer than 50 staff) by large business customers (businesses with more than 50 staff), the establishment of the OSBC saw steps taken to try to reduce this kind of business-to-business debt.

Established under the Enterprise Act 2016, the OSBC has the task of helping small business owners throughout the UK deal with the impact and possible consequences of poor payment practices. Some of the areas that the casework team grapple with on a day-to-day basis include overdue invoices and delays to payments, the imposition of unreasonably long contract terms and sudden changes to payment arrangements resulting from wider commercial challenges.

Through the provision of free information and advice, and a programme of lobbying and influencing large business stakeholders, the OSBC works to keep payment issues at the forefront of UK business discussions.

Currently, the powers that the Small Business Commissioner and their team have access to are focused on helping to manage disputes between small business suppliers and larger business customers. The OSBC can work as an informal mediator between parties in a dispute, as well as offering information about other kinds of financial and legal help. Not all these services are directly linked to government: the OSBC can help small businesses make connections with local and third-sector agencies as well.

The OSBC team of expert caseworkers can provide:

  • • general advice and information about resolving payment disputes
  • • a signposting service to further support, and to dispute resolution services through the OSBC’s own website
  • • a complaints investigation service focused on incidences of poor payment practice between small businesses (those with 50 or fewer staff) and their larger business customers (those with more than 50 staff).

The OSBC has the power to make recommendations relating to these complaints and help with dispute resolution. The OSBC’s services are completely free to use, and investigations will be treated anonymously if requested.