Peterborough tops late-paying cities table

The Small Business Commissioner set up in London to tackle late payment looks set to become a regular commuter on the M1, a study suggests.

In fact, Peterborough, Sheffield and Stoke on Trent are the first, second and third worst cities for paying the invoices of one-person traders on time, found the study by FreeAgent.

Another urban centre reachable from London on the M1 is Northampton -- the fifth worst-paying city (behind Chester, the fourth worst), found the study into 60,000 of the accounting platform’s customers.

And it not just a handful of invoices that these five cities tend to favour paying ‘late’ – defined as beyond a three-day leeway following the ‘due date.’

In the worst late-paying city of Peterborough for example, almost seven in 10 invoices go unpaid beyond the supplier’s contractual payment terms.

Similar proportions of invoices remain outstanding in the four late-paying other cities, with Northampton being the lowest, albeit still with around six in 10 being paid late.

“Paul Uppal has been allocated an annual budget of £1.4million to fulfil his remit,” FreeAgent said. “While it is a nationwide initiative, Uppal has identified the West Midlands as an area of priority.”

However, FreeAgent’s boss Ed Molyneux believes that without greater powers, the former Tory MP is unlikely to succeed.

A former freelancer, Mr Molyneux said: “While the government recognises the late payment problem, the reality is that the Small Business Commissioner has limited power to actually punish companies who routinely pay their invoices late, aside from just naming and shaming them.

“Late payments put freelancers and micro-businesses at significant risk, and we need stricter measures in place to tackle late payment culture.”

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