Alliance secures prompt payment pledge for SMEs – but why the delay?

Alliance Party Finance Spokesperson, Stephen Farry MLA, has welcomed a commitment from the Finance Minister, Nigel Dodds, towards the prompt payment of invoices from small businesses within a 10 day framework. The current target within Northern Ireland is 30 days. He had raised the matter through Assembly Questions and via the Finance Committee. However, he has questioned the delay in introducing this initiative in Northern Ireland given that the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson made a similar commitment regarding the UK Government’s payments in October.

Dr Farry stated: “I have been lobbying the Finance Minister to introduce a commitment to a speedier turnaround of invoices.

“Cash-flow is critical to small businesses, particularly in the context of an economic downturn. Government can do much to assist businesses in this regard through the prompt payment of invoices. Small businesses are a relatively important aspect of our economy, and government is a massive customer.

“This should have been a fairly simple move by government to help businesses during the economic downturn. With respect to the UK Government, a pledge to payment within a 10 day window was given by the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson back in October.

“It is important that the lessons of best practice from other jurisdictions are applied as rapidly as possible. There are many advantages from devolution in terms of policy experimentation and better responses to local needs. However, the flip-side is ensuring that there are policy responses in place to the same range of challenges that different governments face.

“Our Executive is simply not taking the necessary decisions quickly enough. For instance, the UK Government announced a bundle of measures to deal with fuel poverty and energy efficiency in early September. Three months on, our Executive has still to announce its equivalent package.

“While the slower response of our system is a concern, the right decision has been taken. The challenge now is to ensure that this pledge is now delivered. Businesses should challenge government Departments and agencies if prompt payments are now not made.”


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