LATE invoice payments by Milton Keynes Council could put small companies out of business, according to the chairman of the audit committee.
Councillor Brian White demanded answers at last week’s meeting as to why the council’s broadband service was cut off – as reported in the Citizen two weeks ago.
Council chief executive David Hill said that while the council does pay most of its bills on time, 10 per cent are paid late.
The council receives 5,000 invoices a month, meaning 500 of them are paid late – outside of the 30 day limit.
Mr White said: “We asked the question about the broadband service and why the bills weren’t paid and the chief executive told us that 90 per cent go on time.
“We want to know why the other 10 per cent aren’t paid on time, what they are and how much it costs.
“It could be devastating for small businesses, who rely on invoices to be paid on time. For huge companies, it might not matter as much, but a small, local business may be heavily reliant on that money for the day-to-day running of their company and a late invoice could really spell problems.
“I accept that there may be reasons for late payment sometimes but there needs to be a more efficient system in place to prevent this from happening.”
The council however defended its position, explaining there were a number of reasons for late payment.
A council spokesman said: “There are many issues which mean that payments to suppliers may not be within 30 days. For example the Council may have a dispute over the invoice in terms of the goods or services received and so may need to address this with the supplier before a payment can be made.
Invoices may be delayed, be sent to an incorrect address or not have the correct purchase order information on them when they are received, so in an organisation that processes around 5,000 invoices a month, it may take some time to determine whether this is a correct payment to make and to ensure the supplier is paid.
“There are also some instances where we need officers to confirm goods or services have been ordered and received before any payment can be made.
“As the Council is spending public funds we need to ensure that any amounts invoiced are correct and are owed by the Council, before any payment is made. We do receive duplicate invoices and fraudulent claims, so we need to be careful before any payment is made.”