Borough Hall ‘slowest at paying its bills’

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Borough Hall bosses are the slowest in the region when it comes to settling bills, according to a new report.

Research by the Forum of Private Business has identified Bedford Borough Council as the slowest-paying local authority in the East of England.

The authority takes an average of 31 days to pay supplier invoices, according to the not-for-profit business support organisation.

Forum spokesman Robert Downes said: “Bedford was the slowest paying authority in the East.

“While 31 days to get paid may not seem that long when compared to the private sector, where payment times can be as long as 90 days or even longer, we have to look at this in context. The government has asked for all councils to pay suppliers in less than 10 days, and clearly Bedford are in no way even close to this target.”

According to the forum Borough Hall paid 85 per cent of invoices in under 30 days, and just one in six bills in less than ten days.

Mr Downes added: “In an age of austerity, where cash flow is so crucial to the success of small firms, whatever their size, Bedford really must be doing better with public money.

“Prompt payment is a way for local authorities to help SMEs survive. Taking on average more than a month to pay just isn’t good enough for a council.”

A Bedford Borough Council spokesman said: “The council is committed to improving on past performance in this area, and through our efforts we have already increased the rate of payments made within 30 days to 92 per cent.”