SUNDERLAND and North Tyneside councils are the most likely in the region to pay their suppliers quickly, according to a new study.
The research has shown significant variations among councils in the North East when it comes to paying their suppliers, but on average authorities in the region are settling invoices quicker than in 2009.
The Forum of Private Business repeated research it first carried out three years ago following Government orders last year that all councils should try to pay suppliers within a maximum of 10 days to help small firms’ cash-flow. Research for the North East showed an average 52.9% of invoices in the 2011/12 year were paid in this time frame, an improvement from 45% in 2009.
Suppliers were paid on average after 15.53 days, a clear improvement from 2009 when it was 17.9.
The research, which was carried out using Freedom of Information requests issued between May and July, still points to something of a lottery for suppliers.
Of the local authorities in the North, all but Northumberland, Carlisle and South Tyneside were able to provide details of average supplier payment times in time for the survey deadline.
Allerdale in Cumbria was by far the quickest, taking on average just 5.3 days – enough to make it the sixth fastest-paying council nationally.
Sunderland, Eden and North Tyneside were in joint second place at 12 days each. Darlington was slowest, taking an average time of 30 days.
The figures put the North East as fourth fastest payers of all the English regions. Those in the North West were fastest, while councils in Yorkshire were the worst overall.
“Despite all the pressure from central government for public bodies to pay money owed in less than 10 days, only one council in the North East region is achieving that figure, and frankly that’s disappointing,” said Forum’s policy adviser Robert Downes.
“In the space of three years, while we have seen some improvement in average payment times, which is pleasing, if you look at the bigger picture councils here have much to do to get even close to the Government’s 10-day payment target.
“That said, at least the movement on payment times is in the right direction, and there are some good examples of councils paying in fairly quick times, particularly if you compare them to large firms in the private sector where standard payment times are often 90 days or more.”
Councils here have much to do to get even close to the Government’s 10-day payment target.