MSP slams council's slow bill payments

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 17:06 BST on Friday 13th July 2012.

Central Scotland MSP Margaret Mitchell has criticised North Lanarkshire Council as new figures show that NLC is just one of a number of Scotland’s thirty-two local authorities failing to pay bills.


Mitchell, who is a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party MSP for Central Scotland uncovered the nationwide data through a Freedom of Information act.


The figures show that most Scottish local authorities are failing to pay their invoices within ten days, with the Scotland-wide average showing only 38% of bills being paid within this timeline in 2011/12.


“The Scottish Government target for the payment of invoices by public sector

organisations is ten working days and is supposedly a key element of the Scottish

Government’s economic recovery plan,” Margaret said.


“Local Government is a substantial customer for Scottish businesses, both large and

small, and the longer payments take the more difficult it is for these businesses to

manage their cash flow and to pay their own suppliers.


“In 2011/12 the Scottish average was only 38%, with one local authority’s record as

low as 13%.”


Between 2011 and 2012 North Lanarkshire Council paid up 18% of invoices within ten days, which is up from 12% between 2007 and 2008, but down from 19% between 2009 and 2010.


“Worst still ten of Scotland 32 councils do not collect the necessary information

so have no idea how they are doing in relation to the ten working days target. This

is totally unacceptable especially at a time when local authority finances are tight

they should have the information to hand about how their budget is being spent,” the MSP added.


“Overall, four councils’ performance has actually decreased on previous years and

six councils, including North Lanarkshire, paid less than 20% of invoices within the



“If some councils are able to pay 80 or 90% of their invoices in ten working days then

there are no excuses for others only being able to pay below 20%.


“Scottish businesses require and deserve better and small businesses are in

particular adversely affected by the lack of prompt payments. If the private sector which creates the jobs to pay for the public sector is adversely affected this will

rebound on local authorities in time. All of the public sector must do better to pay its

bills faster and the Scottish Government needs to tell us what they are actually doing

to ensure this.


“It is not enough for the Scottish Government just to talk about prompt payment – it

needs to make sure it happens in practice as well.”


Although North Lanarkshire Council’s results have been criticised its payment turn around was not the worst of all local authorities, with East Renfrewshire Council, West Lothian Council, East Dunbartonshire Council and South Ayrshire Council having a lower score than North Lanarkshire Council between 2011 and 2012.

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