Council owns up to paying its bills late


East Dunbartonshire Council has admitted it pays hundreds of invoices beyond the standard 30-day limit – leaving many firms waiting for their cash.

But the authority, one of just three in Scotland to respond in detail to a quiz on delayed payments by councils, stresses it’s already performing better than the national average in meeting its debts – and is committed to further improvement.

A review of how local authorities pay people they have contracted work or services from has revealed widespread discontent from people, often small traders, who feel they are confronted by bureaucracy and indifference.

Companies of all sizes are said to often face lengthy delays getting money they are owed by the council – in East Dunbartonshire the overdue debt is reckoned to have amounted to £28m over three years.

However the authority says it’s on the right track, and that it aims to improve further.

Ian Black, the council’s director of finance and shared services, said: “We are continually monitoring performance - particularly in relation to the prompt payment of invoices - and are committed to achieving sustainable improvement.

“The council’s aim is to pay invoices within 30 days, but there can be unavoidable delays due to the high volume of invoices received.

“As an authority we have a responsibility to protect the public purse and further information often has to be sought before invoices can be paid.”

He added: “Performance indicators show the number of invoices paid within 30 days was 92.64per cent in 2013/14 - which is above the Scottish average of 91.93 per cent.

“We will continue reviewing the way we work in order to increase the percentage of invoices paid within 30 days.”

It isn’t possible to say whether some firms or types of contracted work are routinely worse off than others when it comes to getting paid.

Ian Black said:“Among other things, the ability to be able to process invoices quickly depends on containing relevant and accurate information.

“When this doesn’t happen, there can be delays.”

He added: “There is no obvious pattern or particular sector where these difficulties arise and we are mostly able to resolve them so they don’t recur.”