• Seasoned business lawyer and former journalist Liz Barclay has been appointed head of the government office dealing with late payments to companies
  • The appointment follows reforms to the Prompt Payment Code and consultations on the Commissioner’s powers to help eradicate poor payment practices
  • Ms. Barclay will be the first woman to hold the office

The government announced today (March 16) the appointment of Liz Barclay as Commissioner for Small Businesses to fuel national efforts to tackle late bills that cause thousands of small businesses to shut down every year.

Liz Barclay will be the first female small business commissioner, a position established in 2016 to help small businesses secure payments owed to them and to motivate UK businesses to adopt a new culture of instant payments.

Over £ 23.4 billion is owed to UK businesses in outstanding bills. Some companies wait several months before paying their suppliers, which has a huge impact on the bottom line of many small businesses.

Small businesses account for two thirds of private sector employment in the UK and more than half of corporate turnover. Late payments damage their income, which can stunt investment or job creation and, in the worst case, lead to job losses and the closure of businesses.

Measures to support business and end this harmful practice will continue to be a key priority as the government seeks to support small businesses and better recover from the pandemic.

Liz Barclay said:

We need a real culture shift in terms of corporate payments in the UK to unburden our phenomenal entrepreneurs. People who have already delivered goods and services need to be able to focus their attention on their next customer and order instead of tracking late payments and worrying about their cash flow. I know from personal experience how damaging this can be to mental and emotional health.

By working with companies and making sure their concerns are heard, I hope to be able to deliver a payment regime that keeps money flowing and works for everyone.

Small Business Secretary Paul Scully said:

After running small businesses for most of my professional life, I know how toxic late invoices can be, adding unnecessary uncertainty when business owners track payments that should have been made weeks or even months ago.

I thank Phillip King for his work as the Interim Small Business Commissioner, and I welcome Liz Barclay in this vital role of driving the positive changes we need to see and advocating for our hard working small businesses.

The appointment of Ms. Barclay is the latest in a series of measures the government has taken to address the late payment problem.

Last year, the government consulted new powers for the commissioner, including the power to order payments, impose fines and initiate open investigations based on information from third parties. The replies to the consultation and further proposals will be published in due course.

In January of this year, the government also announced reforms to the Prompt Payment Code, a voluntary program in which companies undertake to pay their partners on time, promote further cultural change and encourage companies to address their practices.

The government is committed to helping UK small businesses and has provided unprecedented support throughout the pandemic. Other support announced in the budget earlier this month includes:

  • £ 5 billion in new Restart Grants – a one-time cash grant of up to £ 18,000 for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and fitness businesses in England
  • a new UK recovery loan program providing loans between £ 25,001 million and £ 10 million and asset and billing financing between £ 1,000 and £ 10 million to help businesses of all sizes in the next phase of recovery
  • A new Help to Grow program giving a digital and management boost to up to 130,000 businesses across the UK

About Liz Barclay

Liz Barclay is a small business and consumer affairs broadcaster, producer, and writer. She began her career as a consultant and then CEO at Citizens Advice before moving to radio and television production and presentation specializing in business and consumer affairs. She is the Commissioner for Financial Inclusion. Chairman of the BSI consumer forum and the fair-by-design campaign; a non-executive director of 2 organizations and a member of the Standards Boards of the Fundraising Regulator and Equity Release Council. She is also an ambassador for the Money Advice Trust and Business Debtline.

Liz works with boards of directors and small businesses to improve governance, trust and culture, diversity, and understanding of customer behavior. She trains communication and presentation skills, leads national and international conferences and has written several business books.

Notes for editors

  • Liz Barclay’s term as Small Business Commissioner begins July 1 when she replaces current Interim Commissioner Philip King
  • According to a 2016 study by the Association of Small Businesses (FSB), around 50,000 companies close each year due to late payments
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