An ex-MP has been named as the nation’s first ever Small Business Commissioner.
Paul Uppal, who also has experience in the property trade, will assume a role which has been created with the specific aim of tackling late payment.
The issue is often said to be endemic in certain sectors, with concerns about the toll that bad payment practice among large organisations takes on smaller businesses.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “[Mr Uppal’s] extensive experience as a small business owner makes him perfectly suited to champion the interests of small business and bring about a change in culture that will create a level playing field for everyone.
“His ambition to tackle unfair payment practices will help support our goal to create an economy that works for all…I look forward to working with him in the future.”
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the new role was very “much needed”.
National chairman Mike Cherry said: “The hard work now begins to make a real difference and address the billions of pounds owed to small businesses by large customers. If successful, this could see the beginning of the end for Britain’s poor payment culture.
“While the office will be up and running by the end of the year, we want to make sure he has the powers and the resources to resolve these kind of disputes.”
There are concerns, however, that the Commissioner faces a significant challenge. Despite ministers’ promises, some business leaders remain worried that the powers that Mr Uppal will have at his disposal may not be sufficient to address the long-standing problems.
A recent poll of small business owners suggested that only a tiny proportion thought that the issue of late payment had been taken seriously enough.