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Bill backlog at small firms an average PS32k; CALL BUSINESS EDITOR JON GRIFFIN ON 0121 234 5670.

Byline: JON GRIFFIN Business Editor jon.griffin?trinitymirror.com

THOUSANDS of small and medium-sized businesses in the Midlands are burdened with an average of PS32,000 in overdue bills - and waiting eight weeks to be paid.

Research shows that more than half (58 per cent) of SMEs in the region face outstanding debts compared with 55 per cent of SMEs in the south of England and 59 per cent of those in the north of the country.

In total, the combined amount of overdue bills owed to small to medium-sized businesses in the Midlands is running at a staggering PS9.3 billion, says the new survey by Bacs Payment Schemes Ltd.

It says: "To make matters worse, small companies in the UK are now having to wait an average of 38 days - or almost eight working weeks - before they see any money, with more than half (58 per cent) of the country's 1.7 million SMEs saying that large companies ignore agreed payment terms and choose when they want to pay up."

The research from Bacs, the company behind Direct Debit and Bacs Direct Credit, showed the national late payment debt now stands at PS30.2 billion, with one in ten SMEs saying they're owed a staggering PS50,000 or more in overdue payments.

And business owners are feeling the pressure with almost a quarter (23 per cent) of those reporting overdue settlements saying they're concerned about the impact outstanding debts will have on their company.

Mike Hutchinson, head of marketing at Bacs, said: "Just short of a million of the country's smaller companies are facing a late payments burden, with potentially serious implications for their business. "On top of that, our research shows that they can't rely on their customers meeting payment terms which they have set in the first place.

"Waiting eight working weeks after a payment is due before receiving the money could be catastrophic for vulnerable companies, particularly at a time when the economy is struggling."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 5, 2013
Words:330
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