Scots councils criticised for not paying debts for years
The revelations show that charities, companies, other councils and even the TV Licensing Company have been left waiting extraordinary lengths of time for their money.
Every local authority in the country was asked to provide details of times they failed to pay a bill within the 30 day time limit over the last three years.
Only three responded in any detail – the majority choosing to simply highlight overall percentages while some provided no information at all.
The response from Edinburgh Council listed 109,680 late invoices totalling £59.7 million over just three years. Included was an invoice for more than £6,000 from the Carolina House Trust, a charity that helps care for children, which was only paid after 968 days.
Also on the long list was a £100 invoice from British Gas which was cited as taking 773 days to pay and a £50 invoice from a hotel that took the council 793 days to pay.
Meanwhile West Lothian Council had 25,255 late bill payments worth more than £49m over three years. Included in its late payments were five invoices for TV Licensing and more than 150 late payments to ScottishPower.
East Dunbartonshire Council was late paying 16,815 invoices worth £28m over the three years.
But it appears this could just be the tip of the iceberg. Official figures for 2013/14 for all Scottish councils show on average eight per cent of invoices were unpaid within the 30 day period.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the figures should be a wake-up call.
He said: “Councils should be leading by example when it comes to paying their suppliers and partners.
“Local authorities are keen to chase taxpayers for prompt payment, and the least companies and charities which interact with or provide services to councils would expect is that they get their invoices paid on time, too.
“Not paying invoices on time can have a serious impact on an organisation’s cash flow, with potentially disastrous consequences, and these figures must be a wake-up call that councils have to improve.”
A former sales ledger clerk at an Edinburgh heating company, who asked to remain anonymous, described getting councils to pay bills as infuriating.
Speaking about her experience of Edinburgh Council paying invoices she said: “It feels like there is a huge chain of people you have to work through before you get to the source.”
A spokeswoman for West Lothian Council said it is one of the highest ranked Scottish councils in terms of paying invoices within the 30 days of receipt target.
She said: “In 2013/14, the Scottish average for payment of invoices within 30 days was 92.15 per cent compared to West Lothian achieving 96 per cent. On average the council pays suppliers within 22 days.”