A Co Down councillor has raised cost of living crisis concerns for small business owners who are not being paid on time by the local authority.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) was provided with an audit report this week showing 207 invoices to the authority were not paid within 30 days.
Adherence to prompt paying of invoices is not mandatory for councils, though the Department of Environment’s local government policy division encourages a 10 day commitment made by the NI Executive in response to the current economic situation.
Rowallane Alliance rep, Tierna Kelly, said: “I’ve been speaking with small businesses recently and they have been pushing on this matter.
“In terms of the invoices that were paid outside of the 30 day period, they discussed how councils should produce a commentary or basically reasons behind why those payments aren’t paid.
“Generally there might be an issue of the way invoices are filled out, but is there a way for the council to produce its reasons, so we can understand why some invoices aren’t making the cut so to speak?
“It does have a knock-on effect when 207 businesses are not getting paid, then they can’t pay others down the line.”
The audit report shows the council’s unpaid invoices amount to 4% ot the total invoices and has been lower than previous financial quarters of 2023, with the highest being at 6%.
However, in terms of the Executive’s 10 day commitment the NMDDC invoice payment number has improved significantly from 36% (April -June 2023) to 63% (Oct -Dec 2023).
A council officer said: “We currently present the statistics to the Department for Communities and this is the information that they require in the report.
“In terms of other councils, we are one of the top councils.
“It would be quite a detailed piece of work to go through every invoice that misses the payment period and to bring it back to the audit committee.
“I am not sure members would require that level of detail.
“In certain situations there are invoices that do not have the correct information, so there will always be invoices that miss the 30 day period.
“We are trying everything we can to mitigate that and the figures are coming down.”