LATE payment is a common but often hidden fact of life for many small firms, according to small business commissioner Paul Uppal.

The commissioner listened to stories from businesses and gave out advice at a Business Wise event held at The Workshed.

The government post set up in 2017 is dedicated to tackling the issue of late payment to businesses, which in the last three months alone recovered £3.5 million in the UK.

Speaking with the Adver, Paul said: “This issue of late payment, it seemed to affect everybody in the room.

“It’s one of those things that isn’t spoken about enough, it’s seen as a secret, or a source of a bit or shame, that you’ve had a late payment inflicted upon you. But actually it’s very common practice.

“The truth is for big companies it’s free money, if you are going to push your payment terms up from 30 days to 120 days, it’s a great way to make your figures look good.

“Ultimately you are managing to grow your business on the back of the stress that you are causing to small businesses.”

The offices’ caseload helps small businesses with 15 employees or less reclaim money back from large companies who can use their weight to delay payment.

He urged more firms to come forward if they have been affected.

He added: “We are a free service, please speak to us, you don’t have to worry about losing your contract with a large supplier, we want information about what people are experiencing.

“We want to hear about good and bad practice, so we can praise good practice and we can admonish poor practice.”

Andy Phipps, from Swindon, and business development manager at Leeds-based Ctrack, said small firms can get caught in a trap when larger companies string them along.

“There’s quite a lot of it going around, and you can see the knock-on effect.

“They can agree a 30 day payment, then increase it to 90 days, and all of a sudden its 120 days and they are renegotiating how much they have to pay.

“As a small business your margins might have evaporated after they have gone and extended the terms for so long.”