Customers who are unsuccessfully able to meet payments are continuing to obstruct the growth of small subcontractors across the UK. According to research done by specialist financial services provider Bibby Financial Services (BFS) and industry experts, The Vinden Partnership (TVP).
Results of the Subcontracting Growth 2018 research, carried out in the aftermath of the collapse of Carillion, highlight that 60% have suffered from bad debt over the past year, with the average firm writing-off £16,149 each year.
Specialist Finance Director at BFS, Kash Ahmad, said: “Bad debt is a serious issue for many construction businesses and, across the entire sector, more than £2.8bn is written-off each year, representing a significant economic leakage.
“Bad debt occurs due to insolvency in the supply chain, protracted default or dispute and the issue is particularly challenging for smaller fir
ms that have already footed the bill for raw material and labour costs. This places a massive strain on these businesses, sometimes even causing viable firms to fold. For many, bad debt is the hidden cost of doing business.”
17% (almost a fifth) said the most popular reason for not receiving the full amount billed was due to a customer going out of business. A change in the scope of work part way through a project (8%), queries over the quality of work (6%) and disputes over contracts (6%) were also among the top reasons firms would lose money.
More than two-fifths of businesses (44%) said that construction contracts are difficult to understand, with 6% seeking expert advice.
Ahmad added: “The Carillion situation has highlighted three fundamental issues in the sector: endemic late payment, bad debt and complexity of contracts. Each of these issues needs to be tackled by both the public and private sectors. However, there are also measures that small businesses can take in order to protect themselves against such issues. Such measures can include conducting thorough debtor reviews, seeking advice on contract negotiation and considering bad debt protection.”
Helen Wheeler, Managing Director for Construction Finance at BFS, said:“Making full and correct payment in accordance with contracts is a fundamental pillar of the Government’s Construction Supply Chain Payment Charter, but it is clear that this simply isn’t happening. Unless something more tangible is done, the growth of tens of thousands of small construction firms will continue to be stifled.”