NEARLY half of small businesses are waiting at least three months to be paid for services rendered, it was claimed yesterday.
The latest credit watch survey by small firm trade group ISME, says that 44pc of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) wait 90 days or more to be paid. The average wait time nationally is 73 days, while 14pc of companies have to wait four months or longer for payment.
ISME chief executive Mark Fielding blamed "big business" and state agencies for the delay in payments.
The figures contrast sharply with the Government's own prompt payments scheme, which has seen government departments pay 97.5pc of their bills within 15 days. That scheme is now being extended to state agencies including the HSE.
ISME said its members were particularly vulnerable to the lack of cashflow, as most were relying on a small number of major customers and so did not have the cashflow to be able to sustain the business while waiting to be paid.
Mr Fielding said: "When smaller businesses are not being paid on time, they cannot in turn pay their suppliers and the vicious circle ends with the smallest and most vulnerable being forced to close down."