Public and private sectors ‘must collaborate to stem cash flow crisis'

Cash flow remains absolutely critical for Northern Ireland businesses is what will get many, particularly smaller firms, through the current pandemic
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BUSINESS has heard a call for government and companies to prioritise prompt payments as many firms continue to face a cash flow crisis brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The call came during an Access to Finance webinar, hosted by IoD Northern Ireland, the NI Chamber of Commerce and business advisory firm EY, and which attracted 500 participants.

The UK's Small Business Commissioner Philip King said responding to the crisis was about “collaboration not confrontation”, and he urged struggling firms to enter into conversations and negotiations with creditors.

“The one thing small businesses shouldn't do is bury their heads in the sand and hope this will go away,” he said.

“We want businesses to do the right thing and we want them to treat their supply chains responsibly.

“We need businesses of all sizes to recognise the human element of what are often seen as transactional relationships.

“It's not about waiting for the due date but making prompt payments.

“Conversations are absolutely key. If you are unable to make a payment, then have that conversation.”

Kirsty McManus, IoD NI's national director, said: “That 500 business leaders participated in this webinar illustrates how deep worries around cash and finance continue to go for businesses.

“A recent survey of our members found that cash flow is the number one concern for companies here, and this continues to be a major issue even with the government help that has been made available.

“Measures such as enabling firms to access rates relief and to furlough staff are hugely welcome, and many have already availed of these.

“But for those whose income has literally disappeared overnight, they simply cannot survive without additional assistance.”

NI Chamber chief executive Ann McGregor added: “The clear message from members is that cash flow remains absolutely critical and is what will get many, particularly smaller firms, through the pandemic.

“It's about working together where we can and for those firms that can afford to, speeding up supplier payments to ensure money continues to flow around our economy.

“We are on hand to provide guidance at this time, whether it is directing firms to the help they need to access available government measures, or using our collective voice to bring their concerns directly to those in positions of influence.”

Participants in the webinar also heard updates from Andrew Dolliver, partner at EY UK; Donal Durkan, executive director of strategy at Invest NI; and Paul Leonard, non-executive chair of the UK Finance NI committee.

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