U.K. Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal will step down from the position due to a conflict of interest, according to The Times.
Reports said the government has terminated its employment of Uppal following concerns raised over his involvement in an ongoing bank redress scheme, an initiative designed to enable small businesses to obtain independent support to resolve disputes with their banks. It is unclear exactly what the conflict of interest might be.
In a statement, the Federation of Small Businesses described Uppal's exit as a "disappointing development that will put the brakes on our efforts to date." In another statement, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed said Uppal's departure is "troubling."
Uppal’s position was established in 2016 to help small businesses manage disputes with their large corporate customers over late invoice payments. He led the emergence of a name-and-shame approach to late payers, with the government also readying to empower the small business commissioner to issue fines to companies found guilty of paying their suppliers late. The position is also slated to take over management of the Prompt Payment Code, a voluntary code of conduct for corporates vowing to pay their suppliers in a timely manner.
"We've made some genuine progress on the late payments front since the Small Business Commissioner first took office back in 2017," said Federation of Small Business Chairman Mike Cherry, according to separate reports in SmallBusiness.co.uk. "We've welcomed his efforts to name and shame larger companies, including Holland and Barrett, Bupa and Zurich, for poor payment practices. He also led efforts to reform the toothless Prompt Payment Code."
Cherry added that his departure will "put the brakes on our efforts to date."
Deputy Pubs Code Adjudicator Fiona Dickie will take up the small business commissioner role in the interim, reports said, until another commissioner is appointed in early November.