Why the latest BIS report is like a weak cup of tea

Is the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) just like a very, very weak cup of tea?  Perhaps – and I hate weak tea.  I had an excess of it at an educational institution in the 1960’s and thought it had long since disappeared until I stopped at some services on the M1 recently.

There it was again! Pale coloured, insipid dishwater. Ugh!  Only this time it was £1.70. Not even good enough to dunk a digestive.

A report like weak tea…

Yes, you’ve guessed it, BIS has produced a 34 page report ‘Building a Responsible Payment Culture’ saying very little indeed of substance.  In fact it lacks clarity and firm foundation throughout.

To give you a feel for the weakness of the document, the strongest assertion was in one area of reform in the public sector which was “subject to parliamentary time”.  I smell the delicate aroma of long grass there, don’t you?

The Foreword states that “The measures we set out will mark a significant step forward in establishing the responsible payment culture that UK businesses need to thrive”. So where is this significant step forward? Where is the real bite that UK industry so badly needs?

Whilst it is true that legislation cannot solve the endemic refusal to pay on time – the under-used and under exploited Late Payment Acts have shown us that – I do believe that strong support for our legal system, and late payment remedies, at the legal end of the chain can only help. 

Weak and slow government action

Sadly the Government has form when it comes to late payment. They have acted too slowly, too weakly and implemented changes that run contrary to their proclamations of support for businesses, particularly the small businesses that serve as the engine room of the UK’s fragile economy.

The European Directive last year (2011/7/EU) was adopted by the Government as late as possible, and I have seen no initiatives at all for buttressing “the recovery of costs” for legal collections, or anything like it.

It’s no good implementing regulations if you don’t give businesses the wherewithal to take advantage of them. Then earlier this year Court fees were doubled – a classic own goal by the Government and a massive step in the opposite direction!

Regardless of party affiliations, we all know that politics is the art of sounding like they might do the possible, and then doing nothing.  There are some nice sounds about supporting industry organisations like the ICM, and the Prompt Payment Code, but they’re not really taking on board the heart of the issue about Big Business imposing ‘unfair payment terms’.

I have to wholeheartedly support Chief Executive of the ICM, Philip King’s response that the Government has ducked the issue stating that “what is critical is the certainty of payment, more than being caught in arguments over 30 or 60 day terms.”

At the end of the day, we all know who the serial late payment offenders are and it’s about time the Government implemented some changes with real clarity and bite.

And on that note, I’m off for a good strong mug of builder’s brew.

Written by Charles Wilson, CEO, Lovetts PLc

Happy New Year – what’s coming up for the CCUA in 2014…


May I somewhat belatedly wish all CCUA members a Happy New Year! I don’t know where the time has gone since our offices reopened after the Christmas break but I’m sure we are all now back in the swing of things ready to continue lobbying for improvements in the court service.

Court Fee Consultation

The Consultation closed on 21 January 2014 after being rushed through in seven weeks which included the Christmas and New Year period.

Rob Thompson, Chair of the CCUA Lobbying Committee, drafted a clear and concise summary of the situation and I hope everyone managed to get a chance to read it . Should the fees be increased as proposed, past experience would seem to indicate that this will result in a reduction in the issue of money claims. As Rob points out, there was a decrease in the issue of Warrants of Execution when the fee doubled, showing the cost of action can be prohibitive.

Also, could the timing of the consultation be worse? As users of the court service, I am sure most of us are dissatisfied and in some cases, extremely frustrated with the inadequate service provided not only by CCMCC but by the court service as a whole. We can only hope the Ministry of Justice give careful consideration to the CCUA’s response on behalf of the members.

Regional meetings February….

South West Region – next meeting will take place on 5 February at the offices of Burges Salmon, Bristol at 10.30am for 11am start.

Greater London/South East Region – next meeting will take place on 20 February 2014 at BDO offices in Baker Street, London, at 10.30am for 11am start. The guest speaker is Alan Smith, Director – Corporate Governance, High Court Enforcement Group. His presentation will be on ‘The future regulations for execution against goods’ which will come into force as part of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 Order 2013 in April 2014.

Diary dates March

6 March 2014 – Northern Region meeting to be held at CCMCC (sponsored by Shoosmiths)

Simon Hardy, Chair of the Northern Region, says “The focus of the meeting will be the CCMCC and will include a tour of the operation and an opportunity for questions and answers.  Good attendance at this meeting would be much appreciated as HMCTS/CCMCC are genuinely keen to work with us and do welcome feedback”.

What a great opportunity to see inside the CCMCC and identify their main problem areas. Such a visit may help us, to help them, improve the service provided and gain a better understanding of their systems and procedures.

14 March 2014 – House of Lords dinner.

News for 2014…

Christmas is coming…

I don’t know about you but December seems to be arriving quicker each year so maybe now would be a good time to consider our New Year’s resolutions before we enjoy our well deserved break. With the CCUA committee becoming busier each year, how about a resolution to become a more active member of the CCUA ?

Volunteers needed

In 2014 volunteers will be required to attend workshops, provide updates and maybe even write a blog or two! Probably the easiest way to assist the Association would be to respond to any surveys emailed to us asking for our views on the service we are receiving from the courts. Monitoring the results ensures the Associate can provide valuable feedback and highlight the problem areas to those concerned.

Also, please remember that if you have having a particular problem on a case, this may be reported to the Association using the email address: claires@ccua.org.uk. Just a few brief details of the problem you are encountering and the court dealing with your matter is all that is required to log this. The more feedback we receive, the better, to build up a complete picture of the court service. In the interests of fairness, we should also report any exceptionally good service we receive!

We must remember that the result of all the work we put in should be an improving court service which will be beneficial to all concerned.

Regional meetings

Looking forward now to the regional meetings for December…

Northern Regional – next meeting will take place on Thursday 5 December at the offices of BDO in Leeds. One of the guest speakers is a representative from the Northampton CCBC who will provide an update on the activities at the centre and will provide performance statistics etc. The meeting will provide an excellent opportunity to network with other members and with representatives of HMCTS.

Central Region – next meeting will be on Tuesday 10 December at the office of KPMG in Birmingham. Greg Wasinski, Jurisdictional and Operational Support Officer, Civil Improvement Team, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service will be the speaker and his presentation will be on the very topical subject of mediation.

Diary date 2014

House of Lords dinner – Friday 14 March 2014.

Author: Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP


News from the CCUA Conference


As always the CCUA conference was a great success and this was followed by a hugely enjoyable gala dinner.  Although I was unfortunately unable to attend I managed to keep up to date with the events via  Twitter which proved very successful. I particularly enjoyed the photos and thought the celebratory cupcakes looked delicious!

Congratulations And Thanks

I am sure you will join with me in congratulating Central Region member, Jeremy Chaplin as he takes up his post as Chairman of the CCUA and Amir Ali, as he continues in his role as Vice-Chair. With changes coming into force next year with the new PCOL  and MCOL systems and continued issues with the court service, it will be a busy year for all concerned and ‘as many hands make light work’ if we all pull together we can make the work load a little lighter for all concerned.

A huge thank you must go to Brian Havercroft for all the hard work and dedication he brought to the role of Chair and although he will no doubt be kept busy, he may be able to take it a bit easier.

Another thank you must go to Anthony Sharp as he steps down from role as conference Chair and congratulations to Lisa Keating as she takes on this role.

Regional meetings

Looking forward now to the regional meetings for November…

Greater London and South East Region – next meeting will be taking place at BDO offices in Baker Street, London on Thursday 21 November starting at 10.30am. David Philpott, Conduct Redress and Standards at The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has agreed to come and address the meeting.

South West Region – next meeting will be on Wednesday 27 November also starting at 10.30am and will take place at the Offices of Burgess Salmon in Bristol.

Diary dates for December

The Northern Region meeting – 5 December 2013

Central Region meeting – 10 December 2013.


Author: Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP

Court Fees to Increase?

I returned to work after a short break to find the latest issue of ‘Court Focus’ on my desk. After grabbing a cup of coffee I sat down to have a read as a way of getting back into work mode!

Another great article by Brian Havercroft informs us that the Ministry of Justice is considering an increase in court fees.

It is hard to believe that the court would even consider an increase at a time when confidence in the service provided is at such a low. Although, as Brian has pointed out, we will have to wait for the results of the survey carried out by the Association and Lovetts LLP to confirm if members continue to be as dissatisfied with the service as they were last year.

The Ultimate aim…

It appears that an increase in the fees may dramatically reduce claims issued which may be what they are ultimately trying to achieve, however court proceedings are only ever issued as a last resort when all other means to obtain payment have failed.

Generally I find small firms are now reluctant to even consider issuing proceedings to recover sums due to them as they have to pay the court fee together with fixed costs with no guarantee of payment ever being received from the debtor.  Usually clients will ask for a more amicable approach to be taken in the first instance with claims only being issued against debtors who are withholding payment despite having the means to pay.

When we look at debt recovery success rates, I am sure we look at debts we have recovered to the satisfaction of our clients and not how many claims we have issued to court.

With the Association continuing to assist the Government to understand the debt recovery procedure maybe in time a user-friendly, cost effective system will be put in place.

Conference 2013

The annual conference will soon be upon us and this year the Association will be addressing ‘Civil Justice; is it still accessible in 2013?’ An interesting variety of speakers have been lined up and we will be provided with an update from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service in respect of ‘delivering services to the civil court users’.

The ‘Question Time’ session, chaired by Paul Lewis, should be most interesting and provide some lively debate in the afternoon before Gala Dinner and Champagne Reception.

All of this, plus the opportunity to gain 7 CPD points, makes this a great opportunity to meet new members of the Association and catch up with familiar faces.

Author: Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP

The New Alternative to PCOL

An interesting meeting at the Ministry of Justice was held to review the online claims procedure and in particular the PCOL system.


The Government website states “Government Digital Strategy and Departmental Digital Strategies commit us to the redesigning and rebuilding of 25 significant ‘exemplar’ services. We’re going to make them simpler, clearer and faster to use. All these are to meet the Digital By Default Service Standard by April 2014 and be completed by March 2015.

The 22nd exemplar in the transformation process is civil claims. Further information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/transformation/court-claims.

Discussion Group

The purpose of the discussion group was for members to provide information in respect of users requirements of PCOL so a completely new system can be produced rather than an improvement to the existing one. It appears at present that courts are still reliant on papers files as the current functionality of the system means a large proportion of contact with the court is still via paper and telephone calls.

It was interesting to hear the views of others on how the system could be improved and in particular the need to eradicate the use of paper claims. Currently PCOL is limited in its function and therefore a new system will need to be able to deal with a variety of scenarios such as deceased and term expired possession claims.

Another interesting feature discussed was the possibility of adding a Title Number to the property address details to assist with identification of the property which would be of use in respect of properties with garages or additional land.

Going forward

The meeting really showed how much needs to be discussed, as the allotted time passed so quickly, but hopefully further discussions will be held to ensure the success of the new system.

Further feedback from members on any functions they would like to have available on the system would be beneficial to all concerned and ensure the CCUA is at the forefront of promoting a user friendly, time saving, modern claims system.

Now time for summer hols and sunshine (I hope!).

Author – Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP


Is the economic cake now rising?

Signs of recovery

We all know what happens when you bake a cake with plain flour and forget to put the baking powder into it. It comes out rather flat, leaden and unappetising.

Just like our economy over the past few years. However, I’m beginning to see signs of recovery, are you?  Confidence is to the economy what baking powder is to cakes.  It’s the tiniest ingredient, but absolutely essential for success.

Rising figures

I noted recently that the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ June figures show that lending was up a huge 26% on the same month in 2012.  The quantity of goods sold at retail level is up 2.2% to June (ONS), small yet significant if sustained across the whole sector. So it looks hopeful.

At Lovetts, we’ve seen more companies prepared to ‘get tough’ with their customers, with our July Claims showing the strongest month since mid 2011. This makes me think that companies are more confident in their own future, and that they can safely take legal action against their customers, without that ‘fear’ of finding themselves bereft of business.

‘Fear’ and ‘confidence’ are probably more significant in business than anything else.  It is easy to blame the banks and rightly so. Even today’s headlines show that the cost of putting right the PPI scandal is over £18 billion, twice the entire cost of the Olympic Games!  But even without bank support for business, confidence can lead to winning ways.

It is the same in Credit control.  How confident is the CEO in getting future business, so he/she will allow the FD and credit manager to go strong on recovering outstanding funds?  More confident now, it seems to me.


But beware – companies, particularly SMEs, are prone to struggle for cash as they start growing again.  Most small businesses underestimate the liquidity required for even single figure % growth in Sales. So they’ll hold onto the creditor’s money for longer, particularly as their banks will not yet have loosened their lending strings.

So the cake is cooking nicely we trust, but none of us can afford to take our eyes off ledger overdues lest we get our fingers burnt just when things look more positive.

Author: Charles Wilson, CEO of Lovetts plc, Debt recovery solicitors