AN Oldham business is facing an uncertain future after being left with £145,000 of unpaid invoices following the collapse of Carillion.

Neil Skinner, owner of Johnson Bros Ltd, a building, joinery and property maintenance company, is facing a long battle to build up work and finances in order to recover from the substantial loss.

Construction giant Carillion, which provided services for schools, hospitals and prisons, went into liquidation in January under huge debts.

Oldham-based business Johnson Bros Ltd, which has been operating since 1965 and employs 10 people, had a maintenance contract through Carillion since 2014 however had faced issues with late payment of invoices for work.

Mr Skinner, who bought the company in 2004, said: “A few years ago Carillion were reasonably okay at paying our invoices, but even this was based on the fact that we could threaten to stop working in the middle of a job if we didn’t get paid for the work we had done up to that point.

“They paid us under these circumstances but only because they knew any delay would look bad for their performance index.

“Even so, payments still often went over sixty days, with a lot of chasing, and once the job for a particular customer was finished our sanction, to stop working, was gone and their payments just stopped.

“Carillion finally resorted to using all the familiar late payment tactics from finding fault with an invoice, referral to their India accounts office, statement queries, disputed invoices paid, and so on.”

He added that the company, based on Overens Street, were owed over £145,000 by the end of 2017 and Carillion put forward a new payment scheme.

Mr Skinner continued: “They imposed a 15% non-negotiable discount on our work or said they would send all unpaid invoices back to their quantity surveyor’s (QS) department.

“We were faced with a choice of taking the reduction in order to get paid 85% of what we were owed or never know when we would be able to get any of the money.

“We reluctantly signed this contract on the Friday and they went bump the Monday, 10 days before the first part payment was due.

“As a result of Carillion’s late payment tactics small enterprises like mine will now be suffering greatly, if not terminally.

“They know late payment can destroy small businesses but they rely on this tactic to ‘cook the books’ and be seen to be profitable themselves, although recent events have shown that, in reality, they have overstretched themselves.

“Carillion owe us well over 15% of our average turnover and, following a difficult year last year, this money is much needed to help us survive.”

Mr Skinner added that although there has been two redundancies at the firm since the Carillion announcement, he is optimistic that they will recover going forward.

“It will be a lot of hard work but we will keep going,” he said.

“We’re looking for more work and contracts and speaking to our current clients.

“We are rejigging the website and networking.

“Our employees are supportive of the firm and are aware of the situation.

“I’ve faced a similar situation before following the financial crisis in 2007-2008 and we worked hard to recover from that so I am optimistic we can do it again.”

He added that he has been in contact with Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams following the collapse, and hoped that there could be cross-party support to improve working situations for business like his.

Mrs Abrahams, who is also Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, has previously campaigned against late-payment tactics used by companies.

She said: “I’ve been running my Be Fair - Pay on Time campaign for several years to highlight the bullying tactics of large companies like Carillon who use late payments against smaller sub-contractors as if it’s an acceptable business practice.

“I put down amendments to the 2014 Small Business Bill which would have not only strengthened action to combat late payments, but which would also have protected small businesses should tier one suppliers like Carillion go bust.

“Unfortunately the Government refused to adopt these and we are seeing the devastating consequences for small businesses now, including one in Oldham.

“Carillion’s habitual late payment tactics have left Johnson Bros facing a very uncertain future unless work picks up for them.

“It has been clear for months that Carillion has been in difficulty but the Government has continued to hand over contracts to the company even after profits warnings were issued.”