Debt Recovery from a Council Funded School

A Borough of London funded Specialist Language Primary School had failed to pay two invoices totalling £9,360.00 within the agreed 30-day payment terms. The creditor a Speech and Language Therapy Consultant had fulfilled the brief and delivered the services requested to the satisfaction of their client. The invoices were issued in March and became due for payment at the end of April when our client started to contact the school to request payment. They were assured that payment was being processed and that they would receive a call back with a payment date. That call never came.

Our client was initially concerned about using a debt collector as they had never had to take such action in the past. We explained the process and how our service works, and the client was happy to go ahead. We received the instruction on 19 July and issued a 7 day Notice of Court proceedings the same day. There was no response to the initial Notice or our telephone calls and we became concerned that with the summer holidays fast approaching we needed to get a response quickly.

Our client had supplied us with two contact email addresses, however, neither of these was an accounts or admin address. We carried out extensive research and were able to find email addresses for the admin office, Head and the Finance Governor. We issued a 7-day Final Demand and emailed copies to the new email addresses. The response was instant. However, the explanation was unexpected, the Finance Governor claimed that the delay in payment was due to the school summer holidays, despite the fact that the invoices in question were issued in March and we’re now 3 months overdue.

Holidays are Not a Reasonable Excuse for Non-Payment

When we countered the excuse for late payment and explained that immediate payment was required. It became apparent that the Finance Governor took umbrage at our involvement in the matter. He advised that the invoices would not be paid until the school re-opened in September and that they did not recognise and would not pay the late payment charges that had been applied. They then ended the call by advising that they were not prepared to discuss the matter further.

We decided that the next course of action should be to issue a chronology by email to evidence our client’s version of events, the dates that the invoices were issued and became due for payment, and the significant time and effort our client spent trying to secure payment. We also explained that the late payment charges applied were statutory charges and that they were legally enforceable. Again this information was sent by email to the admin office, Head and Finance Governor. And again the response was instant, however, this time the response was from the Head. The Head was obviously aware of much of the chronology presented, and the telephone conversation was civil and to the point. The head in fact apologised for the delay in payment, advising that we could expect to receive full payment including the late payment charges the next day.

The payment was received the next day, and the principal invoice sums were transferred to our client’s bank account within the hour via a same day payment. We confirmed receipt of payment with the debtor and advised that our file in the matter had been closed. Our client was delighted with the free debt collection service supplied by Advocate, and kindly supplied a review of our service.