Paul Uppal has left his role as Small Business Commissioner due to a conflict of interest.
According to The Times, Uppal was told that the business department felt his involvement in establishing a bank redress scheme was a conflict of interest. The department indicated that his departure was not related to performance but to an unspecified breach of terms of his appointment.
Uppal has been helping the banking industry and small business groups to set up the business banking resolution service. The aim of the service is to help SMEs with unresolved complaints to get an independent view of their dispute.
He stepped down on the evening of Friday 11 October.
Getting more powers to help small businesses
The role of Small Business Commissioner was established in 2016 as a mediator of payment disputes between small and large companies. Since taking the position, Uppal has introduced a practice of naming and shaming companies that treat suppliers poorly. He was also going to be given powers to fine companies guilty of late payment and force them to deal with him directly, as well as taking over the running of the Prompt Payment Code.
Mike Cherry, the chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:
“We’ve made some genuine progress on the late payments front since the Small Business Commissioner first took office back in 2017. 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.
“This is a disappointing development, one that will put the brakes on our efforts to date.
“The appointment process needs to be efficient and thorough. We lose 50,000 business a year to late payment at a cost of at least £2.5 billion to the economy. We can’t delay further action to tackle this crisis, especially in such an uncertain climate.”
Fiona Dickie, the Deputy Pubs Code Adjudicator, will provide oversight in the Small Business Commissioner role until early November, pending the appointment of an interim commissioner.
An open recruitment campaign to appoint a new Small Business Commissioner will get started immediately.