North East firms had more than 222,000 unpaid invoices on their books in May that had gone past the date on which they should have paid them – and the number is continuing to steadily rise.

According to analysis by insolvency and restructuring trade body R3 of new data provided by CreditSafe, 13,310 North East firms had failed to clear 222,559 invoices from their systems by the time they were due.

It’s the fourth consecutive month that the number of outstanding invoices with North East firms has increased, with the figure rising by around three per cent in the last three months.

The R3 data also shows that there were 1,509 new businesses set up in the North East during May, a rise of almost 200 from April’s figure (1,321).

However, the number of insolvency-related activities in the region, which includes liquidator appointments, administrator appointments and creditors’ meetings, also increased by more than 40 per cent between April (44) and May (62).

R3 North East chair Chris Ferguson, who is head of recovery & insolvency at Gosforth-based RMT Accountants & Business Advisors, says: “A great deal of work has gone into widening the adoption of good payment practices over the last few years, but the reality of the present economic situation may well be that many North East firms simply don’t have the resources to pay what they owe on time.

“Being unable to do so is one of the key indicators of business distress, while from a supplier perspective, struggling to get the money owed from customers is often a major contributory factor to the failure of many otherwise-viable businesses.

“With inflation now running at nine per cent and expected to keep rising, the cost of sourcing raw materials and then manufacturing and distributing products has soared this year, putting a huge strain on cashflow, while rising food, fuel and domestic energy prices are clearly having a negative impact on consumer spending patterns.

“In these circumstances, maintaining control over cashflow has to be the absolute priority for business owners, while proactively engaging with your creditors and potentially agreeing payment plans is more likely to result in a better outcome for all parties than simply allowing the position to further deteriorate.

“Business owners who are concerned about their financial position should seek qualified expert advice to discuss the different options available to them to deal with their situation – and the sooner they do so, the more options they are likely to have to put things right.”