Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

fotoLibra promises to pay our contributors within 30 days of receipt of payment. But there’s a big difference between selling a picture and getting paid for it.

On June 17 last year a London council got in touch to say that they were looking to purchase an image from us. They asked us to please fill in an attached Supplier Form so they could set us up on their finance system.

We filled in the form and sent it back to them the same day.

On April 24 this year the council got back in touch, saying “We are finally ready to purchase an image for our new museum.  As soon as we have your quote I will raise the purchase order.”

We confirmed the price quote the same day.

On April 29 the council wrote “We’re having a few finance issues but hopefully we’ll get them sorted soon and send you a purchase order.”

The purchase order arrived on May 8 and the image was immediately supplied to them.

We invoiced the council on May 18. They got in touch to say the invoice had been forwarded to the accounts department “who can take up to 30 days to make payment.”

On July 21 — 57 days later — we chased them for payment. “Sorry for the delay, I’ve chased it up for you,” was the reply.

On August 27 we chased them again.

There was no reply till September 2, when we were told “Finance are claiming it is not their fault, but a problem with the finance software. So I am chasing the people who run the software. Sorry for the late payment.”

The same day our purchaser got in touch again to say “Apparently I need to raise a new purchase order as the last one was incorrect. There’s no need for you to create a new invoice.”

Again on September 5 she wrote “The new purchase order should be approved on Monday. No need to invoice again.”

On September 22 we sent a copy of our statement to the payments address.

On September 30 we wrote to them saying: “We still haven’t seen any payment. Please give us a contact in your finance department.”

Immediate auto response: “I no longer work for ***** Council. Please resend email to blah blah blah.” The email was resent.

5 October: We sent a statement of overdue account.

No reply.

On October 20 a physical letter was posted to the Finance Department quoting both purchase orders, the invoice number, a copy invoice and description of the work.

No reaction.

On November 3 at 13:20 we contacted the Finance Department and the Purchasing Department to ask why we had received no reply to our emails or letter. “Unless we receive payment of £*** within 15 days we will initiate court proceedings against you,” we suggested.

A reply came from the purchasing department at 15:43. ” Very sorry, please accept our apologies. We are unable to forward your invoice to our Finance Department as they can only process invoices they receive from you directly. Please forward your invoice to the Finance Department at this address” [giving us an address we’d never seen before].

So we sent the invoice to the new address quoting both purchase orders, the original and the new one.

BIG mistake.

On November 5 we had an email printed in red. “Invoice rejected for payment due to insufficient information. Purchase Order Number not present, not clear or invalid.”

We immediately sent a revised invoice quoting only the second Purchase Order Number.

They responded on November 16. “Due to the time relapse [sic] could I re-audit your bank account details. Can you provide details on letterhead signed by person in authority in PDF format. [no question marks]

This was sent 3 minutes later.

On November 17 they replied “I have audited your account and removed the payment hold. Your invoice should be selected in the next payment run. This should be tomorrow, so the payment should be with you by next Monday.”

That’s Monday November 23rd.

Our breath is bated.


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31 Responses to “A London council buys an image from fotoLibra”

  1. Trevor Bounford says:

    That is reassuring. I thought people in local authorities did nothing all day. Now I see they are incredibly busy. So glad to see that local tax revenues are being spent so wisely. There must have been six or eight people engaged so far in delaying the payment.

  2. Stuart Pepper says:

    I bet the finance system is a well oiled machine when it comes to collecting parking fines, council tax, and any other payments due to it!!

  3. John Hasson says:

    Before you get on your high-horse about local authority jobsworths just consider how hard it is to appear to be doing something and getting absolutely nothing achieved. This is a skill which has to be maintained with regular practise.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      20 years ago I invented a multiplex device which could stare out of a window all afternoon, replacing at least six estate agents at a time. Never perfected it for local authorities.

  4. Brenda Skinner says:

    Is there ANY hair left on ANY head at fotoLIBRA?

  5. Ian Garfield says:

    Utter incompetence! However, I do have to admit that having worked with the installation of finance systems, teething problems do exist but anyone with the right frame of mind would get those problems sorted as soon as they arrive!! No excuses for the length of time you’ve had to endure though!

  6. Kyren Burns says:

    If you took them to small claims court couldn’t you add in your admin costs? If they’re made to pay for all your time they’ve wasted they might bother improving their financial system.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Well that’s what triggered the payment; we threatened to take them to the Small Claims Court. We do this on behalf of our Pro & Platinum members if a UK company forgets to pay us. We can’t do it for overseas entities, which is why we have to rely on credit card payments. Even then there’s a chance of fraud.

  7. Robert Ho says:

    This sounds like of “How many people does it take to change a lightbulb? scenario.

  8. Jane says:

    Shocking. Scurrilous Rude. Why are they.? .
    Should be named and shamed.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      We can’t name and shame. They’ve now paid. It would be wrong of us. But there is a BIG clue in the blog which I will refuse to confirm or deny.

  9. Frank Gorny says:

    You should ask them for a credit card number (someone there will have one to use on Council business, probably the chief exec to charge all his (hers) expenses on, or a BACS transfer up front. They will be used to this, because lots of their suppliers will have stopped supplying them on credit!

    • Jan Fritz says:

      Agree with Jane. They should be named and shamed. Long time ago happened with me too. After sending them another invoice with extra costs/interest cause of delay payment they paid -extra included- the same week. Even when it is not legal to do it works most of the time.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      And lose the sale? Because we would — unless the image was unavailable elsewhere and we were utterly confident in that.

  10. Judith Martin says:

    Name and shame! But maybe not until the money is safely in the bank. It is possible these days to feel quite sorry for councils given the vast cuts in central finance, but I still don’t see why ineptitude is cheaper. Of course, the cuts are often disguised as efficiency savings. Perhaps they’re doing just that: saving on efficiency.

    • Judith Martin says:

      Oh, and have you had other dealings with other councils? Is this uniquely bad? Or just a bit worse than usual?

      • Philip Carr says:

        Very simple, payment with order, otherwise do not supply the image.

        • Gwyn Headley says:

          Yes, we have dealt with several councils. With all government agencies the route to payment is more complicated than in the private sector. Peculiarly they also all seem to have much longer postal addresses as well. Most other councils take about 60 days to pay. They all pay in the end, which is not the case in the private sector.

  11. John Wearing says:

    So what do you learn from that Gwyn? Never deal with organisations like that again unless they pay up front which, I imagine, is most unlikely.

    I would very much like to hear what happens. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath!

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      We got paid about 25 minutes ago. It’s in the bank. But now we’re a recognised supplier. Should they use us again, I imagine payment will be prompt and efficient. And the sun is always shining, and there are fluffy white clouds in the sky, and everything in the garden is lovely.

  12. Geoff France says:

    If their responses had been as fast as yours the whole process should have taken about 2 hours from start to finish. I salute your patience.

  13. Paul Brzenczek says:

    i think that you should include penalties for late payment , they think again on how much it will cost them add process cost and they will pay faster than normal..

  14. Tony Grubb says:

    Imagine if the boot was on the other foot and you were paying them by now the bailiffs would have emptied your house and you would be in jail. typical council mentality