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Trust chief warns county over unpaid invoices

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A foundation trust boss in a struggling health economy has raised the prospect of a “formal dispute” with the county council over more than £2m of late invoice payments.

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Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust says it is owed £2.1m by Cornwall Council after taking on a contract for adult community services in April 2016.

Health Service Journal reports that minutes from the trust’s November board meeting reveal chief executive Phil Confue told directors he would consider raising the situation to “formal dispute level… if things did not improve”.

In response, the unitary authority said it must be satisfied “invoices provide sufficient information” before it can make payments.

When an invoice is sent, the purchaser usually has 30 working days to pay – but the £175m income trust told HSJ the council has missed this deadline for 35 invoices with a combined value of £2.1m.

The oldest unpaid invoice is from November 2016 and the oldest unpaid invoice “of material value” is from March 2017, a trust spokeswoman said.

The invoices relate to better care fund arrangements between the council and previous adult community services provider Peninsula Community Health, which were inherited by the trust. Neither the trust nor the council would say exactly what the arrangements relate to.

Asked what impact the money owed has on the trust’s cash flow, the spokeswomen said the trust would incur a 3.5 per cent interest charge if it is forced to take a loan from the Department of Health and Social Care while the invoices remain unpaid.

“The 3.5 per cent interest charge is a real cash cost to the trust,” she added. This would equal just under £75,000. It has rated the issue as “red” in its finance risk analysis.

The trust is also awaiting payment for 30 further invoices worth £1.3m that are still within the 30 working days payment window.

The spokeswoman said the trust was working with the council and was “confident” there will be no need for escalation to a formal dispute.

A council spokeswoman said: “The council takes its duty to pay for services it has procured in a timely way very seriously.

“However, it also has a duty to ensure the proper use of public funds and must be satisfied that invoices provide sufficient information to make payment.

“The council has a positive working relationship with Cornwall Partnership FT and is working together to resolve any outstanding issues.”

Last month, it was announced the council will take over some of the functions of Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, which is rated inadequate.

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