Wokingham Borough Council and Oxygen Finance have been chosen as finalists for an award that recognised their commitment to local businesses. The Thames Valley Business & Community Awards shortlisted Oxygen Finance and the council for their Outstanding Contribution to the Community award.
Following the devastating economic impact of the pandemic, the council joined forces with Oxygen Finance using the FreePay program to ensure small businesses were paid in a timely manner. This allowed Wokingham Borough Council to pay £2.63 million to smaller suppliers early, keeping cash flow healthy and protecting hundreds of jobs and businesses.
Speaking about the announcement, Ben Jackson, CEO of Oxygen Finance, said: “Oxygen is in the business of helping local firms thrive. That’s why we are so proud to partner with Wokingham Borough Council, delivering a boost to the Wokingham Borough economy with FreePay. Together, we believe that accelerating payment to the small firms who most need it is the best way to help protect their cashflow and secure local jobs, which is why we are so delighted that we have been jointly shortlisted for this important award.”
Since March 2020, over 100 Wokingham-based small businesses have benefited from the FreePay scheme, making it easier for small vendors to be paid in a timely manner.
Small businesses and suppliers who get paid early can boost their productivity by not having to chase after unpaid invoices and make sure they can pay wages on time. The FreePay service also attracts future suppliers by contributing to the council’s reputation as a buyer in the local marketplace.
Businesses in Wokingham Borough who supply the council can access the FreePay scheme if they’ve fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover less than £5 million. Oxygen’s technology then screens each invoice received and highlights those that may be eligible for early payment.
Councillor Clive Jones, leader of the council, commented: “As a forward-thinking council, we always look for ways we can help the community and get money to the businesses that need it most. One of our key priorities is to ensure that none of our residents, or small businesses, get left behind as we rebuild after COVID-19.
“Our community vision sets out our intention to make Wokingham Borough a great place to live, learn work, grow and do business. Without the key pillar of stability for small businesses, there are so many individuals that would struggle and wider implications for the borough as a whole. We are delighted that our partnership with Oxygen Finance has been recognized and is in contention to win an award. It reflects our passion to see all residents given the opportunity to thrive, even with immense challenges working against us all.”
Around four in five small business owners report that the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. Getting payments before they are due helps maintain cash flow and mitigate headaches from reliance on loans or overdrafts.