Claims by Birmingham City Council bosses that they are reducing a huge backlog of unpaid invoices following problems with a new computer system have been challenged by a businessman who says he is owed £20,000.
Lawson Evans said he had only been paid sporadically since September for a £1,000-a-week contract his firm has to provide security services at The Pump community centre in Lea Village.
Mr Evans insists he has submitted weekly bills totalling £17,800 and is waiting for a further £1,150 which was supposed to have been paid this month.
Only six out of 22 invoices sent to the council since September 3 last year have been paid, he said.
His firm, Smethwick-based Gemsec Security, received a fax from the council on January 18 saying that "hopefully" a cheque for £9,873 to cover nine weeks' missing invoices would soon be paid - but Mr Evans says the money still hasn't arrived.
The mystery deepened when deputy city council leader Paul Tilsley said he had investigated Mr Evans' claim and believed Gemsec Security was owed no more than £3,500.
The claim was angrily denied by Mr Evans, who said: "I have the figures. I have all the outstanding invoices and if Councillor Tilsley wants to make these claims I will quite happily take the council to court."
Mr Evans added: "I have been phoning and can't get through, and then when you do get through no one can tell you what is happening. It's like banging your head against a brick wall.
"I got a fax from the council saying I would receive a cheque for £9,800, but nothing arrived.
"I just don't seem to be getting anywhere. No one at the council wants to take responsibility for this."
Mr Evans, who employs about 60 people, said he was having to dip into his own pocket to pay the wages of staff at The Pump.
He added: "This is starting to have a detrimental effect on the business and on me personally.
"My men still need paying and I bet the guys at the council are receiving their wages on time."
Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon), who has overall responsibility for sorting out the new computer system, said significant inroads were being made into 30,000 unpaid invoices.
"I have asked staff to work at weekends to clear the backlog," he added.
The problems began in October when Service Birmingham, an arms-length company run by outsourcing firm Capita, installed the Voyager IT system - a wholly electronic method of paying invoices. The new equipment is supposed to reduce the amount of staff time taken to process bills and help produce £280 million of savings for the council over 10 years.
But it became clear almost immediately that the invoice scanning system was not working properly.
Finance staff were reduced to writing cheques by hand and the council was threatened with bailiffs by traders.
Coun Tilsley said: "Since the new system was introduced we have paid 216,000 invoices worth £327 million to 20,000 suppliers. We are doing everything we can to reduce the backlog. I will look at the specific issue surrounding Mr Evans and treat this as a matter of urgency."
Coun Tilsley said the council received 3,000 invoices a day, but was dealing with 4,200 - reducing the backlog by 1,200 a day.
He added: "The system is working and I am determined that we will iron out any problems as quickly as possible. Voyager will save money and time."
The council pays £1 billion a year for goods and services and settles 700,000 invoices annually.