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Business Argus

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cutting red tape is set to help rms

From page 1 This Government has already stopped needless health and safety inspections. And wewill scrap overzealous rules which dictate how to use a ladder at work or what no-smoking signs must look like. Weve changed the law so that businesses are no longer automatically liable for an accident that isnt their fault. And the new Deregulation Bill will exempt one million selfemployed people from health and safety law altogether. Mike Cherry, FSB national policy chairman said this was an historic moment for the FSB.Meanwhile, Labour will announce plans to follow Americas lead by creating a Small Business Administration to work across government to boost growth. It will open up government schemes to small businesses and remove blockages to business expansion.

By Jo Barnes

The big question...

PLANS for a massive reorganisation of local government in Wales were revealed last week, with the number recommended to be cut from 22 to a possible 10. Business Argus has asked local business people what they think of the recommendations and whether they feel it would be good for business. Gerald Davies, executive chairman, Kymin, Newport WE ARE immensely over-governed and this does not achieve much. Take the last Belgian general election. There was an impasse and no-one would agree to join a coalition until, finally, a government was formed 14 months later. Nobody died, the trains ran on time, people paid their taxes, so how useful is any government? There are three million people in Wales. Yes, I know we are spread out a bit, but we do not need 22 county councils. The merger of Newport and Monmouthshire would achieve savings which could not be achieved separately . Imagine, one fewer director of education, head of planning, leader of the council. Other parts of Wales are so sparsely populated that a merger would create problems, such as Powys, which should probably stay as is. Anything that reduces the burden of over-government should be welcomed. Noel Williams, managing partner, Newportbased Kilsby & Williams Accountants IT MAKES a lot of sense to reduce the number of local councils, but to be beneficial to communities across Wales, this idea has to be translated into a successful outcome. If these proposed changes are based on supplying a better service while saving cost for council taxpayers through better management, systems and communications, then I think it has every opportunity of success. However, if the new councils just pool together all their current operations, then there is a serious risk of them sinking in a mass of political in-fighting, and without change we will end up with further costs and lower service levels than we Helen Barry, Partner at Quality Solicitors Rubin Lewis OBrien, Cwmbran

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they do it and will it be a seamless transition without causing major headaches for businesses waiting for decisions from them who knows?!

THE reorganisation will hopefully lead to less bureaucracy and more collaboration between authorities. This should mean the provision of public services in Gwent can be improved. Businesses are major users of public services and improving access to services means Wales becomes a more attractive place to do business and an increase in confidence increases both investment and innovation. More businesses willing to invest in Gwent ultimately benefits everyone, as employment rises and the local economy increases. Nick Park, director, Green & Co Accountants, Cwmbran I UNDERSTAND that the re-organisation is necessary because the councils are too small to be efficient or have sufficient resources. However, Birmingham City Council (one of the largest in the UK) is currently having to raise 1bn to pay legal claims over equal pay disputes. This does make you wonder whether the problem relates to size or to the way that councils are run? I do not believe that restructuring Welsh councils will be of benefit to local businesses. It may in fact waste resources in the restructuring process that could have been used to support local businesses. Jamie Davies, managing director, Crystal Group, Newport THIS can only be considered as a sensible way forward to save costs, yet how this will benefit businesses remains to be seen. Although there is potential for collaborative working within the new framework, I just hope it doesnt bring about a tendering nightmare, one which could push out SMEs as the reorganised councils inevitably rationalise their supplier base. If local authorities continue to work with Welsh Government with the support of its mentoring programmes, the current tending processes should become easier to understand and respond to, which by default will allow local SMEs to win local work.

have now. Business benefits from well-run council authorities which minimise charges and maximise service levels. Joe Walker, managing director, Newportbased Premier Forest Products IN THE private sector, business mergers are a way of cutting costs and combining strengths, so removal of duplication and streamlining the management of local government seems to be a nobrainer. If the commissions estimated reorganisation cost of 100m proves accurate and the forecast savings are delivered, then we would hope that would lead to greater (and more efficient) investment in areas such as transport and amenities infrastructure, education, and new social housing projects all critical to long-term economic success in the region. However, if opposing estimates of 200m reorganisation costs prove founded and come with substantial job losses as well then the effect could well go the other way . In the private sector, mergers generally combine one strong and one weaker business, with the stronger one steering the other to new levels of performance. Combining weak organisations with poor management is a risk. To some extent the jurys out on this one. The devil will be in the detail and the delivery!

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Zep Bellavia, managing partner, Harding Evans Solicitors, Newport APART from the benefits to those which will employ some of the 15,000 council workers estimated to lose their jobs and to businesses to which some council functions could be moved, the benefits are likely to be in the medium to long term, once the projected annual costs savings have made up for the upfront costs of 100m plus. If the proposed reorganisation is more than just moving furniture around, the larger, merged units could develop strong brands to benefit businesses eg in food, tourism and hospitality . Peter Lewis, managing director IAC Ltd, Newport ANY change can be regarded as a positive, but as we will end up with the same people under a new roof, I dont really see the point. Any reorganisation will result in another new building, vast expense and more initial confusion. It would be nice if government actually gave local government time to plan longer term. At the moment, we just get a five-year plan based on how best they can stay in office. No thought seems to be given to 20 years time. As for business, we just want to be left alone to get on with it.

Business rates are still a burden on our company and further expenditure can only force these further up. On Queensway Meadows, we have one bus a year, no highspeed broadband access, and no refuse collection. What exactly are we paying for? If a new system addressed the real issues of business, then it would be good, but we all know it will only be the same thing in a new location. John Newell, director, Kingston Newell Estate Agents, Newport WE MARKET properties for clients in both Newport and Monmouthshire and have had dealings with the planning and highways departments in both councils. Being able to have one point of contact would enable us to develop our relationships with the key personnel and in theory, their policies would be the same for the combined area, which would make life easier for both our staff and our clients. It will be interesting to see how budgets are allocated and how the financing of ongoing schemes such as the redevelopment of Newport city centre are dealt with. Newports council appears to have focused on providing business support for service, retail and engineering companies, while Monmouthshire focuses on agriculture: will this continue? I think it will benefit businesses, because of the increased buying powers the councils will have. But how

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