Retailers says red tape strangling Newcastle small business

Murrie Harris of The Press on Hunter Street.THE burden of bureaucratic red tape on Newcastle’s small business owners is ‘‘energy sapping’’ and ‘‘counter-productive’’, according to local retailers.

A study conducted by Deloitte Access Economics has found that across the public and private sectors, government regulations cost about $27 billion a year to administer and cost businesses $67 billion a year to comply with.

It’s a cost that is all too real for retailers in Newcastle’s city centre, some of who say they feel ‘‘drained’’ by the excessive add-on costs of running a business.

Murrie Harris and his partner Ivy Ireland co-own The Press, a bookshop and cafe nestled within the bridal precinct on Hunter Street.

The welcoming cafe opened in April this year, and Mr Harris says he’s been ‘‘outraged’’ by the extent of the costs regularly imposed on them.

From the inconsistency of information from council, to specific imposts like the council’s proposed Outdoor Trading policy that if adopted at a council meeting on December 9 will see retailers in the city who place clothing racks, sales bins and signs outside their stores charged $108 annually for each square metre of outdoor trading space they use.

‘‘I know with this it’s only a small cost [but] it’s like they’re thinking sometimes, how hard can we work to keep people out of the city,’’ he said.

‘‘They really must be struggling to make some money because it definitely doesn’t seem like the right way to go about encouraging life in the city.’’

Paul Le Mottee is a Port Stephens Councillor and the owner of the Le Mottee Group surveying company, he believes the state’s planning system is ‘‘out of control’’.

‘‘No one knows anymore when something is an exempt development, whether they need approval for something or not, that lack of certainty is a serious problem,’’ he said.

‘‘But the biggest problem I see is that it should never take longer to approve something than it does to build it, and that’s just not the case.’’

But it’s not only government’s imposing costs.

One of the most surprising findings from the Deloitte report was that red tape imposed by businesses themselves costs $155 billion a year – $21 billion to develop and administer and $134 billion a year to comply with.

‘‘In those cases businesses can be their own enemy,’’ Mr Le Mottee said.

‘‘We have systems in place where people record what they’re doing during the day and that sort of thing, and it probably does take up say five per cent of their time, but I find it hard to see self-imposed regulation being in the same league as government red tape.’’

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