As part of my “Backing Kent Business” campaign, Kent County Council made a promise to Kent businesses that we would lobby Government on their behalf to rationalise some of the spaghetti of overbureaucratic regulation which makes it so tough to do business in the current recession.
On Wednesday of this week, KCC Leader Paul Carter and I delivered on that promise. We presented the case to a crowded Committee Room A at the House of Commons in a session chaired by Andy Love MP, Labour member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Small Businesses. Paul Carter gave a presentation on the problems in the planning system facing construction businesses, and on the bureacracy of government systems and funding around skills and apprenticeships. I spoke about the success of the “Backing Kent Business” campaign, about the need for the public sector to join up and work smarter in their procurement processes, and about some of the illogical and obstructive tales I’d heard on my travels:
- like the small business who wanted to take on five young apprentices, but for whom the bureacracy was so overwhelming that they only took on one;
- like the thirty-something learning disabled man who sought only to get a job and pay his way, but whose employment sweeping a yard for a Kent haulage company would have lost him his benefits as his hours were more than sixteen a week. As a result part of his wages were comprised of sandwiches and cans of beer;
- like the nonsensical upper level of £140,000 above which any council contract has to be advertised right across Europe, often to the exclusion of companies in our own back yard.
After the presentations we adjourned to a reception kindly hosted by Kent MP Roger Gale, where Caroline Spelman MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government gave a keynote speech.
With many other local authorities present, alongside officers from numerous political policy organisations and government agencies including the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, this was a very successful event which proved once again that Kent is at the forefront in standing up for its businesses and residents on the issues that matter.