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Small businesses in Victoria are expected to have an easier time working with local councils, thanks to the launch of the Small Business Friendly Council initiative (SBFC) on Tuesday, and ongoing gains from the Better Approvals Project.
Launched by the Minister for Small Business, the Hon. Adem Somyurek MP, at Maker Fine Coffee in Richmond, the SBFC is the result of a partnership between the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) and local councils.
Councils that sign on to the charter promise to pay small businesses within 30 days, support businesses in managing the impact of infrastructure projects, streamline the approval process when starting a business and help set up and support local business networks.
“We are carrying this work out collaboratively because local councils play such an important role in supporting small businesses within their local community,” Commissioner Judy O’Connell said in a statement.
This is evidenced by an earlier initiative between the Government and local councils to reduce the time it takes to process business permits. The Better Approvals Project has been taken up by 19 councils so far and produced a 73 per cent reduction in average approval times.
The Glen Eira City Council, for instance, reduced the waiting period for footpath trading permits from 126 days to 11 days after adopting a new framework through the program.
Indeed, the success of the Better Approvals Project is what led to the development of the SBFC. The City of Glen Eira was the latest council to sign up to the SBFC on Tuesday.
“We know that red tape can be a barrier to growth for small business and that is why we are working with local government to improve regulatory processes and reduce the time and money small businesses spend on compliance,” Minister Somyurek said in a statement.
The SBFC is also expected to help small businesses by improving the lines of communication with local councils, and making it clear who the best point of contact is – two challenges that Stephanie Vroom, the owner of Maker Fine Coffee, said she faced when starting her business four years ago.
“The time-frame and the direct path of who to speak to [when applying for permits] is a little bit of a challenge,” Vroom told Inside Small Business.
The process of acquiring a permit to start her business was “lengthy and confusing”, she said, adding that if the initiative helps small-business owners know who to speak to, that would be helpful.
“The communication path is something that this initiative seems to make better,” she said.