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Methodology

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									APPENDIX 1: Summary of Results of Business Consultation

Methodology

A consultation document was sent to the coordinators of 16 business groups in Bromley and
surrounding areas. They ranged from the regional branch of the Federation of Small Business to
various small traders groups around the borough. In some cases members of the Local Economy
Team attended meetings of the groups. All coordinators were asked to circulate the document as
widely as possible to their membership. Additionally, the consultation was flagged up on the
Bromley Council website, with the consultation document made available electronically.

Response

Response rates were low – however the quality of response was good with 5 people responding
fully in writing (most by email) and there were some additional comments received verbally. Two
of the written responses were from property / real estate businesses, and another was from an
employment agency.

Themes

In terms of the specific remit of the Business Support Services Group in dealing with reducing ‘red
tape’, responses were generally supportive. Salient comments were as follows:

      Reduce bureaucratic procedures, particularly around planning processes
      Provide more available and knowledgeable staff to provide guidance around system
      Combine forms where possible
      Provide more written guidance on legal requirements (particularly on website)
      Make more forms available on web
      Licensing procedures and forms need to be simplified
      More consistency of approach in applying rules / providing advice

Specific feedback

Since there were so few responders to this consultation it is possible to summarise in brief the
specific items of feedback, as shown below.

A Chislehurst business owner praised the efforts of the new Street-cleaning contractors for the
areas but requested more litter bins along Chislehurst High Street and asked for businesses to be
given a named contact and telephone number about street cleansing.

A Biggin Hill based property company raised several issues: Business Rates are considered
too high and it is difficult to obtain relief on empty properties. Parking also an issue with not
enough public provision in some areas. Planning was considered to be too slow, bureaucratic and
often indecisive. Town Centres need to have more visible policing to deter vandalism and theft
and more diversionary activities need to be provided for young people.

An Orpington based property agent considered that information provided by Building Control,
Business Rates and Environmental Health & Trading Standards generally clear and helpful.
Issues with: Planning – sometimes contradictory information and advice provided by planners;
Licensing: procedures and forms very difficult for businesses to negotiate; Town Centre
Management – suffers from lack of funding; Waste – Council needs to initiate some form of
recycling service for business (particularly of paper).

An Orpington based recruitment agency considered that the Council exists to produce red tape
and regulation! Had issues with access to Council services: Found it difficult to be put through
to correct section for a recent query (about a blocked drain) and when connected to correct section


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could only leave a message. Response to message by Council staff was delayed. Also found
advice from Planning was contradictory and unhelpful.
A Chislehurst business owner had issues about: Business Rates – increases seem to be more
than inflation (how much discretion does Council have over NNDR increases?); Business
Information Service not well marketed and information not always available at time required;
Parking – lack of spaces and those available not well vetted; Street cleansing in Chislehurst
satisfactory during week, but clean up at end of weekends not quick enough resulting in problems
early in week (off-putting for visitors); Town Centres – Chislehurst Town Centre group needs new
leadership and better funding.

Further, anonymous, comments were received on the following:

   o   Provision for business recycling of waste would be welcomed

   o   Apparent inconsistency of approach by different inspectors of same section (specifically
       EHTS) was noted.

   o   Also different approach by various boroughs to issues such as A-boards and pavement
       cafes was puzzling to some businesses.

   o   Some responders expressed a cynical view of the Council as only here to produce ‘red
       tape’, viewing businesses merely as a source of revenue.

Conclusions

Overall the responses appeared to be supportive of our proposals around the reduction of ‘red
tape’. Some of the responding businesses also provided feedback on some specific issues of
concern to them. A few of the comments received suggest that is a level of cynicism amongst
businesses about the Council and its attitude to business customers. In part this is a barrier that
the Business Support Services project is seeking to break down. The fact that we are asking for
their views and taking practical steps to counter bureaucracy – e.g. by simplifying language on
forms – should contribute to countering some of these misconceptions amongst local firms.

Action points

In the short term there are some specific concerns about services in specific parts of the borough
reflected in the feedback (for example availability of litter bins in Chislehurst) that warrant a direct
written response from us. Given the small number of customers involved it would be feasible for
an individual response to be provided to each. The Local Economy Team could coordinate this
process, with input on the specific issues from officers in the relevant sections.

The consultation responses suggest the following medium term actions on a corporate basis:

   o   The simplification and plain language audit of business-relevant forms

   o   Developing more and better guidance on regulations affecting businesses on the Council
       website

   o   Making more forms available for completion and submission online.

   o   Improving quality of information available to switchboard / CSC staff about our business-
       relevant services

   o   Increasing the availability of expert staff for businesses to consult on regulation issues

Martin Pinnell
Business Information Coordinator                                               09/12/05

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