Monday 22 February 2010

Labour Kill All Businesses In The End

The (quite literal) counter-productivity of Labour's public sector behemoth never ceases to amaze we poor souls who run small businesses.

Regular readers will be aware that I'm in transport (there's a tag down the side there somewhere). I really do try not to bore you out of your nether garments with shop talk but sometimes work issues hold a certain relevance to this place, and as such, the occasional transport business post escapes the censor (ie, me). This is one of those, so feel free to do something less boring instead if you so wish, although today's tale is particularly startling.

Transport is, as you can imagine, an industry which is heavily susceptible to the heavy hand of bureaucracy. It is quite understandable. However, the obstacles placed by government appointed bodies have been increasing exponentially as Labour's tenure lengthens.

In the past three years, this pressure has been cranked up to incredibly oppressive levels. Our business, though, has continued to grow, both in spite of, and because of, the ever more trivial demands of red tape. That may sound contradictory, but to explain, the incessant river of diktats with which we are forced to comply have accelerated in frequency as well as becoming more and more obsessed with the most trivial of eventualities. Each one has been more jaw-droppingly bureaucratic than the last, but we have performed all kind of contortions to remain able to trade. Each has made us a little less efficient but we are large enough to cope. If we had faced this environment a mere decade ago we would quite simply not have survived.

Of course, this has meant that we have watched competitor after competitor fall by the wayside for the simple fault of not being as established and cash rich as us. Honest, small companies have gone to the wall or just not bothered to compete against the cascade of overweening regulations. The assiduous one man band has ceased to exist, as have small but well run family outfits, and although it affords us a better position, I can honestly say that we really do miss them.

Of course, with less competition and more overhead inflicted by the public sector, you can guess what has happened to our prices, can't you?

Now, although we are used to this state funded interference by now, a letter we received today was quite astonishing.

I'm trying hard not to go into fine details here for two reasons. Firstly, it would take a couple of thousand words to describe, but also because it is incredibly boring, so I'll try to analogise.

Imagine you have been driving your car for five or six years (the government has stated that you are forbidden to drive anything older) and a new law is brought in which says that your car seats have been deemed unacceptable. You have to sort it out or your car will be illegal and you can be fined a hell of a lot of money should you try to use it.

Easy, you say, I'll just get the seats changed. Nope, not that simple, as the government has decreed that only the manufacturer is allowed to install the correct seats. OK, you'll get the manufacturer to do it then. You're stymied there, too, because they can only be installed when the vehicle is first made. Couldn't you get an inspector to say that the seats, freshly-installed by the manufacturer, are fine? No again, as the compliance certificate can't be backdated.

Your only option is to sell the car and buy a new one. Except you can't sell it as no-one wants it ... because they can't use it.

The old seats weren't a danger, no-one ever died or was even injured in any car in which they were fitted, they are perfectly safe and have been comprehensively crash-tested. But some pencil twiddler decided that he doesn't like them.

You have two months to comply.

It wasn't about seats (it was actually even more inconsequential than that) but that is the gist of our letter today. And, as such, half of our fleet will be obsolete in a couple of months.

We have just recruited a new office worker to cope with new contracts we are taking on in the autumn which involved employing up to 50 more staff, yet this quite unnecessary directive could lead to us being forced to lay off half of our employees to remain compliant. That's a net loss to the country of around 100 jobs.

The DVLA are more than satisfied with the safety of the vehicles, the Ministry of Transport too, and VOSA. But a fourth public sector body doesn't like one tiny aspect, so there is a real possibility that jobs will be lost.

We have easily manageable debt, a superb credit rating, burgeoning business goodwill, huge scope for expansion and job creation. But the state could well have killed it stone dead.

We have called our MP in. He has visited before and, to be fair, is familiar with our continual red tape problems and extremely sympathetic. He hasn't really helped tangibly before though so we're not expecting any pulling up of trees, especially since he is popping in when he just happens to be canvassing in our area on the day of his visit, according to his office.

We're rather proud of our ability to employ more people, our staff turnover is very low simply because we treat them properly and pay them well.

We'd like to continue growing, benefitting the economy, and thriving, but Labour's unceasing drive to punish irrelevancies, reward state paid public sector pen-pushing, while simultaneously squeezing every small glimmer of entrepreneurial spirit out of the country, is fast becoming an insurmountable barrier.

As a parting Jerry Springer-esque moral. What I find incredible about all this is that it isn't me, or my partners, who will suffer. We will still have a business, just a bit smaller. Other entrants won't be introduced to compete, most of them long since ceased operation anyway due to the unending application of overarching rules, and there's no way this will help them. And the big losers are working class people who we will no longer be able to afford to employ.

Yet it is Labour who are doing this. It's not those nasty Tories putting these people out of work, it's not the Tories protecting larger businesses from the unwanted downward price pressure of the small guy.

It's Labour.

To coin a phrase ... we really can't go on like this.


Curmudgeon said...

And this illustrates the point that increased regulation leads to less competition, higher prices and higher barriers to entry. It tends towards cosy, complacent oligopoly.

Mummy x said...

Totally off topic but check this out - Lolfactor 10

Mummy x

Friday Night Smoke said...

I'm involved in transport to an extent too; no doubt you're also a fan of "Transport Today" or whatever the 8-page government newsletter of new regulations and crackdowns is called, delivered every couple of months.
I'm intrigued as to what this new reg is; is it Digital Tachograph? Some emmissions thing? Will I get a nasty letter in the post soon about our lorry?

Dick Puddlecote said...

FNS: Nope, it's nothing even close to being as important as your suggestions - much more inconsequential. You would be amazed. A few screws and the odd nut.



Dick Puddlecote said...

Mudgie: Yes, and yes again.

nannyknowsbest said...

Quote : -

"A few screws and the odd nut."

Is this a definition of the problem - or the people creating it? - or perhaps both.

Our continuing battle with the local fire service regarding our hotel is similar. Remove 11, 1 hour fire retardant fire doors and replace them with 1/2 hour ones - to meet new regulations. Replace the fire alarm system because, although the existing one complied fully with regulations, it had not been installed since the new regulations came into force and therefore did not have a valid installation and commissioning certificate. Replace all emergency lighting units because, although they were all replaced a month before the new act came into force, they also did not have an installation certificate and, until we complete ALL these items, we must remain closed. Once we had done all of this, it then took 3 months for them to arrive and "certify" it all as compliant. Total cost to us - probably over £30K in lost revenue and 10 times that in loss of future business. Next, we await environmental health to ensure food hygiene regulations - despite the fact that, as a backpackers hostel, we don't even provide meals. Now they are looking at disabled access - being disabled myself, I can confirm this is fine but - they must check anyway.
They are also checking planning consent issues (to ensure we can actually trade as a hostel or hotel) - despite the fact that the building was built as a hotel and has been in continuous use as such since it was built - in 1878. So long as all of these are "in order", we will be "allowed" to re-open (oh, I forgot, there is the matter of radon gas and we must check that we are not subject to flooding - the place is on a steep hill and that our gas certificate and risk assessments are fully up to date). In case a child should stray in, naturally, the entire staff must be CRB checked and we must have CCTV installed (we do anyway).
Whilst I sympathise with your plight, please, whatever you do, don't deliver anything to US, if your vehicle has a nut or screw with a BS thread and not a metric one - I can't afford to be closed down again mate.

IanPJ said...

Dick, eventually the tentacles of all this regulation reaches everyone.

To show just how far it has gone..

please name me 6 everyday activities, yes, just six, that you undertake that does not require a. permission, b. licence, c. regulated action, d. regulated packaging, materials, ingredients, tools etc.

i.e. 6 activities that never touch the state or a regulator.

WV faquall

Dick Puddlecote said...

Nannyknowsbest: You've met the public sector wise guys as well, then? Your experience is uncannily similar to what we spent all day today battling.

IanPJ: If you didn't make that WV up, it's the best ever. And no, I can't think of even one.

IanPJ said...

Wish I had taken a screen grab now.

Anonymous said...

Yea but all these jobsworths vote Labour.
Thats why.
Thats why they still have support.
The benefits and jobsworths vote.

Frank Davis said...

OT, Dick, but Leg-iron's blog list shows you as having posted something about "Fleshing Out A Bone". Only it's not here. Posted and withdrawn or something?

JuliaM said...

More useless mouths keeping themselves in a job...

Letters From A Tory said...

I disagree - Labour are more than happy to go on like this because if there is even the slighest hint of you being free from state control, they will believe that there is more work to be done.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Frank: It was something I started last night and mistakenly pressed enter. Work permitting I'll finish it later today.

Anonymous said...

As a 28 year old i am having to think of retirement plans now.

They basically involve getting the hell out of here. I don't see the conservatives or lib dems being any different, and they certainly have no plans to rescind any of this rubbish.

Sam Duncan said...

I'm bookmarking this page and printing it out. Your story, and Nannyknowsbest's, are the sort of thing that would be on TV every night if they had proper journalists working for them, rather than trivial soap-opera garbage about whether Brown shouts at people or not.

Nicki UK (Trans Authoress) said...

I think a lot of people should go and have a look and ready of the TPUC's website - it is a good read and very interesting, especially when dealing with the red tape.

Nicki UK (Trans Authoress) said...

in addition to my first post I am seeing something that I actually write about in my novels and that is the control of the government by big business, (The companies and corporations who profit from the smaller companies going out of business. no offence to the writer or the company he, i think, runs)

bayard said...

Dick, you have my full sympathy. Having in my younger days been an underemployed pencil-twiddler myself, I know exactly how this sort of shit arises. Doesn't stop me wanting just to give up, though.