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SME ROUND UP

Enterprise, trade and innovation minister Batt O’Keeffe is looking at introducing a scheme of loan guarantees for SMEs and will bring proposals to the government before the Dail recess in mid-July, The Sunday Tribune reports.

O’Keeffe said any such scheme must minimise exposure for taxpayers and this would be fundamental to any final proposals.

“The design of a loan guarantee proposal is of vital importance,” the minister told the Dail last week. “If the design is not right the guarantee might supplement credit that is already available, which could cost the country more in the long run.”

Meanwhile, over in The Sunday Independent, the focus is on the difficulties being encountered by all small businesses, regardless of their access to credit. The newspaper reports ten years after a government promise to cut red tape, the entanglements are worse than ever.

Research by the Small Firms Association found bureaucracy was a “major business problem” for 48% of respondents and one in ten classed it as their biggest nightmare.

A Department of Enterprise report found recently that red tape cost SMEs €631m a year and that every small business was spending up to €5,500 just to comply with permits, licences and various regulations.

Among the findings of the report were:

  • One Department of Agriculture official opens bags of potatoes to grade their size while an entirely different department checks that eggs are in date and aren’t dirty or cracked.
  • Shop owners need up to 21 separate licences to sell everything from batteries to freshwater eels. They need individual licences to sell stamps, salmon, batteries, DVDs, tobacco, alcohol, lotto tickets and, of course eels.
  • A company with 23 staff has to keep the same time records as a huge multinational, under the Organisation of Working Time act. This means firms have to keep tabs on hours worked, breaks etc and have it printed and signed off every day. The estimated cost to small business is €68m.
  • Climate control in employment law means an employer must maintain an ambient working temperature of 17.5c – an increase of 0.5c on the 2007 figure for some reason.
  • Translators of gobbledygook would have a field day with this gem from the Equality Act 2004: “Section 29 (entitlement to equal remuneration of the Act of 1998 is amended by substituting the following subsections for subsection (4): (4) subsection 19(4) applies in relation to C and D as it applies in relation to A and B, with the modification that the reference in it to persons of a particular gender (being As or Bs) is a reference to persons (being Cs or Ds) who differ in a respect mentioned in any paragraph of section 28(1) and with any other necessary modifications”.
  • A company transporting goods from Dublin to Limerick needs to have a separate transport licence to truck it through the various counties in-between. This means six different pieces of paper to be compliant, each of which have to be sourced separately from the relevant local authorities.
  • Every single business in the country has to fill out up to a dozen CSO statistics forms every year, every week, every month or quarter. Fines of up to €1,500 can be levied if they’re not returned on time.

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