232 Local Councils across Australia collaborate to reduce red tape for business

The Australian Government through its business program delivery division, AusIndustry, established the $50 million Regulation Reduction Incentive Fund to provide Local Government Authorities (LGAs) with incentives to reduce the compliance burden on small and home based businesses.

Under the demonstration component of the program, a number of LGAs were selected as case studies to provide ideas on how the application of information and communication technologies could reduce the impact of compliance and regulation on small and home based businesses.

Under the research and development component, an interactive software package, the Business Cost Calculator, was developed so that the ‘real life’ impact of Local, State and Federal Government policies on business could be assessed.

The calculator measures the cost to business of filling in forms, applying for licences, training staff and changing its operations as a result of government regulation.

Under the competitive grants component of Regulation Reduction Incentive Fund, which is administered by AusIndustry, 31 projects received funding totalling $40.6million in December 2005. This was for projects to demonstrate how they would provide cost savings and opportunities to small and home based businesses, and benefits that could be used by the Local Government sector.

While funding for the Regulation Reduction Incentive Fund ceases on 30 June this year, the most important long term advantage of the program is that the outcomes of the 31 projects will still be available to all Councils across Australia.

There are 232 Local Governments involved in the projects which have focused on reducing the compliance burden on small and home based businesses by introducing online processes for development applications and many licences and permits.

A number of projects have also been involved in reviewing local laws and regulation, and providing consistent information across groups of Councils. One of the major factors in the success of the projects is the collaboration and cooperation of all the Councils.

MyCouncil project

project MyCouncil.com.au, led by Eidsvold Shire Council along with the Gayndah and Mundubbera Shires, has worked in partnership with the Brisbane City Council. Their two projects (Planning and Development Process Online and Local Government Toolbox) are making it easier for small and home based businesses to operate in the North Burnett region.

Through the MyCouncil initiative, businesses now have an improved and accountable means of communication between themselves and the Council.

MyCouncil allows residents and business owners to lodge online:

  • flammable/combustible goods licences
  • food business licences
  • complaint notifications
  • request notifications
  • more processes will become available in the future.

Through its partnership with the Brisbane City Council, the Eidsvold consortia is also able to offer its customers the ability to track their development application's progress online, view property information, navigate and access planning schemes, and obtain up to date, user friendly business related information that is consistent across the region. All these functions and more can be accessed 24/7 by simply visiting the relevant Council website.

The outcomes of this project will be progressively implemented in the remaining Councils of the Wide Bay Burnett Region – extending the consistency of compliance data over a very wide area of Queensland.

Seamless Borders project

Another example of collaboration involving cross border cooperation occurred between the Gold Coast City Council and the Tweed Shire Council through the Seamless Borders project.

While most business owners agree that regulatory compliance is essential to running a safe, successful and sustainable business, it can be difficult in a region encompassing two local Councils and State Governments. In many cases, it can be a minefield with differences in State regulation and local laws, confusion as to who regulates what, the cost of dual licence applications, and this is not taking into account the time wasted searching for accurate information.

All of these factors are impediments to small business start ups, to business operation, and to sustainable economic growth.

The Seamless Borders Project – seamlessborders.com.au – has been instrumental in changing much of this. It provides one single entry point for all information and tools that business may need, whenever they want them, and there is no cost.

Estimates are that small business in the region will save in excess of $10 million over a two year period through the project.

During the development of the project, there was communication with the Albury/Wodonga region to look at ways that outcomes of Seamless Borders might be implemented there.

While many of the 31 successful Regulation Reduction Incentive Fund projects have focused on improving the development application process, there are those that have reviewed compliance activities across the board and have been successful in streamlining the number of licensing and permit forms.

The Rockdale City Council consortium has combined
42 planning and health regulation forms into 17 shared forms for the 41 councils in the consortium.

Another example by the City of Stirling removes a regulatory requirement to apply for annual signage approvals. This will save small business in the region more than $600,000 in a two year period.

Building Applications Lodgement Integration Project

City of Swan’s Building Applications Lodgement Integration Project (BALIP), has already received an overwhelming response from the building industry. It involves a building application portal that allows builders to
submit electronic applications online to all participating Councils which include the Cities of Cockburn, Rockingham, Stirling and Wanneroo.

Previously, the process to apply for a building licence from Local Government required a builder to supply hard copies of all documentation including application data, package that together, and deliver it to the relevant Council.

All it involves now is a standardised application process via a single web based lodgement facility for single residential, building licence applications. This has resulted in quick turnaround times, reduced compliance costs, and certainty in the process.

By 1 August 2007, outcomes of all Regulation Reduction Incentive Fund projects will be posted on the AusIndustry website – www.ausindustry.gov.au – in a format that will give a clear indication to other Councils whether they may be able to utilise a particular outcome.

This will enable the momentum developed in the 31 Regulation Reduction Incentive Fund projects to be sustained as other Councils take up the benefits of these projects.

AusIndustry

AusIndustry is the Australian Government’s business program delivery division in the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources. It provides a range of incentives to support business innovation.

AusIndustry delivers a range of almost 40 business products, including innovation grants, tax and duty concessions, small business services, and support for industry competitiveness worth nearly $2 billion each year to about 10,000 small and large businesses.

Regulation Reduction Incentive Fund

The Regulation Reduction Incentive Fund which is delivered by AusIndustry, aims to provide Local Government Authorities with incentives to reduce the impact of regulation and associated compliance costs for small and home based businesses.

More than 700 Local Government and small business representatives were consulted about the design of the program.

The overall objective of this fund is to foster the growth potential and sustainability of small and home based businesses by removing or amending regulation, red tape and compliance impediments facing these groups at the Local Government level.

Councils involved aimed to demonstrate:

  • sustainable reductions in compliance costs
  • improved opportunities for small and home based businesses,
  • results that impact on the wider Local Government community to encourage widespread implementation of best practice in the administration of regulation.

For more information visit www.ausindustry.gov.au, call the AusIndustry hotline on 13 28 46 or email hotline@ausindustry.gov.au For information on planning, starting or running a business, visit www.business.gov.au