Independent senator Nick Xenophon has this morning launched a public campaign against “bureaucratic madness and mindless red tape” after an Adelaide takeaway shop was threatened with fines of up to $20,000 for a flashing “Open” sign that had been displayed for at least 13 years.
Senator Xenophon’s “Stop Red Tape Madness” campaign was launched outside the Feathers Fish and Chip Shop in the Adelaide suburb of Hazelwood Park earlier this morning.
Store owner Peter Alevizos told SmartCompany he first received a letter from Burnside Council in early October 2014, advising him he risked a $20,000 fine if he did not gain development approval for a flashing LED “Open” sign displayed in the store’s window.
Alevizos says he immediately turned the sign off, but a second letter arrived later that month after one of the store’s employees accidentally turned the sign back on when Alevizos was not there. The council said in the letter it would waive the $750 fine if the sign was turned off permanently.
But Alevizos has displayed the sign at the front of his store for at least 13 years and the previous owner of the business also displayed a similar sign.
“The previous owner had a sign there for around 8 years,” Alevizos says. “A sign has been there for 21 or 22 years.”
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Burnside Council mayor David Parkin told News Corp the council was enforcing state laws, which require development approval for illuminated signs, after it received “a range of complaints from the community regarding signage of the shops at the Feathers corner”.
“If we receive a complaint from the community we are compelled to act,” Parkin said.
“The business displayed an illuminated sign in the shop window which is in breach of the development regulations … he can remove the sign, turn it off, or make an application for approval.”
But speaking toSmartCompany after the campaign event this morning, Xenophon says this is a case of “bureaucratic red tape madness”.
“It is out of control,” says Xenophon, who says he has been stopped in the street this week by other business owners who have shared their experience with “stupid” red tape.
“Here is a small business owner who has been too frightened to turn on a sign for four months out of fear he will be fined.”
“It’s bullying by the council.”
Xenophon is urging any business owners who had have had similar experiences with council, state or federal red tape to contact him.
“Businesses are going broke and councils should be there to help the community, not intimidate people,” he says.
Alevizos agrees with Xenophon, saying he is simply trying to run his business and serve his local community but the council has threatened to penalise him for “something so petty”.
“Hopefully some common sense will prevail,” he says. “It’s like I am being treated like a criminal.”
Alevizos says it is getting harder for Australian small businesses to navigate their way around red tape, a sentiment which is backed up by the SME Directions Survey conducted by SmartCompany and Crowe Horwath in 2014.The survey found Australian SMEs continue to be hampered by red tape.
Of the 437 small businesses polled, 45% nominated red tape and administration as the biggest challenge for 2015, behind cash flow at 66%.
The same survey in 2013 found red tape was by far the number-one issue SMEs wanted the Coalition government to address.