The State Government needs to fundamentally reassess its approach to dealing with small businesses affected by infrastructure projects according to the Small Business Commissioner.
In the 2019/20 State Budget, the Government has committed $3.2 billion for road infrastructure over the next four years. Funding has also been provided towards the completion of the $3 billion North-South Corridor.
“One of the most concerning and ongoing issues for my office is when roadworks lead to small businesses suffering dramatic falls in their trade,” Small Business Commissioner John Chapman said.
“While the Government has made some progress in improving consultation with small businesses as part of the planning and construction process, there is still a long way to go.”
Mr Chapman said that consultation could only go so far and when a business loses 20, 30 or 50% more of its trade for months on end, the results are devastating.
“We have seen businesses go broke on the Torrens to Torrens project and on Jetty Road Glenelg during the tram track replacement because access is cut off and here we have a raft of new projects in the latest state budget threatening to smash small businesses,” Mr Chapman said.
“The Government needs to look at creating a pool of funds from the infrastructure budgets which could be allocated to individual small businesses by an independent panel.”
Mr Chapman said the process could work on the basis of a percentage of the total funding for a project being allocated to a “Small Business Contingency Pool.”
A rigorous process of assessing financial impacts could be undertaken on application by the affected business and a decision made by an independent group in terms of the amount of assistance. For example, even a 1% allocation of the anticipated $3.2 billion road spend would create a $32 million dollar pool.
“Small businesses are not looking for a hand out, what they are looking for is a fair go and when Government takes away a good portion or all of their livelihood, the Government needs to be accountable.”
The Small Business Commissioner noted that Governments already allocate contingency amounts to cover variations to design or build processes which occur during the construction phase.
“My proposal is simply a common sense extension of the contingency to ensure affected small businesses are treated fairly.”