The EU must offer more than warm words to address the deep concerns of small businesses over Brussels red tape, Conservative MEPs have cautioned.
The warning came as the EU Commission published a "top ten" list of EU regulations which cause the greatest problems for SMEs. The list was drawn from a Europe-wide consultation process begun in December last year - which several Conservative MEPs urged their local businesses to take part in.
Predictably, the list includes unwanted social legislation such as the Working Time Directive and labour-market regulation, as well as rules on data protection, public procurement and professional qualifications.
Anthea McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "Conservative MEPs who are constantly hearing the concerns of small businesses could have written this list for them before the consultation began.
"Now Commissioners have been sent a direct message and they must offer more than warm words in response.
"They have at least had the courage to go directly to SMEs and ask the tough questions about their concerns. Now they must show they can pay heed to the tough answers.
"They have been sent a cry for help. If they are serious about unleashing the economic power of entrepreneurs and smaller traders they must now work with them to reduce this regulatory burden.
"What small businesses really want is for the bureaucrats to get out of their way and let them get on with what they do best - driving enterprise, launching fresh ideas and creating jobs."
Local MEP Anthea McIntyre used her appearance on the BBC ‘Sunday Politics’ on Sunday, 17th March 2013 to welcome two major jobs-boosts for the West Midlands and to call on Chancellor George Osborne to take two specific actions to help the region’s small businesses.
“The region’s unemployment figure is stubbornly high and the statistics hide thousands of individuals desperate to take a job and make their lives better. But it is important that we recognise that employment in the region is at an all-time high with 107,000 more people in work today than 12 months ago.
“In the last few days we’ve heard that JLR will be recruiting another 700 workers for their engine plant on the i54 estate between Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire and that JCB, based in Rocester, Staffordshire, have won a £40million contract from the Brazilian Government.
“These most-welcome developments are mirrored day-by-day on a smaller scale by the region’s thousands of small and micro-businesses.
“I hope the Chancellor in his Budget will take two positive steps to encourage smaller businesses to expand their workforces.
“The first step is to make the current, temporary, Small Business Rate Relief scheme permanent. The current scheme is due to expire on 31st March 2014 and action now will help small business-owners plan for the future.
“Perhaps more importantly, I’d be delighted if the Chancellor would amend the National Insurance Contribution Holiday scheme so that it covers existing businesses with four or fewer employees rather than being restricted to start-up businesses only.
“It is existing small businesses who are most likely to create new, long-term jobs and modest help to them when they hire somebody who has been unemployed could have a huge impact.”
Leading UK furniture manufacturer Mereway Kitchens received a visit from Anthea McIntyre MEP this week. After winning the EEF Manufacturing Regional Award for People Management Anthea contacted Mereway to arrange to visit the company.
“During the visit Anthea made some very nice comments about Mereway” says Bob Norris who, alongside his brother Richard, is Joint Managing Director. “She particularly emphasised
the fact that it was very encouraging to see a British Manufacturer doing so well in the
current economic climate.”
Mereway owners Bob and Richard Norris briefed Anthea on Mereway’s history and growth since the company was founded in 1986, undertook a comprehensive tour of the factory and then introduced some of the employees involved with the projects for which they won the award.
Anthea represents the West Midlands – the manufacturing heart of the UK – and is the Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament.
The annual business awards are hosted by EEF, the UK manufacturers' organisation, and recognise excellence in enterprise, innovation, environmental performance and skills development among UK manufacturers. Mereway proudly beat a host of well-known companies including Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce to win this prestigious award.
Projects included focusing on production process, implementing lean business improvement techniques and improving factory layout to reduce waste. The company introduced a major training programme which improved employee morale and motivation, and targeted new market opportunities, implementing new branding to reach new audiences and create opportunities for growth.
“We were delighted to receive a visit from Anthea, ” Bob Norris commented, “it was good to be able to talk to an MEP who understands the problems of businesses like ours which often struggle with the amount of new legislation and red tape that comes out of Europe.”
An innovative company based in Wombourne, Wolverhampton, has been recognised for its revolutionary process of ‘stirring’ molten aluminium using an electromagnetic field.
Solios Thermal, a world leader in the design and construction of primary aluminium processing plants, were acknowledged for their work in the prestigious “Green & Growth” category of the EEF Future Manufacturing Awards.
Visiting Solios to congratulate them on their achievements, local MEP Anthea McIntyre, said:
“I was hugely impressed by the work of Solios – their team of 35 permanent staff, most of whom are engineers, shows how dynamic and vibrant many small British companies are. From their base in Wombourne the team demonstrate the ability to take on global competitors and use their innovative approach to win contracts worth many millions of pounds.
“I am delighted to have visited Solios and wish them every success going forward.
“I was especially pleased to meet Managing Director, Stephen Augostine, but sorry to hear about the problem the firm has in finding enough qualified engineers to meet their growing needs.
“Too often I hear the same concern from British businesses – they have innovative products and plenty of demand but simply can’t find enough staff with the right skills to allow them to expand. It is an issue that I will pursue with Ministers in the UK and in the European Parliament.”
The continuing issue of finding enough workers for the British agricultural and horticultural industries was a topic of major concern at the NFU Annual Conference. Speaking in the Horticultural session, Anthea McIntyre MEP for the West Midlands said,
"Despite considerable efforts on countless occasions, producers and packers simply cannot find enough British workers prepared to work in the fields or pack-houses.
“The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) is a high quality, well managed scheme. Workers are well looked after and pay at least meets the National Minimum Wage. With six month’s work, there is a regular turnover and an impeccable record of people returning to their home country at the end of their contract.
“Without a reliable and willing local workforce, it is no wonder that SAWS is of such importance to our industries.
“The current scheme is due to end shortly and a replacement scheme is essential if British producers are to be able to meet their contracts to supply supermarkets and others going forward. Without reliable supply the buyers will look elsewhere to meet the needs of their customers – and that inevitably means more imports.
“I am therefore calling on the Immigration Minister, Mark Harper MP, for a follow-on SAWS scheme so that growers and packers can top up their European workforce during the peaks of the season for the particular crops being grown and the growing method being used.
"Experience with SAWS has shown that the UK Border Agency administers the scheme effectively and efficiently and will, I am sure, be well able to deal with a follow-on scheme.”
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