Red tape award sparks interest at Penticton city hall
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is calling on cities across Canada to follow the lead of a small B.C. community in cutting red tape for businesses.
Langford, with a population of 29,000, was awarded the CFIB’s 2014 Golden Scissors award for cutting red tape limiting business; in their case, that meant deciding to make business licences permanent.
“On behalf of my colleagues on Langford city council, I am honoured to accept the Golden Scissors Award,” said Mayor Stew Young.
“Our council felt that adopting a permanent business license was a practical decision that would benefit business owners and citizens alike. We hope other municipalities look to Langford as a model of what a small business-friendly community can be.”
All business licences issued in Langford will remain in effect until there is a major change to the business, such as relocation. Requiring annual renewal of business licences is a guaranteed source of revenue for local governments, but adds needless costs and paperwork for small business owners, according to the CFIB.
“It’s such a simple thing, but it makes so much sense. There’s no reason why other cities across Canada can’t do the very same thing tomorrow,” said CFIB’s executive vice president Laura Jones. “In fact, that’s exactly what CFIB is calling on them to do.”
Penticton Mayor Garry Litke said it’s an idea worth looking at.
“We pride ourselves on being open for business and eliminating red tape and improving customer service, that is the whole reason for the renovations at city hall,” said Litke, adding that the city would need to analyze and study possible effects.
Business licences are a steady stream of revenue for most cities, but making them permanent isn’t expected to be a large loss. According to the CFIB, Langford will lose around $70,000 a year in revenue, but it will save about $40,000 per year on the costs to administer the licence program.
“We will have to do that same analysis for ourselves, and if it works, we should take a look at it,” said Litke.
According to Anthony Haddad, Penticton’s director of development services, the city issues in the range of 2,500 to 2,800 businesses licences annually, mostly renewals. In 2011, Haddad said, the city issued 490 new licences, and 416 in 2012.
Given a base cost of $165 per business licence, that revenue from the program would be closer to $500,000 in Penticton.
Penticton has introduced other measures to create a business-friendly environment, according to Haddad, including dedicating a staff person solely to business licenses, working in conjunction with the economic development officer and providing a single stop for questions about setting up a new business.
“The majority of the business licences we issue are categorized as small business. We need to respond to their rapid turnaround time needs for setting up their new businesses,” said Haddad. “I know that our business licence fees were significantly reduced around 2009 to 2010. We constantly look for ways to improve our business license process and learn from what other communities are doing.”