Support sought for regional businesses

December 15, 2023 BY

Brewing up help: The Victorian Regional Chamber Alliance is calling on the State Government for a reprieve for regional businesses from factors like increased costs and regulations adding to worsening conditions. Photo: FILE

MEMBERS of the Victorian Regional Chamber Alliance are calling on the State Government to support struggling businesses in rural communities.

With factors like State Government regulations, recruitment and retention of staff, and increases to operating costs like insurance, wages, and fuel cited as hinderances, a VRCA statement said regional businesses are still reeling from the pandemic.

“Some businesses did not survive COVID but those that did are exhausted, still clearing debt and dealing with ongoing mental health issues for themselves and their employees,” the statement said.

“Every day they face continual challenges just trying to stay in business!

“How much longer can they be expected to hold on without real support from Government?

“It is no wonder that our chambers and business groups frequently hear the cry, ‘It would be a much simpler and better life to walk away and get a job!’ With small business being our largest employer, this is extremely concerning.”

VRCA pointed to the upcoming changes to the Food Safety Act as an example of State regulation red tape wherein food businesses are required to have an accredited food safety supervisor present during shifts, leading to increased training and wages.

In a research study released in 2022, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry declared Victoria as the hardest Australian state for businesses with the largest public sector and the highest number of holidays.

In response to the claims, Minister for Small Business, Natalie Suleyman said support programs are already in place for struggling regional Victorian businesses.

“The Allan Labor Government continues to provide a range of programs and services that support small businesses in regional Victoria,” she said.

“Businesses can access expert advice and support through business Victoria’s virtual mentoring, workshops on the Small Business Bus and online learning tailored to help Victorian small businesses to digitise, innovate and adapt.

“Small business can also access free and confidential business advisers, financial counsellors and trained wellbeing coaches through the Partners in Welllbeing Helpline.”