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Trade body faces shut- down in funding cuts

SITPRO, the trade simplification body, is facing closure after a 40-year existence. The publicly-funded organisation, which comes under the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) was reported in late June to be at high risk of losing its funding and being shut down. The news has been greeted with dismay by the

trading and transport community. Peter MacSwiney, who combines his role as Agency Sector Management chairman with the chairmanship of SITPRO’s Ports and Borders Group, said he had written to Business Secretary Vince Cable, asking him to reconsider. The Food and Drink Federation, the AICES courier association, the International Meat Trade Association, Fedex and others had also lent their support to the campaign. “SITPRO only has an annual spend of under a £1m a

year, so I think this is a bad move,” said Mr MacSwiney. “I’m not normally a defender of government bureaucracy, but SITPRO does a very good job and has acted as a good intermediary between the international trading community and the rest of Government.” For example, he said, SITPRO played a crucial role in getting DEFRA to the table to discuss the level of inspections and their impact on frontier activity. It also offers a helpdesk that has resolved many traders’ customs duty issues, often in difficult grey areas. “If SITPRO goes, you would end up having to take technical matters like this direct to the BIS – and I don’t think you’d get very far with that,” commented MacSwiney. He added that SITPRO seemed to have fallen victim

by the BIS’s need to make large spending cuts. “It’s just fallen off the bottom,” he said. Dr Andrew Traill, managing partner of Shippers’ Voice pointed out that the Government is looking to the

bureaucracy and prevent bad legislation. All too late, I fear, unless enough of us who know the value of SITPRO and trade facilitation can make the government understand too and change their mind.” A spokesman for BIS confirmed that SITPRO was on a

list of so-called ‘Quangos’ that were being considered for closure as part of a spending review that has already seen the axing of the Regional Development Agencies. He predicted that a decision on SITPRO’s future would be taken “probably within the next few weeks.”

Capacity shortage? What capacity shortage?

private sector to create more than a million jobs over the next five years, many of which will involve imports or exports. “We have to ask ministers: Are you sure the economy can really afford to close this organisation down?” He told FBJ: “It is a sad truth that not enough

people know about SITPRO and its work. The decline of the shipping manager has resulted in customs and documentation being ignored by many companies today. Customs are doing most things remotely, so they look for anomalies and when they find just one they open up the books on that company and tear through them. Many companies, I predict, will find themselves painfully exposed.” He added that while industry has benefited greatly

from its work over the years, few realised it. “Like many things, I suspect most people won’t really miss them until they are gone – and then ask who in government is listening to industry and working to help remove In this issue...

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