Headlines: July 13th, 1999

The fashion industry is being used a test bed to pilot a scheme for joined-up government on an industry wide front. A team of eight Government Departments and agencies is led by Customs and Excise. Their remit is to see how Government can improve the way it works with London’s fashion business. They will work together to deliver advice and help to the industry in a more co-ordinated and seamless way.

The fashion industry is extremely fragmented and has many small businesses that present particular problems for departments and agencies. Some of the smaller companies collude in benefit fraud and have poor track records in paying taxes. The so called ‘phoenix companies’ cease to exist legally on Friday evening, but reappear at the same premesis with different names and different directors on Monday morning. All outstanding tax   and any enforcement penalties are lost. The same companies also often have poor working conditions and have little regard for any form of regulation.

Because of lower operating costs they compete unfairly with the rest of the industry. The representative body for the industry has been critical of the failure of departments to provide a level playing field. The aim of the pilot is to do just that as well as to learn lessons about joint working.