Bob Smith says he was complying with a new EC law that said you need a lighted sign on your smoke detector to show customers the way to the door (despite it only being a couple of yards away), when the electrician pointed out some dodgy wiring. It will cost £2,250 to put right.

Bob wondered if he could get a grant. Well, it’s no on two counts. First, you can’t get grants for work that is required anyway and second, work had already started and you can’t get grants retrospectively. What the grant-giving people really like are improvements, enterprise in the community, job creation and so on.

So, if you go forth and multiply, as it were, you stand a far better chance. Your local Business Link office is the best place to enquire for starters. (Actually, some uplifting feedback here on successful grant-getting would be very welcome.)

By the way, the name Bob Smith may be familiar to some of you. Bob runs BS Stores at Twyford, Berkshire and was the first retailer in the country to go to prison for an assistant selling cigarettes to the underaged. It was 10 years ago and he was on holiday when it happened. His lady friend was in charge of the shop but was finding it difficult as she had her own business to run as well.

Because he was the first retailer to get charged for this offence, it was picked up by a national newspaper. The Daily Mirror told him to refuse to pay and said they would back him up. The court said: “We’re going to make an example of you. The fine is £875.” Bob wouldn’t pay, so he was sent to prison for 18 days. He served only 14 because his girlfriend, unable to stand the pressure paid the fine, the full amount.

Bob says: “In its follow-up, the Daily Mirror quoted me as saying that serving time ‘was as good as a rest’. I don’t actually remember saying that – but they got the sentiment right.”

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