UK firms battling with up to 60 regulations

A new report confirms what UK business owners will already know: the amount of red tape they face is excessive, confusing and very time-consuming...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 04 Mar 2011
No wonder business owners say they’re exhausted: a new report by the National Audit Office has found that on average, they have to comply with as many as 60 different regulations, imposed by various different bodies. According to the report, many business owners don’t even realise when they’re breaking the rules – and the Government isn’t exactly helping things, with ‘poor communication’ between departments only serving to befuddle businesses even more. So where’s this red tape bonfire we hear so much about?

Some of the stories from the report are depressingly familiar. The owner of one catering company, for example, said he spends four to six weeks a year (all evenings and weekends, natch) trying to get his head around legislation. The owners of a nursery added that they spent every weekend ‘for months’ poring over regulations, to ‘get up to speed’ with them. And it's not just the volume of red tape that's the problem; Andrew Cave, from the Federation of Small Businesses, pointed out that in many ways, businesses aren’t so much concerned by current legislation as keeping up with the ‘churn and change’ as the Government updates the law.

The Coalition has made much of its good intentions, appointing a Better Regulation Executive to sort things out and introducing a new ‘one in, one out’ rule for, erm, new rules (not including that one, presumably). But it faces a huge problem: figures by the Institute of Directors last week found that the annual cost to firms of dealing with red tape was £36.8bn, while a separate survey by the British Chambers of Commerce indicated that companies will have to shell out almost £23bn to deal with new employment legislation over the next four years. So much for putting an end to ‘tick-box regulation’.

Still, at least this NAO report will help to identify problem areas when it comes to regulation. So it’s a good first step; hopefully we can expect to hear the merry crackle of that red tape bonfire before too long...

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