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News - 4 July 2009
The FPB's Matt Goodman

"Government still not easing the burden of regulation" - FPB

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is urging the Government to step up its efforts to reduce the burden of regulation on small businesses, following new research showing that red tape costs the UK’s smaller business employers almost £12 billion per year.

According to the FPB’s latest Referendum survey on the ‘cost of compliance’, small business employers devote an average of 37 hours each month to complying with regulations. The FPB believes that reducing the time and cost of complying with legislation must not be sidelined, particularly as many firms are struggling to survive because of the recession.

The FPB’s Policy Representative, Matt Goodman, will attend a meeting of the Better Regulation Executive (BRE) on Friday, 26 June 2009. The meeting follows reports that the Government is not pushing through plans to reduce regulation following its scrapping of ‘regulatory budgets’ that had been earmarked for individual departments.

In addition, two committees on regulation announced by Peter Mandelson in April, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), have still not been set up. Further, in a recent blog on its website, and ahead of the publication of the Treasury’s forthcoming consultation on regulating lenders, the BRE said that ‘financial services [are] at the forefront of our issues now’.

“As part of a new department with a broader remit, the BRE must continue to put the smallest businesses at the forefront of its plans to change the culture of bureaucracy in the UK,” said Mr Goodman. “Our research shows that complying with red tape remains one of the major cost burdens facing smaller businesses, swallowing up valuable time and money that could be used more profitably elsewhere.”

He continued, “In addition, at a time when protecting both workers and businesses should be a priority, regulations are increasingly burdensome as businesses take on more staff.”

Micro businesses (0 to 9 employees) spend an average of 33 hours per month complying with regulations, small businesses (10 to 49 employees) 48 hours per month and medium-sized companies (50 to 249 employers) 131 hours – equivalent to one full-time member of staff.

Employment law is the costliest bureaucratic burden, costing small businesses £2.4 billion per year. Health and safety administration costs £2.1 billion and tax £1.8 billion per year, according to the FPB’s research.

The average time per month spent on employment red tape (dismissals and redundancy, discipline, absence controls and management, parental leave, and holidays) is ten hours. For health and safety, it is eight hours. Business owners spend an average of seven hours each month on tax administration, four on building and property regulations, four on standards, three on environment and waste regulations, and an hour per month on equality and diversity.

Representatives from the BRE have been in discussions with small businesses from across the UK hoping to meet a target of saving £3 billion per year via reducing bureaucracy. While welcoming this engagement, the FPB believes that more must be done to meet this target.

Read related items on:
Better Regulation Executive
Forum of Private Business
Goodman, Matt
Mandelson, Peter

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