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Regulations still ‘burdensome’, say businesses

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Firms believe that complying with business regulations has not become any easier or any less time-consuming, a new survey has revealed.

This despite a government scheme designed to reduce the costs and effort of dealing with business rules.

The survey was conducted by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Its findings showed that businesses consider that certain aspects of complying with regulation have become less burdensome over the last year, and that there has been some improvement in business perceptions of regulation since 2007.

However, only a tiny minority reported that compliance overall has become simpler or less demanding of time. A third thought it had actually got worse.

The survey follows the setting up by the government of the Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme.

The Programme aims to reduce by a quarter the cost to business of complying with regulations by next year.

There has been some improvement in the perception that firms have of business regulations. This year, 65 per cent of businesses saw completing the relevant paperwork as a burden, compared with 74 per cent in 2007. Similarly, 64 per cent of businesses reported that finding guidance and advice about the regulations was a burden, a reduction of 7 per cent from 2007.

Nevertheless, six out of ten respondents claimed that the admin involved in proving compliance with regulations is an obstacle, and just one per cent of businesses felt that complying with regulations had become less time consuming in the last year.

Keeping up with new regulations and changes to existing rules was also a problem, with some 95 per cent of firms citing it as a concern.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “There is always a difference between perception and reality, but our testing shows that almost no businesses think that complying with regulation has become easier or less time consuming in the last year.

“The majority think that things have remained the same and over a third think that the burden of regulation has got worse. On the other hand, 42 per cent of businesses think that government is getting the right balance of regulation to protect people and the environment.”