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February 15, 2011

New regulation taskforce “a step in the wrong direction” for red tape cuts

Plans to replace the independent body responsible for reviewing local red tape with a government-led organisation is a “step in the wrong direction”, business groups have said.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that the new body, which will replace the Local Better Regulation Office, will be part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skill (BIS). The BRC said it will find it more difficult to scrutinise a department that it is part of.

The LBRO was set up to assess the burden local businesses face when complying with environmental health, fire safety, licensing and trading standards.

“The LBRO has made great improvements to local regulation which have benefited both business and local government,” said BRC director general, Stephen Robertson. “Its independent status has played an important part in this. Taking away its local government responsibilities is a major blow.”

Forum of Private Business spokesman, Phil McCabe, said that there is an “apparent contradiction” between pledging to reduce regulation and creating more complex bodies to reduce it.

“However, there have been some concerns about the effectiveness of the LBRO and we haven’t really seen anything on the ground that has reduced regulation for small firms,” he said.

“The new body should listen to the needs of businesses and look at how local enterprise policy can be implemented without imposing more regulation,” added McCabe.

A BIS spokesman said that the government is aware that businesses value the independence of the LBRO. “To ensure [the new body] retains independence there will be an advisory board, so it will operate semi-independently,” he said. “The board will include representatives from regulators, business and Government, so we can make sure everyone’s views are represented.

“The new organisation would be directly accountable to ministers,” said the spokesman. “It would aim to streamline regulation and slim down the amount of time firms spend filling out forms or showing different regulators round their premises.”

The Government will launch a consultation on the proposals in the spring.