By Marcus Leach

South West companies report a continued rise in the burden of red tape, despite successive Governments’ promises to cut those burdens.

More than half of the region’s owner-managed businesses (56%) saw the cost of handling red tape increase by more than £5,000 over the previous year, while more than a third (38%) of business owners now have to spend a day each week on dealing with red tape.

These are among the top line findings of the latest “Red Tape Watchdog” survey, conducted by Bishop Fleming, the accountancy firm with offices throughout the region.

Most of the region’s business owners (56%) say that they are spending “significantly more time than a year ago” on handling red tape.

“Despite Gordon Brown’s earlier promise to deliver a ‘bonfire of red tape’, and Vince Cable’s more recent promise to attack the welter of regulations, none of our survey respondents reported a reduction in the time or cost of handling red tape”, said Matthew Lee, Managing Partner at Bishop Fleming.

At a time when the Coalition Government has launched a debate on reducing employment tribunal pressures on employers, the majority of Bishop Fleming respondents (69%) identified employment regulations as the red tape that they would most like to see abolished or simplified.

“Given the Government’s declared acknowledgement that Britain’s economic recovery depends on the ability of small companies to thrive and provide new jobs, this message is crucial”, said Mr Lee. “Those smaller companies, the core drivers of our national economy, do not have Human Resources departments to cope with the plethora of employment red tape."

Meanwhile, only a minority of South West businesses are adopting Vince Cable’s invitation to identify red tape items that should be abolished or changed.

Just 20% reported that they were already using the Government website to identify red tape items that should be changed, although almost half (44%) were still considering doing so.

“This is a sad result”, said Bishop Fleming’s Matthew Lee.

“It is not often that the Government gives business-owners the opportunity to air their views on the biggest issue affecting their enterprise; but it probably reflects the lack of promotion of this consultation formula.

“The fact remains that there has yet to be any reduction in the red tape burden borne by owner-managed businesses, upon whom the Government depends for the nation’s recovery and the creation of new jobs.

“Those new jobs will not happen until the Government listens to employers and reduces the red tape burden”, he warned.

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