By Claire West

Almost half of the South West’s business owners (42%) are now spending at least one day per week on dealing with red tape issues.

More than a third of the region’s business-owners (38%) have no expectation that the coalition government will be any more successful in reducing red-tape burdens than previous governments.

These are among the top-line findings of the latest “Red Tape Watchdog” findings of a twice-yearly survey of South West business owners by Bishop Fleming, the accountancy firm with the widest spread of offices throughout the region.

According to Mathew Lee, Managing Partner at Bishop Fleming: “In this region, just like the rest of the country, economic recovery depends far more on the performance of owner-managed businesses than on the stock-exchange quoted companies.

“Gordon Brown promised a ‘bonfire of red-tape’, that was never delivered: and the coalition government has also identified the need to cut red tape restrictions. But our latest survey of South West business-owners suggests that the increase in red tape burdens continues to grow, rather than shrink”.

Almost half of South West businesses (44%) say that they have spent more than £5,000 extra on red-tape In the past year, with nearly a quarter (24.5%) having spent more than £10,000 extra on red tape in the past year. Almost one in ten business owners saw their red tape costs rise by more than £25,000 in the past year.

“At a time when privately-owned businesses are facing the challenge of the UK and global economic downturn, this is not the time to keep adding to their red tape burden”, said Mr Lee.

More than a quarter (27%) of Bishop Fleming’s respondents report that they are spending significantly more time on red tape than last year.

“This has to be an issue for Vince Cable, secretary of state for business: he must strip and simplify the mass of new red tape that the previous government introduced”, said Mr Lee.

Meanwhile, the Bishop Fleming survey reveals that most South West companies (36%) are left to their own devices to learn about new red tape regulations, with 30% being alerted by their professional advisers, and just 13.5% learning of new rules from the government or its agencies.

“The coalition government has said that Britain’s recovery is in the hands of the private sector — and privately-owned businesses. These owner-managed businesses will be ultra-crucial to the success of the South West’s economy, that is so dependent on the public sector”, said Mr Lee.

“Their ability to deliver that recovery will be hugely influenced by a real reduction in the red-tape burden”, he added.