By Claire West

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Business and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock yesterday (10 February 2015) announced that better enforcement of regulation is saving business more than £40 million every year.

The Focus on Enforcement review programme, which asks firms to identify poor enforcement practices that hold them back, has benefited around one million businesses and boosted growth in 9 vital sectors of the economy from coastal developments to childcare.

This builds on government action to scrap or reform regulatory rules which has saved firms some £10 billion over this Parliament.

Addressing a round table of business leaders and regulators who have helped drive a range of reforms to improve how regulation is enforced, Vince Cable said:

Better enforcement creates a more level playing field for business and ensures important regulations on safety and the environment give the public the essential protection they are entitled to.

By working with businesses to clear away costly and time-consuming bureaucracy, we are making it easier for firms to focus on what really matters and to plan for the long term, creating stronger growth and more jobs.

Business and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said:

Our zero-tolerance approach to pointless red tape is a key part of the government’s drive to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business. We are stripping out thousands of pages of unnecessary paperwork, ensuring businesses can operate, invest and grow with confidence.

We will be the first government in modern history to have lightened the burden of regulation - saving business more than £10 billion. Ripping out and reforming regulation is helping create an economy that nurtures enterprise, generating 760,000 new businesses since 2010.

More businesses and more jobs mean hardworking families are better off.

Nine reviews have covered pharmaceutical manufacturing, fire safety, care homes, volunteer events, food manufacturing, childcare, coastal developments, pubs and chemicals manufacturing. A 10th looked at appeals processes across a range of sectors.

Regulators including the Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency and Food Standards Agency have responded to Focus on Enforcement reviews with major reforms which have been welcomed by trade bodies across the country. Problems they have addressed include the following:

smaller chemicals companies were being advised by some trade associations not to grow due to the increased regulatory burdens this would entail. Clearer advice from regulators is now encouraging growth and joined-up planning between regulators is reducing burdens on business

law-abiding businesses had to spend up to 6 hours with a fire inspector ticking boxes. Now audits for premises with a good record have been significantly shortened (typically lasting only 45 minutes) enabling managers to get back to the day job

many providers of childcare believed they were required to grapple with over 1,100 pages of guidance. They are now being efficiently directed to just 33 pages of need-to-know advice

confusing guidance led many food-makers to believe that they always had to buy 2 sets of equipment to prepare food - new guidance makes clear where it would still be safe to clean and re-use a single set

care homes were overrun with paperwork, taking them away from the vital task of providing care for the vulnerable. The regulator has reformed inspections and is joining up with local authorities to end duplicate form-filling so everyone can focus on what matters most

chemicals companies were asked to foot the bill for inspections, without knowing what they were paying for - now the regulator has set out what they can expect for their money, like any paying customer

coastal developments were delayed as investors were bogged down in dealing with multiple public authorities. They are now able to deal with a single point of contact offering a faster, streamlined service which is enabling them to invest. This has helped unlock the £2 billion Mersey Gateway project, boosting local jobs and growth

food manufacturing businesses were confused by long, complex guidance — they now have a simple online tool to support them, and guidance that has been rewritten, with the industry’s input

community volunteers were getting put off by guidance which focussed on problems not solutions. A new “Can Do” guide to what the law actually says, along with a new Department for Communities and Local Government guide to street parties is making it easier for communities to carry on their good work without wasting time and money

Regarding fire inspection reforms, Rob Clapham, Health and Safety Compliance Manager, Asda Stores Ltd said:

The impact regulation has on the day to day operation of our stores is significant in terms of time spent dealing with inspection. It is a welcome change to see that our efforts to achieve compliance are recognised through shorter inspections.

Referring to new guidance on use of equipment to prepare food, the British Hospitality Association (BHA), said:

The new guide is more pragmatic and business friendly guide than the earlier versions. This will help hospitality businesses control cross-contamination risks in a more cost-effective manner.

The government is also tackling commonly occurring problems raised by businesses across the board. Some do not feel that regulators are accountable to those they regulate; that it is too hard to query odd or inconsistent judgements; and it is too easy for regulators to introduce changes that impose new costs on business without proper thought.

In response ministers are introducing a small business appeals champion to work within every regulator to enable business to challenge poor or unfair decisions made by regulators. And a ‘growth duty’ on regulators will help ensure that the enforcement of regulation does not unnecessarily impede enterprise.

The government has also rewritten the Regulators Code to set out clearer standards for regulators, introduced the accountability for regulator impact framework to make sure business burdens are properly considered by regulators before significant changes are introduced, and extended the Primary Authority scheme to improve regulatory guidance and consistency.

Focus on Enforcement has now been made a permanent programme giving all business groups a route into government to raise issues faced by their members. Business-led Focus on Enforcement reviews are currently underway in 3 sectors: farm livestock, fresh produce imports and electronics exports.