By Claire West

Hundreds of live music venues will be exempt from licensing laws and small firms will benefit from more flexible audit and accounting rules as thousands of businesses are freed from unnecessary red tape today.

The reforms are part of a wider strategy to tackle red tape, including the Red Tape Challenge, which invited the public, business and the voluntary sector to give their views on which regulations should stay, be improved, or be scrapped altogether.

Today dozens of regulations will be removed or simplified, giving businesses more freedom to grow.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said:

“From today businesses are freed from the red tape that holds them back. We are ending over-the-top bureaucracy that stifles community groups and pubs wanting to put on small events; scrapping pointless rules about no smoking signs, and saving businesses millions per year through more proportionate accounting rules.

“But this is just the start — we’ve set ourselves the challenging target of scrapping or reducing a total of 3,000 regulations. I’m determined to slim down regulation and make Britain an easier place to start and run a business.”

Today sees a number of changes to benefit business, including:

· Giving over 100,000 more small businesses the flexibility to decide whether or not their company accounts should be audited, saving firms up to £390 million per year.

· Greater freedom for firms to determine the most appropriate set of accounting rules for them.

· Removing regulatory burdens and costs from hundreds of venues including pubs and clubs, making it easier to stage live music. Live unamplified music performed in any location, and live amplified music in on-licensed premises and workplaces for audiences of up to 200 people will no longer need a specific licence between 08:00 and 23:00hrs.

· Removing legislation that dictates the precise location and design of no smoking signs in workplaces.

Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association said:

“This is a very welcome change, as live music is hugely important to pubs and musicians, many of whom begin performing in their local pub.

“Ever since the two-in-a-bar rule was lost in the Licensing Act 2003, the BBPA has been pressing for change. I would urge local authorities to remove any unnecessary conditions on live music in pubs.

”We need to reduce the red tape burden, as pubs are at the heart of local communities, vital for economic recovery and creating local jobs.”

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said:

“We all know how important live music is to both working music professionals and to those just starting out in their career. The previous regime made it increasingly difficult to put on live music gigs and saw all kinds of venues threatened with fines.

“Now, musicians will be free to earn a living and hospitals, schools and other venues including pubs will finally be able to put on live concerts without have to seek permission to do so from a council.”

In addition, targeted new measures will make life easier for individuals and businesses by restricting cowboy clampers. New police powers will protect the public from unscrupulous wheel clampers by making it a criminal offence to clamp or tow away a vehicle without lawful authority. The ban will end abuses by rogue clamping firms who prey on motorists by charging excessive release fees, displaying unclear signage and by resorting too readily to the towing away of vehicles. The ban will save motorists about £55 million each year in clamping charges.

And changes to the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 will reduce the regulatory burden imposed by the current regulations, while strengthening the UK’s overall anti-money laundering regime. The changes, which will make the regime more effective and proportionate, are expected to save firms around £3 million a year.

In further good news for small firms, lower legal costs will help entrepreneurs protect their intellectual property (IP) rights. A new small claims track has today been introduced to the Patents County Court (PCC) to make it cheaper and easier for companies to pursue basic IP disputes.