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Bonfire of red tape to liberate small firms in fresh crackdown on council and quango jobsworthsSmall business regulators warned they face a 'bonfire of excessive red tape'Move ordered by Business Minister Michael Fallon
Dramatic overhaul of guidelines planned for 'men with clipboards'George Osborne set out 'package of measures' to tackle regulation last week



01:28 GMT, 15 December 2012

Business Minister Michael Fallon will set out measures aimed at prevented regulators from burdening small businesses

Easing the burden: Business Minister Michael Fallon will set out measures aimed at preventing regulators from burdening small businesses

Council and quango jobsworths who regulate small businesses face a ‘bonfire of excessive red tape’ in a fresh crackdown on their box-ticking culture.

Ministers want to prevent regulators from needlessly burdening businesses and stifling economic growth.

They will tell the ‘men with clipboards’ to use common sense before intervening, and are planning a dramatic overhaul of their guidelines.

In the future, regulators will be forced to consider whether their actions will impinge on a business’s ability to grow and be productive.

The move, ordered by Business Minister Michael Fallon, may be viewed with some scepticism among business leaders, as it is the latest in a long line of desperate attempts to get heavy-handed overseers off the backs of small and medium-sized enterprises.

But Mr Fallon is determined to make a difference.

He said: ‘We have started a bonfire of excessive red tape, but I know that it is just as important that we look at the way that regulations are enforced.

‘There is room for far more effective enforcement which reduces the burden on businesses which stick to the rules.’

Last week Chancellor George Osborne set out a ‘package of measures’ to tackle systemic problems in the way that regulations are enforced by over-zealous officials. These included forcing regulators to take into account the potential economic impact of their actions before intervening.

In one example, the owner of a factory producing blue cheese was told by his council that he could not have mould on his produce.

Yesterday the Government also promised to overhaul the appeals process.

blue cheese

At the moment, if a decision is made against a business or company by its local authority, it has to appeal to the same body that made the judgment in the first place. On top of this, companies have to accept the initial judgment that they were in the wrong before they can appeal, meaning they are forced to appeal against a decision they have accepted.

Businesses also say that they cannot complain openly about their local authority, for fear they will be targeted.

Because they have the power to spring surprise inspections, businesses say, local regulators will ‘make their lives hell’ if they are publicly criticised.

Ministers will spend a month reviewing the flaws in the system before proposing changes.

Mr Fallon added that non-financial regulators, such as the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, will face a much tougher regime to cut out ‘crazy’ rulings.

About 60 non-financial regulators, as well as local councils across England and Wales, will be hit by Mr Fallon’s changes.

George Osborne last week set out a 'package of measures' to deal with the way regulations are enforced by over-jealous officials

Systematic problems: George Osborne last week set out a 'package of measures' to deal with the way regulations are enforced by over-zealous officials

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has previously said that the Government’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’ – designed to cut down on state-backed organisations which sprung up during New Labour’s period in office – would save taxpayers 2.6billion by 2016.

But the figures have been called into question by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee, who say shutting down government organisations incurs massive costs.

Dr Adam Marshall, from the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘The Government does deserve some credit for slowing down the flow of new regulation.’

He added: ‘But only now are they starting to tackle the mountain of existing regulation that many businesses face.’