Give SMEs a break from red tape

Posted: Monday, 9 November 2009 @ 13:31
A Federation of Small Business survey showed that an average SME spends 7 hours every week coping with red tape; and a Federation of Private Business survey revealed that the cost to SMEs of compliance was £9.3 billion each year.

With so many SMEs struggling in the present economic climate shouldn't the Government be dealing urgently with reducing the regulatory burden on the SME sector? 

Whilst some of the red tape comes from UK Government initiatives, most originates in the EU. Parliament however does still have scope to determine how EU Directives are translated into UK Legislation. Then there is the question of how regulation is implemented on the ground. It often transpires that an EU Directive that is supposed to be applied uniformly across Europe is regulated much more strictly in the UK than in other European States. This directly affects the competitiveness of the UK economy.

Regulation is a necessary element of a modern economy. It is right that there are rules to protect health and safety, employees and consumers, and that certain industry sectors (such as financial services, food production and construction) have their own set of rules, but these must be implemented fairly and consistently, and proper help and guidance given to SMEs to help them comply.

Some regulations are so complex that firms need to employ experts just to advise on how to comply. Often different regulators, or arms of government, conflict with each other – Fire Officers for example insist that a door is kept closed whereas Health & Safety Officers insist it is kept open.

Our plea to the Government is to take immediate action to ensure that Red Tape is kept to a minimum and regulation is imposed fairly, proportionately and consistently. Real steps should be taken by Government to help SMEs deal with regulations and simple plain-English advice given on exactly what they need to do to comply.

Gary Cousins
Business solicitor
Blog by Gary Cousins
Gary has been providing legal advice to shareholders, directors and business owners for over 25 years. Specialising in dispute resolution Gary is based in Birmingham with clients throughout the UK and overseas. View profile
Call Gary on +44 (0)121 778 3212 or by email
This blog is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law, and what we say might be out of date by the time you read it. You should always seek legal advice to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation. We offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.

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