NAO finds government will miss red tape cutting targets

Initiatives aimed at reducing administrative burdens on employers have failed, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

The Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme was set up by the NAO in an attempt to reduce the cost to businesses of complying with government regulations by a quarter before 2010.

But a survey based on more than 2,000 interviews conducted in January and February found two in five employers felt government compliance had become more time-consuming, with only 1% saying it was less time-consuming.

However, 46% of employers thought regulation was fair and proportionate, up from 39% in 2007, and the number who felt completing paper work was a burden had dropped from 74% to 70% in the past 12 months.

Tim Burr, head of the NAO, said the next step was to deliver tangible benefits for businesses.

“The government’s initiative to drive down administrative burdens on business has raised awareness of regulatory reform, and departments have begun to reduce some burdens,” he said. “Departments need to engage more directly with businesses to focus on changes that will really help, and check that the action they are taking is having the intended effect.”

In 2007 the government implemented more than 150 measures to reduce administrative burdens, and most predict that they will meet their reduction target of 25% by 2010, with a £16bn increase in GDP by expected by 2010 as a result.

William Sargent, executive chair of the Better Regulation Executive, said: “The NAO report rightly reflects the achievements of the government’s efforts to improve regulation and progress made to reduce burdens. It also highlights the challenges that still remain for the whole of government to engage with, and deliver benefits to, the businesses that help drive the economy.”

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