The Government is pushing through a radical agenda aimed at addressing and managing the flow of business red tape, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry council has heard, writes John Duckers.
Stephen Poole, communications manager for the Government's admin burdens reduction team, outlined a project co-ordinated by the Cabinet Office which is identifying, measuring and setting targets to reduce the cost of regulation.
The move comes as small businesses in the Midlands continue to find dealing with red tape onerous, according to AXA's Business Risk monitor.
However, despite the weight of legislation that they have to deal with, 80 per cent of businesses in the Midlands recognised that failure to comply could have a negative impact on their performance, potentially threatening their livelihood.
Health and safety regulations were considered the worst followed by financial, employment and environmental.
However, the study also shows that red tape is not all bad.
Nineteen per cent of those surveyed viewed compliance in a positive light recognising that health and safety regulations can have a constructive impact on their business and 27 per cent of the Midlands' business lead-ers found regulation was a positive step towards pensions simplification.
Carol Richmond, risk and compliance director from AXA, said: "We must keep the regulatory demands on business practical.
"AXA welcomes the recent announcements to control red tape from the Government. That said it is also important to under-stand that regulation is not inherently a bad thing for business. A large proportion of what we live with today is clearly designed to protect and support our workforces.
"However it is also important to remember that it is regulation that enables businesses to operate. Legal protections help to minimise risk. It governs the quality of products and services we are dependent on. It ensures we get paid what we are owed from customers. It marks out the best businesses from the cowboys helping us and our customers to choose the right suppliers.
"Businesses can make compliance work for them."
Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Services Jim Fitzpatrick said: "The Government is committed to create a positive regulatory environment in which businesses can prosper.
"The DTI is leading the way in Government, having detailed in our draft simplification plan how we can deliver over £1 billion regulatory savings to business by 2010."
The chamber meeting, held at the UCE School of Jewellery in the Jewellery Quarter, was also given a detailed update on the Government's transport innovation fund and the resulting study into congestion in the West Midlands. Colin Eastman, project manager of the feasibility study and adviser to Coventry City Council which is taking the leading role on transport among the seven West Midlands' local authorities, gave a rundown on how the project was being conducted particularly from the business point of view.
Issues being looked at are how existing policies within the current Local Transport Plan will impact on congestion, the difference measures like more flexible working hours and travel plans would make, and how measures as road pricing might work alongside improved investment in public transport.