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A survey of businesses by the National Audit Office found that, whilst businesses are reporting that individual aspects of complying with regulation have become less burdensome over the last year, and there has been some improvement in overall business perceptions of regulation since 2007, very few regard complying with regulation as having become easier or less time-consuming. Around a third said that it had become worse.

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The Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme aims to reduce by a quarter by 2010 the cost to business of complying with the administrative burdens imposed on them by government regulations. The Programme is part of the government’s overall agenda to simplify regulation and improve the regulatory environment.

Departments are continuing to implement a range of initiatives to reduce the burden on businesses and reported in December 2008 that a net £1.9 billion per year of savings had been made. However, the NAO warns that this claim must be treated with caution; although the Government has strengthened its validation arrangements, the reported savings remain indicative estimates of actual savings.

The survey found improvements since 2007 in businesses’ perceptions of individual aspects of complying with regulation. For example, in 2009, 65 per cent of businesses found completing the relevant paperwork a burden, compared with 74 per cent in 2007. Similarly, in 2009, 64 per cent of businesses reported that finding guidance and advice about the regulations was a burden, a reduction of 7 per cent from 2007 responses.

However, over 60 per cent of businesses surveyed consider that the administration needed to demonstrate compliance with regulations is an obstacle and only one per cent of businesses felt that complying with regulations had become less time consuming in the last year.

In addition, fewer than a third of businesses said that government understood business well enough to regulate it.

The NAO survey has found that businesses’ perceptions of regulations are influenced by concerns about the introduction of new regulations or continuing changes to existing regulations – 95 per cent of businesses reported that having to keep up to date with changes in existing regulations had not improved or had become more time consuming in the past year.


"There is always a difference between perception and reality but our testing shows that almost no businesses think that complying with regulation has become easier or less time consuming in the last year. The majority think that things have remained the same and over a third think that the burden of regulation has got worse. On the other hand, 42 per cent of businesses think that government is getting the right balance of regulation to protect people and the environment."

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office


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