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Initiatives to reduce the administrative burdens of complying with regulations have helped improve business perceptions of the government’s approach to regulation but businesses have not reported a reduction in the time taken to comply with regulations.

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The Administrative Burdens Reduction Programme aims to reduce by a quarter by 2010 the cost to businesses of complying with the administrative burdens imposed on them by government regulations.  A report out today by the National Audit Office found that the Programme is providing an impetus across departments to reducing burdens and that the targets have created a stronger incentive to deliver.

In 2007 departments implemented over 150 specific measures to reduce administrative burdens and the majority predict that they will meet their reduction target by 2010.  The total reported in-year savings of £800 million should, however, be treated with caution.  They are indicative estimates of the actual savings and have been subject to only limited independent validation. 

The National Audit Office found a small positive shift in businesses’ perceptions about regulation.  46 per cent of businesses thought regulation was fair and proportionate, compared to 39 per cent in 2007.  70 per cent said that completing paper work was a burden, down from 74 per cent in 2007. 

However, only 1 per cent of businesses believed that complying with regulation had become less time consuming in 2007 and 40 per cent said it has become more time consuming. 

The wider impact of the Programme remains unproven. The Better Regulation Taskforce’s original aspiration was that the Programme could contribute to a £16 billion increase in GDP.  But there is still limited evidence on the link between reducing administrative burdens and improving business performance.

“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. The next step is to deliver tangible benefits for businesses. 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.”

Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office


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