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Small biz doubts red tape claims

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Small business owners are deeply doubtful that the coalition government will follow through on its promises to cut red tape.

A survey from the Forum of Private Business found less than one in three of its members believe the government will have any real impact on regulations and bureaucracy faced by smaller firms.

Some 40 per cent of respondents believed the coalition would have no effect on business red tape at all.

A depressing 89 per cent said the reason for this likely failure was that politicians have no idea of the impact of their laws on the business community.

Other respondents said civil servants and other policy wonks would get in the way of proper reform.

Thomas Parry, research manager at the lobby group, said it was surprising because traditionally small business owners had supported the Tories "so you would expect them to have a fair amount of faith in the Coalition’s pledge to cut red tape".

Parry said FPB members wanted a 50 per cent cut in the time they spend dealing with red tape - a target not likely to be met except with big changes to how legislation is implemented.

Employment law was FPBers' biggest bug bear, followed by time spent ensuring compliance with tax rules.

Environmental regulations were seen as overly complex but did not raise as many problems as employment and tax.

A big issue for smaller firms is not the rules themselves but the time required either to follow them, or demonstrate that you've tried to do so.

Members also said that often their firms tried to follow best practice, not just the relevant legislation, because this benefits their business and their reputation amongst both customers and potential staff.

The numbers come from a survey of FPB's Red Tape Panel - 90 members who have expressed an interest in the subject. In this case only 50 business owners were questioned. ®

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