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Streamlined regulation or just more quangos?

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Under the new plans (subject to parliamentary approval), the Local Better Regulation Office will be replaced by a new organisation, which will become part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

This new organisation will “work closely with local enterprise partnerships to find the best way to tackle red-tape at a local level and share this knowledge”. It will also promote the Primary Authority scheme to improve consistency in regulatory enforcement, reduce bureaucracy and create the right conditions for economic growth.

Business Minister Mark Prisk says that the “endless rules and regulations that pour out from government” have choked off enterprise and stifled economic growth for far too long.

Sure, the UK needs a more “joined-up approach” on regulation – but is this just another case of one quango being replaced with another? Frankly, businesses, local enterprise partnerships and regulators should already be working together. The Local Better Regulation Office was originally set up as an “independent, expert perspective on local regulation” with the aim of reducing red tape for businesses. If it hasn’t worked and needs to be replaced, what went wrong? And is this new organisation capable of doing any better?

“The Local Better Regulation Office looks like another giant talking shop,” says our financial expert City Grump. “Why on earth do you need something that potters about looking at regulation on a local level? Surely common sense dictates that regulations have to be made nationally and, if you want to cut the level of red tape, then the only way to be comprehensive is to cut the number/type of regulations nationally. I suspect this is Sir Humphrey’s cunning way of kicking the whole red tape thing into the long grass by pretending this can be dealt with locally and giving it a kind of Big Society imprimatur to boot.”

Apparently, the new yet-to-be-named body will have “special governance arrangements”. A number of interested groups will be invited to form a steering group for the new organisation to make sure it’s “accountable and relevant”. If the organisation isn’t accountable and relevant, it shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Setting up one group to “steer” another group sounds like a ridiculous waste of everybody’s time and money.

“We really do hope there is a good reason for this reorganisation and it’s not just a case of change for change’s sake,” comments Chris Gorman at the Forum of Private Business. “Reorganisations and rebrandings inevitably involve cost and disruption so the government should only be doing this if the new body will do something vastly different to the LBRO.
 
“Perhaps a new organisation with new powers would be able to do more, once established, but there are plenty of issues in more pressing need of the Coalition’s attention – fuel and utility prices, for example.”

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