According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Focus on Enforcement review programme, which asks firms to identify poor enforcement practices that hold them back, has benefitted around one million businesses and boosted growth in 9 vital sectors of the economy. The BIS states that this builds on government action to scrap or reform regulatory rules which has saved firms some £10 billion over this Parliament.
Nine reviews have covered pharmaceutical manufacturing, fire safety, care homes, volunteer events, food manufacturing, childcare, coastal developments, pubs and chemicals manufacturing. A 10th looked at appeals processes across a range of sectors.
Regulators including the Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency and Food Standards Agency have responded to Focus on Enforcement reviews with major reforms which have been welcomed by trade bodies across the country. Problems they have addressed include the following:
- Smaller chemicals companies were being advised by some trade associations not to grow due to the increased regulatory burdens this would entail. Clearer advice from regulators is now encouraging growth and joined-up planning between regulators is reducing burdens on business
- Law-abiding businesses had to spend up to 6 hours with a fire inspector ticking boxes. Now audits for premises with a good record have been significantly shortened (typically lasting only 45 minutes), enabling managers to get back to the day job
- Many providers of childcare believed they were required to grapple with over 1,100 pages of guidance. They are now being efficiently directed to just 33 pages of need-to-know advice
- Confusing guidance led many food-makers to believe that they always had to buy 2 sets of equipment to prepare food – new guidance makes clear where it would still be safe to clean and re-use a single set
- Care homes were overrun with paperwork, taking them away from the vital task of providing care for the vulnerable. The regulator has reformed inspections and is joining up with local authorities to end duplicate form-filling so everyone can focus on what matters most
- Chemicals companies were asked to foot the bill for inspections, without knowing what they were paying for – now the regulator has set out what they can expect for their money, like any paying customer
- Coastal developments were delayed as investors were bogged down in dealing with multiple public authorities. They are now able to deal with a single point of contact offering a faster, streamlined service which is enabling them to invest. This has helped unlock the £2 billion Mersey Gateway project, boosting local jobs and growth
- Food manufacturing businesses were confused by long, complex guidance – they now have a simple online tool to support them and guidance that has been rewritten, with the industry’s input
- Community volunteers were getting put off by guidance which focused on problems, not solutions. A new “Can Do” guide to what the law actually says, along with a new Department for Communities and Local Government guide to street parties is making it easier for communities to carry on their good work without wasting time and money
Ministers are also introducing a small business appeals champion to work within every regulator to enable business to challenge poor or unfair decisions made by regulators. A ‘growth duty’ on regulators will help ensure that the enforcement of regulation does not unnecessarily impede enterprise. The government has also rewritten the Regulator’s Code to set out clearer standards for regulators and introduced the accountability for regulator impact framework, to make sure business burdens are properly considered by regulators before significant changes are introduced.
Focus on Enforcement has now been made a permanent programme, giving all business groups a route into government to raise issues faced by their members. Business-led Focus on Enforcement reviews are currently underway in 3 sectors: farm livestock, fresh produce imports and electronics exports.