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May 29, 2012

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New Bill promises better regulation for more businesses

Thousands more businesses – and particularly those in the SME sector – will be able to benefit from more straightforward and consistent regulation, if the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this month, becomes law.

This is according to the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO), which operates the Primary Authority scheme – the system set up three years ago to improve consistency of local-authority enforcement of, among other areas, health and safety. The ERR Bill contains a commitment* to extending the scheme to businesses that, hitherto, were outside of its scope.

Duncan Johnson, deputy director of the BRDO, explained: “Previously, for a business to be eligible, it had to be regulated by more than one Local Authority. However, we were finding that there were lots of businesses that were separate legal entities and which were regulated by just one authority but the procedures they were following were regulated by lots of different authorities.”

Mr Johnson gave the examples of franchises and trade associations, which generally operate according to guidelines set by their headquarters but have to deal with the relevant authorities in their particular area, when it comes to health and safety regulation.

He added: “Now, these bodies can work with the Primary Authority to come up with, for example, guidance for their members or franchisees relevant to their particular activities. They can essentially agree with the Primary Authority what compliance looks like. It makes it more efficient for everyone.”

Said BRDO chief executive Graham Russell: “Around one third of the businesses signed up to Primary Authority so far are SMEs – exactly the sort of businesses that we should be supporting for growth. And the benefits for regulators are clear – clarity and consistency of regulation throughout every franchise outlet and one point of contact with which to take up any issues.”

Today (29 May) saw the 500th business join the scheme, when one of the largest caterers for the London 2012 Olympic Games, Aramark, signed a new partnership on food-safety issues with Newham Council.

Graham Russell commented: “The connection with the London Olympics underlines the flexibility and practicality of the Primary Authority scheme and reflects how much it has become a significant part of the regulatory landscape.”

* Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill – Part 5: Reduction of legislative burdens, paras 53 and 54.

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