East Anglian commerce experts welcome retail red tape cut

Traders across Norfolk and Suffolk are set to benefit from a reduction in paperwork after the government announced measures to cut reams of red tape to boost business.

More than half of all retail regulation will be scrapped under the proposals set out by business secretary Vince Cable yesterday, which aim to break down some of the barriers halting economic growth.

Hundreds of 'unnecessary' and 'burdensome' rules will be ditched in a bid to encourage the private sector to lead Britain's economic recovery.

Economic experts yesterday welcomed the move as part of the coalition government's Red Tape Challenge after ministers invited the public to comment on which rules should be removed from the statute book.

However, some called for Vince Cable to focus on more 'hefty' regulatory changes surrounding pensions, flexible working, and maternity and paternity rules to reduce the amount of form filling for small and medium-sized businesses.

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More than 160 pieces of retail legislation will be cut or simplified including 'ridiculous' rules on a host of everyday products including pencils, prams, beds, children's clothes, Christmas crackers, televisions and liqueur chocolates. Many of the antiquated regulations were already covered by general product safety regulations, said officials.

Dr Cable said that the current drive would achieve results quickly, and on a large scale, freeing firms from burdens and making it easier for them to do business with.

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'We have struck a balance between keeping regulations necessary to protect consumers, the workforce and the environment, while rolling back the number of rules and regulations our businesses have to deal with. We have heard these promises by successive governments before, but these first proposals from the red tape challenge show that we're serious and we are making real progress,' he said.

The government has decided not to change legislation covering Sunday trading and to keep in place other rules covering areas such as hallmarking of goods.

Kevan Williams, lecturer at the Norwich Business School at the University of East Anglia, said the changes would make a small difference.

'We can not knock it because it is a step in the right direction and will make managers' lives a bit easier. It will definitely help businesses grow and help them stick it out during the tough times. If you can save yourself half an hour in a day, that is half an hour to focus on customers, or improving websites and growing your business,' he said.

The announcement comes after David Cameron said that high streets should be at the 'very heart of every community' and commissioned retail guru Mary Portas to come up with a plan to revive town centres.

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: 'It is a positive start to the government reviewing the red tape, which causes business so many problems and inhibits economic growth. We see this initiative as only the beginning and will continue to ensure the business views are heard to cut unnecessary red tape.'

However, John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the plans would do little to promote economic growth.

'We urge the government to deal with the big regulatory burdens as well as tinkering with the smaller ones. Some of these regulation cuts being announced will have no tangible impact on small firms at all as they are outdated and unused anyway,' he said.

Alison Eardley, policy manager for Bury St Edmunds-based Action for Market Towns, added: 'This will go some way to levelling the playing field for smaller and independent retailers.'

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