And overall the cost of regulation on businesses in the UK since 1998 has risen to £65.99 billion, up by more than £10 billion on the figure for 2007.

The findings by the British Chambers of Commerce’s Burdens Barometer have prompted renewed calls from chambers around the country for a review of legislation in order to reduce the red tape burden on businesses.

For the first time, there are regulations in this year’s barometer that produce an annual saving for business. The Fire Regulatory Reform Order (regulation 77 in the BCC’s Barometer), for example, has provided a saving to business of £67 million, cutting the cumulative total by 0.1 per cent.

Yet UK businesses are going to be hit with an additional £10.4 billion cost of regulation every year unless action is taken, said a BCC spokesman.

Two of the BCC’s ten heaviest burdens in the barometer that chambers of commerce believe that government should review are:

• The Data Protection Act: according to government figures, this has so far cost business more than £7 billion. A BCC spokesman said: “Given that it is nearly a decade old, it would be a perfect candidate for post-Implementation review.”

• The Flexible Working (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002: so far, these have cost business £1.588 billion since 2002. “Given that the Walsh Review on flexible working has already started it would be sensible to revisit regulations, which are accruing costs at a rate of £296 million per annum,” the spokesman added.

Richard Lacy, chief executive of the Chamber representing businesses in Bedfordshire and Luton, said: “The success of the government’s drive for better regulation must be judged on the extent to which the UK’s regulatory burden has been reduced.

“On this basis, the government’s record does not stand up to scrutiny. The BCC’s Burdens Barometer figure now stands at almost £66 billion compared to a figure of £10 billion in 2001 when we first compiled it.

“Initiatives without delivery will do nothing to help keep British businesses competitive. We desperately need an impact assessment system that will challenge the need for regulation and a parliamentary process established that provides real independent oversight.”

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