The great repeal act? Without red tape reduction it is neither great nor a repeal

The great repeal act is due to be nothing more than an expensive rewriting of the laws of the land and the promise of red tape reduction, a focal point of the referendum, has been side-stepped.

There are two reasons for scepticism when it comes to a reduction in business regulation after the next election, historical precedent and Pearson’s law. They are interlinked. Karl Pearson noticed that if you measure something it improves – a concept that the civil service has used frequently in the targets that are set within the public sector.

Yet “red tape” has never been accurately measured and this is because there is a question over the language.  The language is highly emotive and very person – in one company I spoke to the operations director who thought there was little or no red tape applied to his company and then to the admin director who said they were snowed under by it.

The truth is that if a regulation is helpful it becomes part of the operation process of a company and is unnoticed or becomes a definition of quality.  The 2014 NAO report showed this to be the case with the Food Hygiene scores on the doors – although it took more time to comply with, the regulations were seen as less burdensome that others.

The Forums cost of compliance reports showed another interesting phenomena – companies are unable or unwilling to increase the amount of time they devote to compliance.  This is unsurprising as the number of hours in the day has not changed nor have the demands of running a business diminished.

Brexit may makes deregulation more transparent and force ministers to take responsibility for regulation, however The most pressing issue at the moment is that the evidence base on regulation is so weak – the £126 billion figure often reported was presumably based on adding up the impact assessments of all the laws that were introduced.  This is not based on real world experience.

For deregulation to happen in a way that is beneficial to businesses and the wider community, more resources need to be put into understanding and defining the issue.  Ethnographic studies are needed to see how regulations impinge unnecessarily on businesses to ensure that changes are grounded in the real world. In my experience entrepreneurs (as opposed to corporate managers) see a problem and find a way round it without any recourse to the statute book.

I would also look at the jobs to be done technique that has been used to support change in the commercial world and a process I find helpful for clients.  At worst this would focus minds on the fact that businesses need to make a profit to pay staff, owners, HMRC and to create jobs in the future but if developed correctly it could allow highlight where more incisive methods (regulation is a very blunt tool) could be used and focus on coming up with solutions to growth pains when businesses take on their first employee or land their first corporate contract.

It is only when the problem is understood that you can come up with a solution.

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