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The news that only 10 companies have thus far bothered to submit proposals for regulatory reform to the government’s new red tape website betterregulation.gov.uk seems curious, given that this is meant to be the chance for business to target red tape. So the FT set off to to investigate the site.
Step 1: Log on the website at www.betterregulation.gov.uk. Mission accomplished, the pleasing purple and white tones declare that this is place to lay siege to unwanted and unwarranted red tape.
Of course, to get this far one has to know the address. If for example one simply knows of the website’s existence and has a rough idea of its name, the search can take longer. It is important not to confuse the Better Regulation Executive of the Cabinet Office, which is co-ordinating this exercise with the Better Regulation Task Force, which is not.
If however, you arrive at the Better Regulation Executive home page you will easily locate the section which states: “A new better regulation portal at www.betterregulation.gov.uk is also being launched which delivers the process for stakeholders to make regulatory simplification suggestions to government, as recommended in the BRTF report ‘Less is More’.” And then of course, all will be clear.
Step 2: Congratulations, you have made it to the right portal. In clear terms the reader is told that the government needs your help and “wants to receive practical proposals for regulatory simplification from business and other stakeholders”.
Step 3: Submit your proposal for regulatory reform.
Step 4: Whoa! Just a moment. You weren’t trying to submit a proposal without reading the guidance on regulatory simplification and submitting regulatory reform proposals, were you? This states quite clearly that you may submit a proposal “if you have already read the guidance”.
Step 5: Sigh deeply. Ask your secretary to hold all calls for the next half hour and tell that customer in reception that you are in a meeting.
Step 6: Click on the guidance. That’s better, don’t want to run before we can walk do we?
Step 7: Click on “What is simplification?” Groan inwardly. Read the definition and then move to “How can I get involved?” which explains the three methods of participation. Groan outwardly. The first methods covers use of existing channels and representative bodies, the last is to take part in a government survey. You want the middle one which is “for people with no voice in government”. That’s right: this is the option for small-fry nobodies like you.
Step 8: Go back and click on simplification guidance. Note, with mounting irritation, the four steps detailed on this page. Firstly, “Identify proposals for simplification”. Here the website advises that “When thinking about the regulatory regime in which your organisation operates a useful tool for identifying if a regulation is a potential candidate for simplification is to use the ‘Principles of Good Regulation’.” Begin to harbour niggling suspicion that you are not going to get away with simply bashing out three sentences about the regulation which is bothering you. Pause to wonder whether you dare risk not reading the principles of good regulation.
Step 9: Read the second item “Write a simplification proposal”, which explains that you should not waste the government’s time talking about workers’ rights or safety legislation. This is about the administrative cost of regulation only.
Step 10: Either a) swear at the machine, yell about maternity rights and log off, or b) move on to:
Step 11: Read the third item: “Submitting simplification proposals”. This states the proposal must be supported by “good supporting data or a high quality solution”. Oh yes, it’s no good just saying it’s a problem which takes up hours of your time: you need to spend hours of your time getting good supporting data on the problem.
Hold head in hands and emit low whimper. Tell secretary to offer your waiting customer some tea and biscuits. There’s no way round this, the website makes clear that if your proposal is “weak on detail it may be rejected”. This page also stresses that you must send your proposal to the relevant departmental contact.
Step 12: Click onto the list for relevant departmental contact. Yell “How do I know which is the relevant department?” before deciding just to send it to the cabinet office.
Step 13: Read page on the response to your submission. Wonder why you needed to bother.
Step 12: Click on examples of proposals. Compare and contrast the good and bad submissions. Note how the good example includes an estimate of the total cost saved to your industry by implementation of your proposal and your detailed breakdown of the hours which could be saved were your solution adopted. This is a splendid submission.
Step 13: You are now ready to write your submission. Well, obviously this is only in a notional sense, because you still haven’t collated your “good supporting data”. So…
Step 14: Give up for the day. Smooth feathers of angry customer. Resolve to collect data and return to website tomorrow.
Step 15: Forget all about it.
Step 16: Remember that you have forgotten all about it.
Step 17: Vow not to be beaten on this. Call partner and say you will be late home. Order pizza. Return to website but skip earlier pages, pausing briefly only to reacquaint yourself with model submission.
Step 18: Click on submission tools and downloads. Study the flowchart for a moment before grasping that this is not a submission tool but a graphic illustration of how the process which has already been described to you actually works.
Step 19: Read the full guidelines. Ensure you understand that your confidentiality cannot be guaranteed under the freedom of information act (unless there is anything in it which might embarrass the Treasury, in which case you can rest easy, there’s no way that sucker’s getting into the public domain). See the last item on “Where can I read more?”. Note with a frisson of delight the link to the Chancellor’s speech when he launched the better regulation action plan, but resolve to save that pleasure for another day.
Step 20: Click on proposal checklist and read it to make sure you are aware of all the information you will need to include in your submission
Step 21: Click on the proposal template (which includes details of all the information you will need to include) and start writing your submission. You will need to detail your annual turnover, the number of staff, the nature of your business. Make sure to fill in all the boxes, including the ones asking whether a micro business would be interested in your proposal.
Step 21: Click on submit proposal icon. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Step 22: Wander out of office with feeling of satisfaction at job well done and wait for the government’s reply. (See flowchart for details of how the process works from here). Marvel at the fact that though 790 people have visited this website, but only 10 have thus far submitted a proposal.