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Inspections 'burden firms'

Tom Wall04/04/2012 - 13:00

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Firms can give opinion of enforcement
Firms can give opinion of enforcement

Small businesses ‘weighed down with inspections’ will be able to register their views in an online consultation, the government has announced.

Vince Cable, business secretary, said ‘inconsistent, inappropriate or overlapping enforcement’ was costing businesses time and money.

‘Focus on Enforcement gives all businesses, but especially smaller and medium sized firms that often feel the disproportionate weight of inspection and compliance, the chance to make a real difference to the way regulators visit, inspect and advise business and enforce the law,’ he said.

Focus on Enforcement follows on from the Red Tape Challenge.

‘The government knows that ill thought-out regulations cost businesses time and money – which is why it devised the Red Tape Challenge. But sometimes the regulations are fine, it is inconsistent, inappropriate or overlapping enforcement that is the problem,’ explained Mr Cable.

However most of the contributions on the food manufacturing section of Focus on Enforcement website appear to favour tougher enforcement.

One contributor, Ian Moore, said the recent BBC Food Inspectors series highlights the disregard many food businesses display ‘for the rules’.

Another referred to as ‘HACCP Checker’ argues for more regular inspections: ‘Businesses expect to get an annual food hygiene inspection, and when this is moved to 18 months or 24 months, standards often fall, especially documentation of HACCP which tends to stop once Safer Food Better Business pages run out or the food business operator goes on holiday.’

Lesley said the government should ask enforcers rather businesses, as they know ‘what is found during inspections and why comprehensive inspections are needed’.

David Kidney, CIEH head of policy, said the Focus on Enforcement doesn’t just follow on from the Red Tape Challenge, it continues a constant denigration and undermining of regulation and regulators.

‘Let us just remind ourselves that in a civilised society regulation is valuable for public protection, supporting enterprise and growth, improving public health and wellbeing and helping to tackle climate change including the promotion of sustainable development. This constant negativity is harmful to morale, performance and public respect for regulators. It is time that ministers saw this,’ he said.

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3216 days ago
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Here we go again! Does BIS actually look at the evidence, which consistently says that the great majority of small businesses find inspections/enforcement visits helpful? Rightly or wrongly, they rely on EHPs to let them know where they need to improve. As for being 'weighed down with inspections', nothing could be further from the truth for the vast majority of small businesses. I recall that when the scheme to have one local agency inspect for all others (started in Warwickshire I think) was being promoted in my area, I was astounded to learn that 87% of businesses were having no more than one inspection a year from any local agency. When I talk to friends who are managers in food and other manufacturing businesses who deal with the supermarkets and other major retailers, they tell me about the huge burden placed on them by audits from many of these customers. Not only do they have a British Retail Consortium audit (that was supposed to replace all the individual retailer audits when introduced), but also individual audits from Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury etc. Each one of these audits takes up vastly more time than the LA inspections, and they are far more frequent as well. I hope CIEH will go back to BIS and ask the Government if it is aware of this burden by business on business, and when it proposes to investigate. As we have seen so often in the past, such burdens as there are, are often caused not by regulations or inspectors, but by other businesses. This can be businesses promoting their services by creating fears about regulations for example. How many of us have inspected businesses that have spent thousands on equipment or finishes that wasn't needed, because a sales rep used fear of the regulator as a sales tactic? Next time a Minister refers to the burdens of red tape, I suggest we point out his tape is made of herrings!!

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