This time last year the nation was gripped as the Foulwater Parasite Red Tape Worm promised to perform a quite disgusting evolutionary first: on live TV (well, the CBI Annual Conference) it bragged it would insert itself up its own jacksie, and eat itself from the inside out.
Brilliant! Nobody could imagine a better Xmas Special to follow the turkey and the Queen.
But then it wimped out! Instead of a gut-busting slime and gore fest, with 25% of its own official red tape being revoltingly re-ingested, the Worm served up nothing more than a minor tweak to the planning regs for second satellite dishes (see this blog). The nation was devastated.
So nobody should be surprised at the total indifference that has greeted Hutton's announcement of this year's gig. Even the Spice Girls gigs are half empty, and they wiggle around; the Worm just sits there spouting vacuities and making empty promises. I mean, what kind of act is that?
Politicos have been promising cuts in red tape since state regulations were first chiselled onto stone slabs. Here's a summary of the last few years:
A few months back the National Audit Office looked at this (see this blog), and came up with the following:
- Total costs of red tape are officially estimated at £31bn pa. But £11bn pa of that supposedly relates to "business as usual" paperwork that businesses would have to do anyway. Which means the net cost of government red tape- the "administrative burden" of government- is officially put at £20bn pa. The government's target is to reduce that by 25% by 2010.
- The four worst offenders are the DTI (as was), HMRC, Communities and Local Government, and the Health and Safety Executive. Together they acount for about three-quarters of all red tape (by cost)
- These estimates were cooked up... sorry, put together, by consultants PWC and KPMG, using a survey based approach known as the "Standard Cost Model" (see Report Fig 6). Real world costs are certainly much higher, but it's nice work for the consultants- their fees have so far amounted to £17m (para 2.2).
- Red tape is "likely to be a relatively small element of total cost to business of complying with regulation". And it's unlikely to be the biggest part: that comprises the burden of the regulations themselves. Using official government figures, the British Chambers of Commerce estimates the total cost of regulation has increased by £55.7bn pa just since 1998.
The only sure way to cut red tape is to cut regulation.
And the only sure way of cutting regulation is to cut government.