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Red tape – the power of local solutions

On 20/08/13 by Richard Matthews (Midlands Secretary)

Over the years the industry has been inundated with major pieces of legislation affecting both pubs and alcohol. Add in regulation on food standards, planning, smoking, environmental issues and responsibility and you have a minefield of compliance challenges. In fact every time a licensee opens the doors of his pub he can be facing up to 1,000 legislative issues at one time (I haven’t checked this personally so you’ll have to take my word for it). Given this figure, it is little wonder that the industry wants to see less red tape and an easing of the regulatory burden that is strangling it. One way of doing that is to engage in programmes aimed at reducing the burden and bringing about a more common-sense approach to red tape and regulation.

I have been a member of the Leicester Better Business for All (BBfA) group since its inception, operating under the auspices of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), working closely with the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO). The overriding aims of the group are to bring regulatory officers closer to businesses, break down the barriers and build partnerships.

Particularly beneficial has been a series of business awareness days which led to regulatory officers going into business premises so they could gain a better understanding of the problems being faced at the sharp end. The aim was to improve the ability of officers to interact more effectively with businesses and provide the support that all business people need in these difficult times.

After stressing that officers would not be acting in an official regulatory capacity or undertaking a formal inspection, a number of licensees opened the pub doors to environmental health, food safety, health and safety and trading standards officers in an effort to help them see things from the other side of the bar.

This has led to more harmonious relations all-round but it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Complaints at the over-zealous attitude by some fire officers when carrying out inspections at pubs led to representations being made to the Better Business Group and an immediate “clear the air” meeting arranged at the county’s fire headquarters.

Procedures have since been revised and I jumped on an invitation to accompany a fire officer on an inspection visit to a pub. I soon realised though that these visits can be a very thorough and in-depth affair that could seem quite intimidating for an unprepared licensee. That is why we are now jointly working on ways of making the process smoother.

Member companies will do well to acquaint themselves with the workings of the Better Business Group because this pathfinder project - there’s a similar one in Greater Birmingham and Solihull - is now being rolled out to 13 other areas across the country. I would encourage members to nominate representatives to sit on steering groups as efforts continue to bring regulatory officers and businesses closer together.

To find out more please go to or contact me on Tel. 01562 67708.


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