Researchers have found that the small business community is learning to love local government. A review of the Retail Enforcement Pilot shows that instead of the perceived tense stand-off with councils, many small businesses are actively seeking positive partnerships with regulatory officers.
The Pilot, designed to make life simpler for retailers, was overseen by the public body for better local regulation, LBRO. It involved 31 local authorities over a year in testing different ways of working. The review of its work, led by the Centre for Economic Development at the University of Cumbria, found that visits from health and safety, trading standards or environmental health officers were actually welcomed by some businesses as a way of getting information and guidance from trusted sources and reassurance that they were complying with the law.
The Chair of LBRO, Clive Grace, said: “Small and medium businesses place a great deal of value on the professionalism and expertise of regulatory officers who are the visible face of local authorities in the business community.” A separate study has shown that more than half of businesses having face to face contact with a local council do so through a regulatory services officer.
Companies in the latest review reported a marked difference between dealing with officers who were ‘business savvy’ and those who lacked business awareness. This is being addressed by LBRO’s Trading Places initiative under which council officers are given placements in local companies. The study also shows that paperwork and lack of consistency between regulators were concerns for businesses which had met different attitudes and approaches across authorities.