Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Spring Is in the Air after a Long Frost

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Spring Is in the Air after a Long Frost

Article excerpt

Byline: By Howard Walker

Pre-election budgets are notorious for their generosity, but what did Gordon Brown have in the way of give-aways for business in the North-East? Deputy Business Editor Howard Walker gives his assessment.

To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged in political circles that businesses don't vote.

While politicians are happy to pay lip service to the contribution that business makes, those warm words are rarely matched by more than the odd token gesture. And in the case of some previous Budgets from Gordon Brown ( in particular the infamous Employers' National Insurance-raising one of 2002 ( those words have been replaced with an icy resolve to raise more cash for the country's coffers.

Yet it appears that this periodically frosty relationship is beginning to thaw. After years of businesses complaining "you're not listening to us" and Brown responding "you're not hearing me", the two appear to be reaching an understanding.

The rock on which much of business' trust in Brown and the Government has foundered has been regulation and red tape. While companies are, on the whole, grateful to the Chancellor for presiding over a growing and stable economy, the mounting burden of rules to be followed and forms to be filled has had them tearing their corporate hair out.

Now it appears that the noise of that shredding has reached the ear of Mr Brown.

Yesterday, he admitted "it is right to lessen the burden of regulation" and, after commissioning Philip Hampton to carry out a review of the current regulatory regime, the Chancellor has agreed that major reform is needed.

The key planks of that reform ( that inspections should be carried out by fewer bodies and that they should be conducted according to risk factors and previous record ( are eminently sensible and have been widely welcomed. …

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