Small businesses come under closer scrutiny

DESIGN consultancies are increasingly liable to face official inspection as enforcement officials have greater powers than ever, says a new report.

The document, published by the Federation of Small Businesses on Tuesday, shows the threat of investigation has doubled over the past 20 years. There are now over 300 types of inspections carrying a right of entry, compared to 151 in 1979.

Called Inspector at the Door, the report reveals that inspectors have 267 different pieces of legislation authorising entry into an owner’s business or home. During 1997-98 there were 465 844 inspections of UK businesses.

A spokesman for the FSB says tax inspections take an average of one day. Health and safety checks take two to three hours.

FSB executive director Brian Prime slams the “bureaucratic nightmare” facing small companies. “At a time when small businesses need regulation reduced, this report shows an increase in the number of inspections, enforcement officers and, most worryingly, an increase in the number of authorisations that are an inspector’s warrant of entry.”

Storm creative director Alex Bane says: “We had a health and safety inspection last year and everything was fine,” he says. “But it’s all down to organisation. These new regulations are just the next challenge to work around.”

Elmwood financial director John Dewhirst says: “In all our dealings with inspectors we have found them to be quite professional, helpful and courteous.”

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