Half of all businesses say there is too much regulation, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of the National Audit Office, the Better Regulation Executive and the Better Regulation Delivery Office.

However, fewer businesses felt that the overall level of regulation in the UK was an obstacle to their business success compared with three years ago, found the survey, the fifth commissioned by the National Audit Office.

There is evidence that the regulatory burden is decreasing, with the proportion of businesses agreeing that the level of regulation in the UK is an obstacle to their businesses’ success falling from 62% in 2009 to 55% in 2012.

Within these figures, the proportion that strongly agreed regulation is an obstacle decreased from 35% to 24%. However, small businesses were more likely on average to agree strongly that the overall level of regulation is an obstacle (31%).

Business perception of the Government’s approach to regulation, as measured by agreement levels in response to a series of statements, is less positive in 2012 than it was in 2010.

One-third (33%) of businesses felt that, overall, complying with regulation had become more time consuming over the last 12 months. Small businesses (50%) and medium-sized businesses (44%) were more likely to report an increasing burden than were large businesses.

Chris Shapcott, Director of Regulatory Studies at the National Audit Office, said:

“The news that fewer businesses felt that the overall level of regulation in the UK was an obstacle is welcome. But more work needs to be done, particularly to ensure that small businesses feel the same reduction in the burden of regulation that large businesses have.”

Steve Radley, Policy Director at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said:

“We welcome the Government’s efforts to tackle red tape and note the progress suggested by the report. But, the view from industry is that progress is too slow.

“With its own report showing that more than half of companies still cite regulation as an obstacle to growing their business, the Government can and must do better. In particular, it must grasp opportunity with its forthcoming employment law reforms to take measurable actions that will make a real difference to business.”