Isn’t it great when you come across something in your line of work that is so impressive that you feel the need to tell others about it? This is what I felt when I came across the U.K. Government’s Red Tape Challenge (RTC), a national crowdsourcing initiative aimed at reducing the overall burden of regulations for businesses and individuals. Some of you may be asking, “What does the public know about this kind of stuff?” Consider your own experiences, and you’ll realize that the ‘everyday citizen’ knows a lot about regulations! You can learn more about how the process works here.
In today’s world, the word regulation is often maligned (for example, look south). But it’s important to remember that there is an entire range of necessary regulations out there – the point of the RTC is to identify those that are “unnecessary and inappropriate.” As the RTC points out, “good regulation is a good thing… [but it’s] when people are confronted by a raft of regulations whenever they try to volunteer or play a bigger part in their neighbourhood, they begin to think they shouldn’t bother.” Ultimately, feedback from the process will be used to develop a set of proposals on how regulations can be reformed, “with the presumption that all burdensome regulations will go unless Departments can justify why they are needed.”
- It reflects so many of the best practices for public involvement that it could be a “how-to” for crowdsourcing and government in general. This is what I’ll be writing about in Part II of this blog…
- There have been real impacts! The UK government doesn’t just thank people and tell them their input has been “duly noted”; they actually made changes based on the feedback they received and show people how they’ve helped make a difference! Click on the image and you’ll see how.
So what types of changes have they made? Let’s look at some regulatory areas:
- Employment: Over 2200 comments helped inform the UK’s Business Secretary’s decision to simplify 40% of current regulations in this area. The most notable proposed change is simplifying the employment tribunals system to improve hiring, firing and dispute resolution processes, particularly for small businesses. This is “expected to deliver £40 million a year in benefits to employers” (64 million CAD/USD).
- Retail: The Business Secretary also announced that over half of the current legislation in this area will be scrapped. A wide range of changes have been proposed, such as replacing a dozen overlapping consumer rights laws with a single piece of legislation; simplifying the poisons licensing system for low-risk products, such as toilet cleaner; and removing antiquated legislation, such as the Trading with the Enemy Act that has been in force since the outbreak of WWII (one participant commented that this is “an embarrassing anachronism that needs to be excised!”).
- Hospitality, Food and Drink: With nearly 600 comments, the Tourism Minister announced a package of reforms, including reducing the paperwork for alcohol and entertainment licensing for businesses with minimal alcohol sales/ little or no risk of causing trouble (e.g. bed and breakfasts, small venues); and increasing transparency on charges for water supply inspection (one participant commented that “many local authorities see [it] as a cash cow”).
I couldn’t possibly fit more into this blog, so please click here to learn more about the wide range of changes that have been informed by the RTC. As a citizen, you should be interested in these types of initiatives and ask, “Why isn’t my government asking me these types of things?”
Part II of this blog will be coming soon!