Red tape for small businesses has not reduced despite attempts by the Coalition Government, according to a new survey by the Forum of Private Business (FPB). Small firms spend £16.8bn per year complying with regulations, or £14,200 per company on average. That’s an increase of 1% from a similar survey two years ago. “While this is a rise of just 1% compared to two years ago, the increase is greater in real terms because economic activity, which drives the need for compliance, has shrunk significantly since the 2009 survey was carried out,” said the Forum’s head of campaigns Jane Bennett. “Despite several government initiatives – some more effective than others - it is clear that we are heading in the wrong direction as far as reducing regulation for small business owners is concerned. We simply want these measures to work properly and for the voices of the UK’s business owners to be clearly heard. “We also want the authority of the Local Better Regulatory Office (LBRO) to be maintained following its move into the Government’s business department, and targeted support, sympathetic enforcement and grading of compliance would be helpful.” In total 84% of Forum members reported an increase in time spent complying with legislation since 2009, and 67% said they are forced to spend more money on external consultants to help them avoid legal pitfalls. According to the survey, administering tax has become the top regulatory burden for small business owners. Tax-related regulation was deemed to be the most costly area of red tape, leaving smaller employers with a bill of £5.1bn per year. Employment law was second at £4.2bn, followed by health and safety law at £3.8bn.