In his first speech since taking on the role as the Government's 'retail tsar', the Kingfisher chief executive demanded an overhaul of the entire regulatory system.Murphy said: 'We have a regulatory regime that is diffuse, fragmented and difficult to understand. It is not always applied consistently even within individual agencies, let alone across the country.'
Murphy described the mounds of form filling and submissions that a retailer must negotiate. He complained that if planning consent was initially denied, the number of bureaucratic hurdles rose to more than 70.
The retail champion is spearheading the campaign on behalf of retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Dixons, which have complained bitterly about the burden of bureaucracy.
Marks & Spencer retail director Anthony Thompson said: 'In terms of regulation and compliance, a small Simply Food store such as Llanishen in South Wales has a similar workload to our store in Bluewater, which has 250,000 visitors a week.'
Baugur chief executive Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson also flagged the issue in a TV interview this week. A spokesman said later that, compared with Scandinavian countries, the bureaucracy involved in making acquisitions in the UK was 'staggering'.
Murphy complained that the demands from a host of Government bodies were not only numerous, but often duplicated. 'Some of these regulations are acts of Parliament, some are guidance issues that can be inconsistently interpreted,' continued Murphy. 'In addition, the guidance itself is subject to regular review so each new store has to be treated as a one-off.'
He said resources should be freed up to allow retailers to be more productive and enable bodies such as Trading Standards to 'hunt down and smoke out the real rogues'.
Murphy said pilot schemes in Bexley and Warwickshire over the next year will give a better idea of the cost burden to retailers and a firmer understanding of solutions to the core issues. However, he said studies in
Holland suggest the total cost of unnecessary red tape could be as much as 5 per cent of GDP.
- B&Q Asia boss Steve Gilman has started work in the UK to help new chief executive Ian Cheshire improve B&Q's retail proposition. Gilman's move is temporary. David Roth will step down as B&Q's marketing director.