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In Lord Young's recent report on small firms he suggested that if we had the same start-up rate as the United States, the UK would have an extra 900,000 businesses. That would bring the UK's enterprise population - 99 per cent of whom are small and medium sized businesses - to about 5.5 million businesses.
The conventional wisdom is that if you have more businesses this adds to the vibrancy of the UK enterprise population. More is better because it creates jobs, potentially increases innovation and goes on to increase competition.
Last week, the National Audit Office (NAO) published a report which found that private sector jobs created under the £1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund cost between £4,000 and £200,000 per job. For the whole UK, they estimate that the Fund will create around 41,000 net new jobs, with around 8,600 of those being located in the West Midlands.
The current unemployment rate for the West Midlands is around 9 per cent which is - when converted to something meaningful - is the lives of about 240,000 people.
Or, in other words, whilst welcome, these 8,600 new jobs might shave next to nothing off the total unemployment for the region.
The total burden of business regulations on small businesses is excessive. Last week, regional business leaders in the West Midlands argued that employment generation has been stifled by overly onerous employment legislation. With employment tribunals costing, on average, small businesses about £15,000, it is hard not to see why.
It is not just employment legislation. Suppose you ran a garden centre business: a limited company with 17 workers. You would face 58 separate regulations, says the government's Better Regulation Executive. As a small business owner, your responsibility - everything from collecting and recycling batteries to the appropriate licensing of a fork lift - is to ensure that your business was compliant with all these regulations.