REGULATION and ‘red tape’ is costing companies more money than ever, a Huddersfield-based business group said today.

The latest British Chambers of Commerce Burdens Barometer claimed the cumulative cost of business regulations since 1998 now stood at £5.7bn for Yorkshire firms.

The barometer said the total for firms across the UK now stood at £76.8bn.

That compared with £65.9bn last year, £55.6bn in 2007 – and just £10bn for 2001.

However, the barometer also said that 18 specific regulations introduced since 1998 had brought total savings of £1.4bn.

The barometer said there was evidence that the Government’s Better Regulation Taskforce – charged with tackling red tape – was beginning to do its job, but added: “Current financial pressures on business are such that more should be done, where possible, to further reduce the overall burden.”

It added: “The fact remains that despite three Acts of Parliament designed to reduce the regulatory impact, the increase in the cost of regulation continues relentlessly.

“In 2007-8, companies were hit with 19 new regulations costing them £2.1bn.”

The barometer highlighted the 1999 Working Time Regulations and the 2000 Vehicle Excise Duty Regulations to reduce pollution as the two “most burdensome” to business.

It claimed the Working Time Directive had so far cost businesses £17.8bn with an annual cost of £1.8bn.

More than 100 regulations introduced since 1998 range from ones covering data protection, disability discrimination, parental leave and employment relations to food labelling, health and safety, vehicle emissions and stakeholder pensions.

Many of the new regulations have been introduced to afford greater public, environmental and safety protection in an environment of business cost-cutting.

Steven Leigh, policy spokesman for the Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire chamber, said: “Many of the regulations must remain in place – and previous efforts to rationalise and simplify legislation have actually caused much more cost and complication than anticipated.

“It is ironic that amid all this costly bureaucracy and red tape, the recent regulations affecting the banking sector proved to be so ineffectual.”