Phil Orford

Chief executive, Forum of Private Business

The Forum of Private Business is sending politicians on ’work experience’ placements to find out about the challenges and opportunities facing small businesses including Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin, who spent time at West Dorset pie shop, Bridport Gourmet Pies.

For the past couple of months, MPs, MSPs and Welsh Assembly members have been visiting local firms to gain valuable insights into small businesses as part of the Forum’s ’Business Buddy’ scheme.

There is a serious point to all this many Forum members complain that their elected representatives don’t understand them at all. These visits are intended to place small firms at the forefront of political thinking when laws are passed or policies introduced, rather than at the sidelines. They are certainly needed, judging by the difficult enterprise environment in the UK particularly, the massive bureaucratic barriers to starting and growing a business that still exist, regardless of what the government is saying at present about its apparent red tape-busting successes.

Our latest ’Referendum’ survey into the cost of complying with regulations found that red tape costs small businesses in the UK almost £17bn per year. This includes the time owner-managers or their key directors spend on form-filling when they could be winning work, and external consultancy fees. So we hope that placements such as Letwin’s pie shop experience drive home the point.

Business Buddy was launched as part of the Forum’s Get Britain Trading campaign. For details call 0845 612 6266 or visit