Primary Authority offers businesses the opportunity to form a legally recognised partnership with one local authority (this local authority is then known as its ‘primary authority’), which then provides robust and reliable advice to their business partner and for other authorities to take into account when carrying out inspections or dealing with non-compliance.
The scheme is a common sense HM Government initiative to cut red tape and support economic growth through better local regulation. It is one of the most effective ways for local regulators to improve protection and support their business communities.
The principles of Primary Authority are set out in the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 (the RES Act). The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which received Royal Assent on 25 April 2013, amended the RES Act, broadening the eligibility criteria for participation in Primary Authority, and strengthening inspection plans.
Supported by new statutory guidance, the scheme is now accessible to more small businesses and covers more regulations. Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO). BRDO was created on 1 April 2012 as an independent unit within the government's Department for Business Innovations and Skills (BIS). pafs's areas of work looked at regulation reform, business and enterprise.
Primary Authority and fire safety
What are the benefits to business?
Following a successful pilot period, the Government has agreed, subject to Parliamentary approval, to extend the scope of Primary Authority to include fire safety. The new arrangements take effect from 6 April 2014, giving businesses access to assured fire safety advice they can rely on.
A business that chooses to participate in Primary Authority is demonstrating a commitment to working in partnership with regulators, and a desire to improve its experience of local regulation. The scheme enables primary authorities to develop positive relationships with such businesses, sowing the seeds for a new way of regulating businesses that are committed to compliance.
The businesses participating in Primary Authority range from large businesses operating across the country to very small locally based businesses with just a few employees. They include businesses as diverse as farm-based market traders, breweries, tyre fitters, betting shop operators and high street retailers.
A business may have a direct partnership with its primary authority, or may be one of a group of businesses that has their partnerships co-ordinated by a third party, such as a trade association or franchisor.
Feedback: Small business
"All queries from enforcing authorities are now referred to our primary authority. These queries are quite frequent and in the past took up a great deal of our time... Our primary authority gives advice that is now entirely consistent and the time we spend on regulatory activity has reduced dramatically. Issues are resolved better, faster and more consistently – for us Primary Authority is a much more efficient way of proceeding."
"...there is now regular contact between us, either face-to-face or by phone, on average around every six months. There is far more contact, and far more 'activity', than there would be in the absence of Primary Authority, but this is entirely beneficial and welcomed by us. Crucially, the kind of contact we have has changed. Whereas all a regulator can usually do is say something about what is happening at present, now our primary authority is actively involved in advising us on what we intend to do in the future."
Feedback: Large business
"Our relationship with Trading Standards has gone from being defensive and reactive to positive and proactive. We now have grown-up conversations with the regulatory authorities on a regular basis; these are usually extremely helpful to us."
"The open and honest relationship we have with our PA Officer also allows us to discuss in advance new business ideas and opportunities in confidence to be sure that we can effectively land these across our business in a compliant manner and be right first time." 
Department for Innovation and Skills (BIS), Better Regulation Delivery Office, Primary Authority Handbook, December 2013.
Related Legislation and further reading
All the legislation underpinning Primary Authority can be downloaded via the website of the Office of Public Sector Information.
The relevant documents are: