The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) 2007 Burdens Barometer shows the cumulative cost of regulation since 1998 has risen to £55.6 billion, despite government claims to cut red tape.

It calculates there has been a £1.6bn rise in 2006 alone, from £10.3bn from £8.7bn in 2005. It also highlighted particularly burdensome regulations as the Data Protection Bill, costing £6.6bn and the Vehicle Excise Duty Regulations, costing £1.2bn associated with compliance since 1998.

Telecommunications companies have been particularly vocal in questioning the cost of data protection legislation as current European Union discussions could force them to store and retrieve email and call data on a massively increased scale.

Sally Low, BCC Policy and External Affairs director said: “Despite talking tough on regulation this year’s figures are once again painful reading for business. The UK’s growing burden of red tape is unsustainable and economic success cannot be taken for granted. Unless this increase is curbed we risk significant damage to the competitiveness of UK companies.

Francis Chittenden, Professor of Small Business Finance at the Manchester Business School and co-author of the Burdens Barometer, said: “These figures show that Government rhetoric about listening to business concerns and reducing the burden of regulation is just that.

“The burden of regulation on business continues to grow unchecked and we predict this will continue until the Government machine has a complete rethink about the objectives that it is trying to achieve.”