The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been called upon by Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman to do more to reduce red tape for small businesses.

During a speech by Clegg at a meeting of small businesses, Lowman challenged him to extend the moratorium on new employment legislation to more businesses, and to reduce burdens from local government and enforcement practices.

“The government is setting the right agenda for tackling the burden of regulation, but it needs to go further and faster,” said Lowman. “Special dispensation applying to micro-businesses should be extended to more small firms. The culture of better regulation has to stretch to town halls as well as Whitehall, especially with more regulatory decisions being made at a local level.”

Clegg has proposed loosening the rules around inspections and urged the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive to “liberate small businesses from the burden of red tape”.

“On average, for every hour someone in a big company spends on paperwork, someone in a smaller firm spends nearly nine hours,” he said. “The typical small business owner says they are spending around a day a week complying with government regulation rather than bringing in new business. That is bad enough in the good times. It makes even less sense when times are tough.”

One area focused on by Lowman was the government’s plans to streamline the tax system. “We need to hold the government to this pledge,” he said. “We would like to hear from retailers details of how the tax system could be made less costly and bureaucratic.”