Eric Galbraith compares the clear-out of our signpost-cluttered streets to new rules for financial companies, and says the lesson is: keep it simple

I was cheered by the Department for Transport’s recent missive to councils encouraging them to get rid of unnecessary street furniture – that’s signposts, railings, rubbish bins and the like to the uninitiated.

Many a time I’ve wandered down a street and encountered what communities secretary Eric Pickles describes as “scruffy signs, bossy bollards and patchwork paving”.

Too much clutter is confusing and can have the opposite effect to what is intended: adding complexity and blighting the character of a neighbourhood. It is also a waste of money.

In this latest government initiative, local people are being urged to carry out street audits and alert their councils to street furniture that can be removed. Goodbye unnecessary bollards and pointless signs; hello tidier and more navigable streets.

I am not arguing that all street signs should go, but frankly we are well aware of the signs vital to ensure the free and safe movement of traffic and pedestrians.

Signs are at their most effective when kept simple. We don’t need so much information thrown at us that we no longer stop and question the sense of what we are being told to do and at what cost.

It is like that with regulation. Regulation is not the only way to respond to the challenges arising from difficult economic times.

Just as local streets are being reclaimed for local people, I want to see insurance intermediaries and brokers taking back from the regulator some of the initiatives that affect their businesses.

We should not need the regulator to tell us what is best for our industry and its customers. We know in our hearts that, in addition to good regulation, we need to behave responsibly towards our customers, have strong values, commit to excellence, act ethically and behave with integrity. It is only by embracing these factors that we can ensure professionalism and an industry where a good reputation is king.

That said, the Treasury is currently consulting on major changes to the UK’s regulatory architecture. These changes are set out in its consultation paper – ‘A new approach to financial regulation: judgement, focus and stability’.

The Treasury is determined to implement the proposals contained within its paper. While the financial services industry has no choice in the amount or the cost of the regulatory furniture that it will be using in future, it is at least being asked for its views on some of the finer details – the fabric coverings and colours as it were.

Biba’s concern is that the consultation paper does not raise specific questions about the regulation of insurance intermediaries. This is why we plan to present the Treasury with our own paper, making a case for a more appropriate, proportionate and cost-effective regime.

In order to put this paper together, we are inviting members to complete a small questionnaire about their regulatory experience. This will provide us with some quantitative and qualitative research that will form the basis of our paper. Any comments provided will be anonymous.

Ultimately, we want our industry to be more self-determining, and able to decide what’s best for our businesses and our customers, all the while operating within a supportive, cost-effective and proportionate regulatory regime.

Now is the time to get involved. We must do something. If we do not participate in discussions and the government interprets our lack of signals about its new approach to regulation as acquiescence, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Act now if you want to avoid ending up with the regulatory equivalent of a dodgy showroom crammed full of over-designed, expensive and uncomfortable furniture. IT