Call for local authorities to invest more in trading standards
The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) today sent out a timely reminder to local authorities across the UK that dwindling numbers of new recruits and a lack of workforce planning could seriously compromise the ability of trading standards services to deliver local and national priorities.
The 2007 Rogers Review identified public protection issues such as fair trading, sales of alcohol and animal health as National Enforcement Priorities for Local Authority Regulatory Services.
However, the number of trainee trading standards officers fell by 31% - from 140 to 97 students - during 2007, states the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy in its publication 'Trading Standards Statistics 2007'.
TSI is working in collaboration with Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACoRS) and the Improvement and Development Agency to support local authorities by developing workable solutions to tackle recruitment and retention issues.
'It is vitally important that local authorities recognise the corporate value that their trading standards services and officers contribute to local and national priorities', said Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI.
'Through the new qualifications and competency framework we are seeing a growth in the numbers of individuals seeking qualifications, but we need to ensure that local authorities commit funding and resources.
'We need to make sure that the continuing trend in recruitment and retention of trading standards professionals is reversed in light of the warnings and predictions made by concerned stakeholders.'
At a recent Local Better Regulation Office/LACORS event, Councillor Richard Kemp, Deputy Chair of the Local Government Association (LGA), said: 'Trading standards and environmental health officers are a council's best kept secret.' He added that the work of local councillors would be seriously undermined without the support they provide.
This is a historic and commemorative year for the trading standards graduates of 2007, as it is the last of the Diploma in Trading Standards (DTS) examinations. 2006 saw the launch of the new Trading Standards Qualifications Framework, delivered by TSI. The framework was designed by TSI to train the required competencies necessary for the modern enforcement officer. It also allows more flexibility - not only for the individuals undertaking professional qualifications but also for local authorities sponsoring them. Since 2006, the Trading Standards Qualifications Framework has handed out 249 awards and the Diploma in Trading Standards has presented 86 awards.
The graduation and awards ceremony for candidates who achieved qualifications and competencies during 2007, to be held on Thursday 26 June, is one of the highlights of the annual TSI conference and exhibition taking place this week at Bournemouth International Centre.
'This is a triumphant occasion for those trainees who have studied and gained qualifications to be competent to deliver consumer protection legislation,' said Phil Owen, education and training manager for TSI.
'It also, however, brings attention to some of the workforce issues that surround the trading standards service.'
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, in its publication 'Trading Standards Statistics 2007', states: 'There has been a general concern in recent years about the numbers of trading standards officers (TSOs) in Britain.
'As well as being evident in the overall staffing levels, this is further reflected in a drop in both the number of qualified and trainee TSOs since 2003. Although numbers of trainee TSOs did increase between 2004 and 2006, they have fallen by 31% during 2007.'
The OFT, in its survey of local authority trading standards services in 2006, said: 'In 50% of trading standards services, funding is reported to be declining, resulting in either curtailment of highly desired business or consumer activity or non-essential services.
'43.6% of trading standards services are not able to provide services to consumers due to a lack of staff, with the London boroughs being among the worst affected.'
Mr Owen said: 'Some of the services local authorities were not able to deliver in 2006 due to lack of staff included the National Enforcement Priorities of fair trading, sales of alcohol and animal health. On top of all of this the local government workforce strategy for 2007 reports that trading standards officers are one of the top 10 most difficult to recruit, with 45.7% of local authorities reporting difficulties in recruitment in this area. Why is it difficult to recruit and what can be done about it? It is difficult to recruit qualified staff with current competences due to the lack of resources local government commits to Local Trading Standards service training budgets.'
Notes to editors
The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2008, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) - a 'must' for consumer journalists!
The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.
Conference 2008 is being held at Bournemouth International Centre from Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 June. The conference press office will be open from 8am on Monday 23 June (the day before the event starts) until 2pm on Thursday 26 June.
Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.
The conference is hosted by TSI chairman Bryan Lewin.
Almost 2,000 people are attending the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!
Trading Standards Institute
The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.
Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.
TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.
They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.