Fears over excessive belt tightening
The Trading Standards Institute is concerned about the continuing ability of the enforcement system as a whole to ensure UK consumers remain protected from unfair traders after a new report shows an alarming decline of trading standards funds and lack of coordination.
Protecting Consumers- the System for Enforcing Consumer Law, published by the Public Accounts Committee today (9 November), shows that although much detriment to consumers occurs at the regional and national levels, incentives are weighted against a coordinated approach by trading standards services beyond local areas.
Central government provides annual funding of £34 million to tackle crime that crosses local authority borders, but this is relatively low compared to the scale of the problem which is at least £4.8 billion.
Currently some larger trading standards services do take on substantial cross-border cases but their ability and willingness to do so is set to be slashed with their funding; the annual funding for trading standards services is estimated to reduce from its current level of £213 million to as little as £140 million by 2014.
TSI’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said: “We welcome this report as it highlights the knife edge local authority trading standards services are on.
“It confirms some of our concerns for the future of consumer protection and the trading standards profession, detailed in our Manifesto in 2010.
“Trading standards officers up and down the country are doing a fantastic and essential job keeping our communities safe and healthy, punching above their weight in their resolve to see fairness and justice.
“An effective trading standards service strangulated by excessive belt tightening is a frightening prospect that will work against economic recovery as criminals eat away at honest businesses and devastate consumers’ lives.
“Trading standards cannot be expected to fight rogues at a cross-border level without adequate support; these cases can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and some services have as little as two members of staff.
“This must be a wake-up call to galvanise a more consistent and coordinated approach from the enforcement system as a whole, with clearer guidance, support and long term vision from central Government.”
Notes for Editors:
For further information or to arrange an interview please contact Irja Howie at TSI press office on 08456089430 / 07780675815 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Trading Standards Institute (TSI)
TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.
TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. We are also supporting the delivery of initiatives such as the advice services Consumer Direct, UK ECC and ECCS.