Announced cuts of 80% open door to rogue traders
Worcestershire County Council is proposing to cut 80% of its funding for trading standards services over the next three years as local government spending cuts are implemented, potentially opening the door to rogue traders, counterfeiters, loan sharks and illicit substances.
The proposals will go before the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Performance Board on 24th October along with other proposals aimed at saving the Council around £90M from its £334M total budget over the forthcoming years. Trading Standards is currently part of the Worcestershire Regulatory shared service, which also delivers Environmental Health and Licensing functions for the 6 district councils in the county. The County Council’s proposal indicates that they would also like the partnership to consider other aspects of the model used for sharing services, and to look to secure other "upper tier" partners for Trading Standards to deliver economies of scale and resilience.
The proposed cuts are the beginning of a three year plan that will see the reduction of 28 officers delivering trading standards and animal health, to six or seven. A previous budget of around £1.7 million will be reduced to £250,000 by 2016/17.
Trading Standards Services are already coping with disproportionate cuts in comparison to other parts of local government. This level of additional reduction will impact residents and businesses that rely on the service in the following ways:
- Businesses across the country follow the advice of trading standards to protect consumers and to avoid committing offences. Further damaging cuts will result in information being tougher to obtain and upstanding businesses may fall foul of the law.
- The reduction will not only increase the risks of instances of food fraud similar to the horsemeat scandal due to fewer inspections, but cuts will also compromise the ability to respond to such incidents.
- Communities will suffer as young people will no longer be protected from alcohol and tobacco, and the protection of vulnerable and older people will suffer as the number of rogue traders will increase. The ease with which rogue traders can move across boundaries as a result of cuts would mean that elderly and vulnerable citizens will be seen as a soft target and will put them at greater risk.
Trading Standards Institute's chief executive, Leon Livermore, said: "We understand cuts need to happen, but heavy cuts to trading standards will results in an inability to deliver the service the public expect and deserve, as fewer officers will have to take on greater responsibilities.
"To understand the value of trading standards to this country, you do not have to look hard. This year alone trading standards have taken Tesco to court and won over the miss-selling of strawberries in Birmingham, confiscated almost £3 million worth of counterfeit goods in Warwickshire and last year seized 4.1 million potentially lethal fake electrical goods.
"These huge cuts to trading standards will slow or even prevent future successes, allowing unscrupulous traders and fraudsters to harm consumers and legitimate businesses."
Notes for Editors:
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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. www.tradingstandards.gov.uk
DATE: 17 October 2013