New report reveals threat to frontline service key to economic recovery
The latest survey of the trading standards profession shows the frontline service protecting consumers and businesses is under threat.
The Trading Standards Workforce Survey, produced with the support of the OFT, will be published at the Trading Standards Institute’s annual conference in Edinburgh, where the challenges and opportunities for trading standards and partner regulatory services under a new Westminster Government will be put under spotlight in a Question Time style session.
The report shows a service already under pressure, before the looming budget cuts due to be announced later this month, and a lack of investment in training and recruitment that could make the service’s survival over the next decade a ticking time bomb.
Responding to the Trading Standards Workforce Survey all regions expressed concern about declining budgets in the current economic climate and the effects this will have on service delivery.
The impact of a declining trading standards service would leave consumers increasingly vulnerable to scams, fakes and rogues, which in turn are linked to further organised crime. Honest, legitimate businesses would also increasingly suffer from unchecked unfair trading and the black market, instead of receiving the support they need to help ensure economic recovery.
While trading standards continue to deliver a wide range of services essential to the economic and social well being of our communities and the country, there has been a marked fall in the number of authorities who are able to provide the full breadth of services – in England just over half of trading standards authorities are now unable to deliver them all.
Consumer advice has been particularly affected and many report that they can only act on vulnerable consumer referrals from Consumer Direct, while doorstep crime work for example has had to be put on the back burner in some areas.
Money for specific projects such as for example Scambusters and Illegal Money Lending Teams from central Government forms a significant part of the funding received by trading standards services, particularly in Scotland and Central England, leaving them especially vulnerable should these budgets be slashed.
In some areas there is already a high percentage of posts unfilled or frozen
• London has a permanent workforce of 355 - 24 posts are unfilled or frozen.
• North West which has 452 staff - 44 are unfilled or frozen.
• South East which has 496 staff - 39 are unfilled or frozen.
The trading standards service is also revealed to be an ageing service highlighting the need for recruitment and training if staffing levels and the standard of expertise are to be maintained over the coming years – nearly 60 per cent of its staff is aged over 40 with more than 25 per cent over 60.
TSI’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said: “This report is particularly important in these times of extraordinary pressures on financing public services that we can expect in immediate times ahead, shedding light on the makeup of the talents, resilience and composition of the trading standards service.
“It is essential to have this information so that we can make sure we have a fit for purpose trading standards workforce that can live up to current and future expectations.
“Local governments and the governments in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff have to get smart quickly to ensure they have a trading standards workforce that can continue to work and have an impact across the local and global canvas, keeping the country and local communities safe and healthy.
“Trading standards is a small but vital part of the dynamics that underpin the UK consumer and economic scene, and despite its size must be seen as an essential part of the process of economic recovery by helping businesses start, grow, compete and survive while providing consumers with the support and advice they need.
“Trading standards has a value to UK society and enterprise disproportionate to its size of some 4,000 staff, delivering savings to the consumers of at least £6 for every £1 that is spent on trading standards services, and costing less than £4 a head per year to run.”
Notes for Editors:
Trading Standards Workforce Survey 2009 (PDF 257KB)
For further information or to arrange an interview please contact the Trading Standards Institute press officer Irja Howie on 07780675815 or by e-mail on email@example.com
From Conference in Edinburgh we have access to an ISDN line.
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 UK ECCS.
The Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2010
The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2010, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) is a 'must' for consumer journalists!
The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.
The 2010 Conference is being held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre from Tuesday 15 June to Thursday 17 June.
Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.
Please contact the press office should you wish to organise any interviews – an ISDN line is available for pre-booking.
The conference is hosted by TSI chairman David Sanders and the main sponsor is the Electrical Safety Council.
Some 3,000 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!