In March 2014 CTSI, in partnership with National Trading Standards, published the latest trading standards Workforce Survey to establish the full extent of resource and staff cuts that local trading standards services have been facing in recent years. As many of you will be aware, the survey results were significant and indicated that, on average, trading standards services have seen average staff cuts of 40 per cent and budget cuts of up to 50 per cent over the lifetime of the 2010-2015 parliament. Looking beyond averages, at the upper end of the spectrum, we found results to be even more startling with one service facing budget reductions of 80 per cent and another with just one part-time member of staff to run a whole trading standards department.
Greatly concerned by the figures and their implications, the Workforce Survey has proved to be a catalyst for debate both here at the Institute and among external stakeholders who are interested in maintaining trading standards into the future. Indeed, since the Workforce Survey was first published, the CTSI policy team have been presented with the challenge of assessing how trading standards services can best be maintained as austerity and further cuts continue into the next parliament and to consider what a minimum service for trading standards really looks like in modern Britain. In order to continue protecting UK consumers from rogue traders and dangerous products, trading standards services must be able to maintain the resource levels required to fulfil their statutory obligations of enforcing the 250 pieces of legislation that fall under their vast and complex remit. Without action, CTSI fear that at the current rate of decline, it is possible that in a further five years trading standards services may disappear altogether from some areas if nothing is done to protect them.
So what are we doing to ensure positive change moving forward? Well, one year on from the publication of the Workforce Survey, CTSI remain determined to carve out a stable and sustainable future for trading standards. In recent months, we have engaged with stakeholders and members to analyse the current landscape and are now in the final stages of developing a new blueprint for the future of trading standards and consumer protection in the UK which we will present to the new government in May.
Our new Vision will consider the benefits that different models for trading standards services can provide. Crucially, it will offer solutions to the challenges currently faced by local authority trading standards and provide the government with an opportunity for change in this important field.
To learn more about the precise details of the Vision and what this might mean for the future of trading standards, look for our guest interview with CTSI Policy Director Melissa Dring in the upcoming May edition of TS Review.