'Danger' fear as Essex Trading Standards budget cut by 66%

Image source, Essex County Council
Image caption,
Cabinet member Susan Barker (right) claimed the Labour group's Ivan Henderson's concerns about trading standards funding were "misinformed"

The public is being put at risk by a 66% cut in funding for Essex's trading standards, it is claimed.

The consumer protection service, run by Conservative-led Essex County Council, had a £3.3m budget in 2010-11. Next year's budget is £1.1m.

The Labour group on the council said it was "really concerned" at the cuts which it labelled potentially "dangerous".

The council said its service was now "more efficient" and "more targeted".

Staffing levels within the county's trading standards unit has also dropped - from 54 full time equivalent workers in 2010-11 to a planned 23 next year.

'Plain wrong'

Ivan Henderson, of the council's Labour group, said: "I am really concerned about these cuts and how few people there are doing these checks, especially given that more and more items are coming into the UK having been ordered online.

"It is pretty dangerous really when you are talking about things like children's toys."

Image source, Essex Trading Standards
Image caption,
An Essex Trading Standards newsletter warned in 2016 of the potential impact of resource cuts, though the council said it was not a comment on its own funding

A newsletter published by the county's trading standards team in 2016 told how its staff had managed to remove a potentially dangerous "hair steamer" from an internet auction site.

However, the newsletter also warned how: "Without the resources to carry out such work by trading standards items like this could be endangering lives across Essex, the UK and Europe."

The county council claimed the document was in "no way" referring to "resource issues within Essex County Council Trading Standards".

Susan Barker, the county council's cabinet member for trading standards, said the service was making greater use of social media to educate the public of potential risks.

"Mr Henderson's comments on trading standards in Essex are at best misinformed, at worst plain wrong," she said.

"Over recent years trading standards has been changing how it operates - embedding a new approach which is intelligence-led.

"What this work adds up to is a service which is more efficient, more targeted to addressing needs, and costs the taxpayer less."

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