Conservative councillors brand latest NELC cut plans 'foolhardy'
PROPOSED cutbacks to Trading Standards have been described as "foolhardy" and the "wrong move" by Conservative councillors.
North East Lincolnshire Council is planning to remove the equivalent of one and a half full-time officer posts from the department as part of its 2013/14 budget.
One position will be removed altogether, while the other role will be split between trading standards and the licensing department.
The move will save £25,000 next year, as well as helping to generate an extra £16,000 through the increase enforcement of taxi and gambling licenses.
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However, it would also result in a reduction in food premises inspections and investigations into unfair trading, among other activities.
Speaking at the final budget scrutiny meeting yesterday, Councillor Iain Colquhoun (Con, Waltham) said: "We are taking an officer who is charged with the safety of the public, food safety and firework safety, and putting them in charge of making sure taxi drivers are dressed correctly, and that is not a good move.
"We should keep the officer in trading standards.
"It says in the report that the service has stopped doing low risk work and that this will reduce the medium and high risk activities and that seems to be the wrong move."
Councillor John Fenty (Con, Humberston & New Waltham) said: "I simply can't agree with this. It is essential that we peg our service at a level that protects the public from food poisoning and I think it is absolutely foolhardy to make a reduction in this area. I think it would make us vulnerable quite frankly."
However, council leader Chris Shaw (Lab, Sidney Sussex) said that keeping the post within trading standards would not allow the council to generate extra income through taxi and gambling licensing enforcement, and that savings would therefore have to be found elsewhere.
As part of the proposal, the council will generate an extra £5,000 by introducing new style plates for taxis, £12,000 by raising taxi fees in line with the regional average and £6,000 by increasing Gambling Act license fees for amusement arcades, bingo halls and betting shops.
By contrast trading standards activities do not provide an income for the council.
Other proposals presented to the safer and stronger communities scrutiny panel included a £33,000 saving by removing the post of the Community Safety Team Coordinator and a £29,000 saving on rent by withdrawing staff from buildings owned by partner organisations and relocating them in council premises.