Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, responds to a National Audit Office report on ensuring food safety and standards.
“Although it is ultimately the responsibility of food manufacturers, suppliers and retailers to ensure the products they produce or sell comply fully with food safety law, and are what they say they are, councils work extremely hard to maintain and improve food hygiene and standards.
“Councils have lost 60p out of every £1 they had from government to spend on services since 2010. These significant funding cuts are affecting all council services – which include trading standards budgets and staffing being cut by around half since 2010 – and undoubtedly make it extremely difficult for some councils to maintain previous levels of food work, given the competing demands of areas such as social care, children’s services and homelessness.
“The NAO is right that there is a pressing need for government to come up with a sustainable funding model for food regulation, and other vital areas of regulation. This either needs to be through businesses meeting the costs of regulation, or through councils being properly funded. Government must use the forthcoming Spending Review to plug the £8 billion funding gap councils will face by 2025.
“Councils will always seek to mitigate the challenges created by falling budgets. Local officers know their local areas best and direct reduced resources at the riskiest businesses and products, while national co-ordination through the Food Standards Agency and intelligence sharing can also help to ensure that limited resources are targeted most effectively.”
Notes to editors
- Councils in England face an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025. The LGA’s #CouncilsCan campaign aims to influence the forthcoming Spending Review and highlight the growing risk to vital local services if the Government does not take action to secure the financial sustainability of councils.
#CouncilsCan: Spending Review 2019
With the right funding and powers, councils can continue to lead local areas, improve residents’ lives, reduce demand for public services and save money for the taxpayer. Securing the financial sustainability of local services must be the top priority for the Spending Review.