WORCESTER will become a “paradise” for the nation’s conmen if plans to make sweeping cuts to trading standards are approved, a city councillor has warned.
Worcestershire County Council is proposing to slash 85 per cent of its funding for the service in a bid to reduce its annual spending from £1.7million to £250,000 by 2017.
Trading standards is part of the Worcestershire Regulatory service, which investigates complaints and prosecutes traders who break the law.
But Coun Richard Udall, county councillor for St John’s, said he was “staggered” by the prospect of the cutbacks as he believes it would put people at risk.
“We are opening the county to the nation’s conmen,” he said. “We will see the likes of Derek Trotter on our streets openly selling counterfeit and dangerous products, with nobody to stop them.
“Rogue Traders will have a field day. Bad retailers will be able to sell alcohol and tobacco to children without any risk of prosecution and the consumers of the county will have no one to turn to for help and advice.”
The service was responsible for the testing of horse meat earlier this year and Coun Udall said it also prevents thousands of animals from receiving cruel treatment from farmers.
He added: “This is a real disaster waiting to happen. We need to act now to save trading standards as it would leave Worcestershire residents without the basic protection they need.
“Worcestershire will become a real paradise for conmen and rogue traders.”
The move comes as Worcestershire County Council strives to save a total of £150million over the next four years.
Coun Peter McDonald, leader of the county’s Labour group, was equally as concerned. “I am horrified that conmen, tricksters, misleading advertising will now become common practice with residents being ripped off at supermarkets tills and online,” he added.
Coun Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: “Like many other public authorities Worcestershire County Council has less money to provide services and do the things that local people have said are important to them. This means we have to find new ways to provide services.
“Part of our early proposals are to reduce the cost of the trading standards function within Worcestershire Regulatory Services.
“At this early stage it includes a review of the governance and shared service model.
“It is important to say that these are early proposals at this stage and it is too soon to provide in-depth information. No decisions have yet been made.”