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Severe cuts are ‘putting the public in danger’

Worcester Editorial 24th Jul, 2014 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

PEOPLE in Worcester could be put at risk if further cuts are made to the service which is responsible for Trading Standards.

That was the warning made by a group of councillors from across the county who have been looking into the way Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) operates.

Coun Rod Laight, chairman of the group, urged members of Worcester City Council at a scrutiny meeting last Wednesday (July 16) to safeguard the service, which provides a range of functions such as food safety, air quality and pest control.

It was set up in 2010 as a way of sharing costs, but as councils have come under increasing financial pressure they have looked to make additional savings by cutting their funding for the service.

For the current financial year another £646,000 of cuts were proposed, reducing the WRS budget to below £5million which Coun Laight said was the absolute minimum it can operate on. It would also see staff numbers fall to 102 from 154 in 2010.

However there are signs budget cuts are set to continue, with Worcestershire County Council’s proposing to cut its investment from £1.5million in 2014/15 to just £250,000 in 2016/17.

Coun Laight told city councillors unless the six councils and county council stop the cuts the service would face an uncertain future.

“If we make any further cuts to WRS, we will be putting members of the public in danger,” he said. “We have got to reserve the funds.  All seven of the authorities, including Worcester City Council, have got to bite the bullet in other areas because if we affect the smooth running of WRS which is at tipping point, then they will not be able to operate and give us the service we need.”

Coun Simon Cronin, councillor for Nunnery, who is also part of the task group, added:  “The participating authorities are coming in with a level of cuts to the budget and presenting that to WRS, saying ‘you have got to cut this by that much’ and leave them to scratch their heads.

“This is where things need to be put on a better level. There has got to be a clear understanding to all of the authorities that cutting funding below a certain level not only threatens WRS but it also threatens the ability of those authorities to provide statutory level of service which they must provide.”

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