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Labour claims cuts have turned trading standards to 'a husk'

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Labour has accused the government of jeopardising its own strategy to ensure the safety of goods as underfunded councils have halved spending on trading standards since 2009.

Research by the shadow housing, communities and local government team has found trading standards budgets have fallen from £213m nine years ago to £105m in 2019, with the number of dedicated officers falling by 56%.

Labour said more people are now at risk of fraud as a result, with inspections replaced by councils just responding to consumer complaints.

The government’s strengthening national capacity for product safety strategy 2018-2020, published earlier this month by the Office for Product Safety & Standards, was billed as a “important milestone” in work to “enhance and strengthen protections from unsafe goods and the harm they can inflict”.

Measures include creating a national unit to lead engagement with councils and an upscaling of market surveillance.

Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said cuts to council funding had turned trading standards “into a husk of what they once were”.

He added: “After Brexit, we need to ensure that our trading standards have the resources they need to ensure that unsafe goods are not allowed to flood the market - but yet, the government continues to cut funding for local authorities, with the funding gap expected to grow to £8bn by 2025.

“Our communities desperately need a Labour government to ensure that our councils have the sustainable funding that they need.”

A government spokesperson said: “The government’s top priority is to keep people safe, which is why we are providing UK consumers with the highest ever levels of protection, investing £12m each year in the product safety system through the new Office for Product Safety & Standards.

“Funding for trading standards is a matter for local authorities based on local need.

“Over the next two years, we are providing councils with £90.7bn to help them meet the needs of their residents.”

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