UNISON calls into doubt Somerset County Council’s merger of Trading Standards with Devon
While UNISON Somerset County Branch recognises the proposed merger of trading standards for Somerset and Devon as a means of preserving the vital Trading Standards service in the face of deep cuts to local government budgets there are questions that need to be answered on what consultation has taken place to support the new arrangements.
UNISON has highlighted specific concerns to Somerset County Council on the quality and effectiveness of the consultations that may or may not have taken place. This point was also raised in a UNISON commissioned independent report from the Association of Public Sector Excellence (APSE). While describing the business case that outlines the proposal to merge the services as "credible" APSE pointed to the lack of consultation as a real cause for concern as it amounts to a failure to comply with the Local Government Act 1999. Consultation must, by definition, precede any decision to implement new arrangements. This is something that UNISON has seen in many of decisions made by Somerset County Council over the past three years and was a key factor in the failure of the Council's ill fated and costly libraries closure plan. Short term expediency can lead to long term problems for the council if vital steps are missed.
The APSE report author, Andy Mudd, said:
"This is a serious weakness in the case and will do little to engender confidence in the proposal amongst local and national stakeholders. Moreover, because of the statutory nature of the requirement to consult, it is possible that a decision to proceed with delegating the service to Devon could be construed as unlawful and open up future grounds for challenging the legal basis for enforcement activity."
UNISON Somerset County Branch is conducting its own discussions with UNISON members in Trading Standards to gauge their views on the proposed merger of services. With the potential for up to ten job losses in the merged service UNISON calls on Somerset County Council to work with the union to ensure that compulsory redundancies are avoided and that the vital services that these staff provide to the public of Somerset are preserved.
Notes for editor
The full APSE report on the proposals for the merging of Trading Standards Services is available here: APSE Trading Standards Service. This is a public document and has previously been submitted to the Somerset County Council Cabinet.
For further information contact:
Arminel Goodall, Branch Secretary, UNISON Somerset County Branch - (01823) 356136
Oliver Foster-Burnell, Area Organiser, UNISON Somerset County Branch - (01823) 356136