Warning over consumer protection as Trading Standards spending falls to £1.99 per person
Consumers and honest businesses are being left without proper protection because Trading Standards spending in Great Britain has fallen to just £1.99 per person, per year, it has been claimed.
Research by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute said total spending has plunged from £213m to £124m since 2009 and staff numbers have more than halved - dropping by 53 per cent.
Responses from 122 Trading Standards teams showed 81 per cent believe cuts have affected their ability to protect consumers.
The CTSI warned that pursuing a single complex crown court prosecution is now beyond the means of some Trading Standards teams.
There are also claims that councils are scaling back prosecutions because of fears about the financial implications of losing.
The squeeze on resources comes against a backdrop of some of the biggest and most costly product and market failures in living memory, including the vehicles emissions and horsemeat scandals, hoverboards and tumble drier fires, the institute said.
Leon Livermore, chief executive of the CTSI, said: "We have a situation where Trading Standards teams in local councils are tasked with holding multi-million-pound firms to account with just a handful of staff.
"This is in addition to their many other responsibilities in the community like catching rogue traders, preventing disease in the food chain and providing business support to help grow the economy.
"Spending so little on market surveillance and consumer protection, with an economy as large as ours, simply does not make sense but nobody expects a blank cheque.
"We are calling for a Government-led strategic restructure of Trading Standards services to make sure they can be the best they possibly can be."
Lee Reynolds, a barrister specialising in consumer fields including doorstep crime, added: "I think there is a fear now among Trading Standards teams of the financial impact that losing one of these big cases could have.
"I've had managers of Trading Standards say to me 'look, if we lose this, we've got to lose an officer this year', which is shocking and very worrying.
"Some councils have undoubtedly taken the decision to massively, massively reduce the number of cases they are bringing."