Political firestorm over bid to protect Trading Standards from cuts
A BID to protect Trading Standards from further cuts has ignited a political firestorm.
Liberal Democrat councillors want Gloucestershire County Council to make a commitment to not reduce the service's budget during the next four years.
But Conservatives have slammed the idea and suggested the Lib Dems are "trying to pretend" the financial strictures that the authority is dealing with do not exist.
Trading Standards has seen its budget cut by about 50 per cent, from around £2 million in 2010/11 to £1 million in 2013/14, while the number of employees has dropped from 46 to 24.
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A motion to protect against further cuts will be debated by councillors on September 4.
The Lib Dems believe the service cannot suffer further cuts "without damaging" the protection it gives to public and businesses. Councillor Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm and Wotton), who has proposed the motion, said: "The number of scheduled inspections and enforcement visits has dropped dramatically since 2010.
"There were just 139 scheduled inspections in the last financial year compared to 366 in 2010/11.
"This is a worrying trend. Trading Standards provides an important service, protecting the consumer and legitimate businesses from rogue traders.
"The service, in my view, just cannot take any further cuts."
Trading Standards deals with things like the welfare of farm animals, rogue traders, age restricted products and the safety of goods.
It has recently experienced success stories in combating the sale of counterfeit cigarettes.
Councillor Will Windsor-Clive (C, Newent), cabinet member for fire and infrastructure, issued a withering response to the Lib Dem motion.
He said: "I'm sick to death of the Liberal Democrats doing one thing nationally, and another in Gloucestershire, as if people here will forget that they are part of the coalition too. The Government is forcing very tough savings on councils – and yet the Liberal Democrats are trying to pretend that doesn't exist.
"If we protect one area, then every other area has to make even more savings.
"Does Councillor Hilton want to cut the fire service to find this money, or cut the care for the elderly?"