The Labour Council's plans for cuts in public services tonight received damning criticism from an unexpected source: Council employees themselves. All Councillors and senior officers have received an email from "Trading Standards Staff" appealing to Councillors to vote against the budget proposal to abolish the civil advice function of the Trading Standards Department. The abolition of this service will mean two Trading Standards officer posts will be lost.
In its budget proposals, the Labour party states that consumers will be able to use Consumer Direct for advice. In a supporting document, the "Trading Standards Staff" show how inadequate Consumer Direct advice has been in case studies and that Trading Standards are able to intervene on behalf of consumers in disputes with retailers and tradesmen, something which Consumer Direct cannot do.
The actions of "Trading Standards Staff" in going public with their opposition to Council cuts shows that all is not well within the Council. There is rebellion afoot. Let's see what tomorrow's Echo makes of this.
Here is the "Trading Standards Staff" summary document, defending their service:
SAVE CIVIL ADVICE
There is no need for the people of Darlington to lose this valuable service.
DARLINGTON TRADING STANDARDS CIVIL ADVICE SERVICE
- is a FRONT LINE service and has successfully operated in Darlington for over 30 years. including offering advice and assistance by TELEPHONE, E-MAIL and a dedicated DUTY OFFICER to handle all walk in complaints
- does CASEWORK - intervenes to SUPPORT, ADVISE and RESOLVE civil problems, reducing consumer detriment, making Darlington a fair town for consumers and traders.
- is important for SOCIAL INCLUSION. We provide help to sections of the community such as the aged, financially disadvantaged, physically disabled, mentally disabled, partially sighted etc; who would be unlikely to call Consumer Direct - no other organisation provides this service in Darlington. Without Consumer Advice these people have nowhere else to go
- had the second highest CUSTOMER SATISFACTION rating of all Unitary Authorities in 2006/7
- staff carry out ENFORCEMENT duties, UNDERAGE SALES projects etc.
ENFORCEMENT work will be COMPROMISED by the loss of the advice service
NEW LEGISLATION commencing April 2008 requires additional civil resources for injunctive action against rogue traders, particularly those who prey on the elderly and vulnerable.
Efficiency savings can be made AND the service can be kept intact, by making changes to non-front line provision within public protection. The modest saving made by cutting this service is disproportionate to the loss of this valuable service.
- is a CALL CENTRE, which after 2010 could be located anywhere in Europe
- IS NOT AN ALTERNATIVE to Trading Standards Consumer Advice - it provides only limited initial advice and does not provide the necessary level of advice or assistance to those who need it most.
- DOES NOT PROVIDE HELP to those who can’t cope with call centres or have access to the internet.
- is REMOTE – it does not provide face-to-face advice, it does not check paperwork and contracts, it does no investigation or negotiation