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Date: Thu 31 January 2013

Union warns on public safety concerns raised in Audit Scotland report

UNISON today (Thursday) warned that damaging cuts to trading standards and food safety services in environmental health are putting the public at risk when safety should be paramount.

The public service union welcomed the fact that a new Audit Scotland report highlights the pressures on these essential services and calls for urgent action to strengthen protection for consumers.

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said:
"Our members working in trading standards and food safety, within environmental health departments, tell us about many of the concerns noted in this report.

“For Audit Scotland to find that ‘the long term viability of councils’ trading standards services is under threat’ and to raise concerns about food safety staffing and training levels and loss of expertise demonstrates the seriousness of issues we have raised consistently.

“Members of the public expect to be able to rely on checks being carried out and expect these key services to be properly funded. This is another example of the enormous damage to vital public services caused by government funding cuts at UK, Scottish and local levels.”

The report suggests that COSLA and councils work together to ensure strong national co-ordination for trading standards. UNISON supports co-ordination and collaborative working, but would be sceptical about any suggestion that there should be a national service.

Dave added:
“The recent horse meat in burgers scandal also highlighted the importance of independent meat inspection in abattoirs. There is industry lobbying and EU consideration of relaxing the current standards. UNISON wants to ensure that there is no threat of privatisation and industry self-regulation. We must maintain an independent meat hygiene inspection service as this service is being devolved to Scotland.”

For information please contact:
Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, 07958 122 409
Fiona Montgomery, Communications Officer, 0141 342 2877 or 07508 877 000
Malcolm Burns, Communications Officer, 0141 342 2877 or 07876 566 978


Notes for editors

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing 160,000 members working mainly in the public sector in Scotland and represents staff in council trading standards and environmental health departments.

2. UNISON was responding to the Audit Scotland report ‘Protecting Consumers’.