Environmental Health services have been cut to the bone. Officers are seeing more non-compliance with the law which leads to more serious consequences. New businesses are being left without preventative guidance allowing some to develop bad habits that are creating risks for the public, which is likely to lead to an outbreak of foodborne disease. In effect, preventative work is greatly reduced. The problem is no longer stopped from happening, but work is carried out to minimise the problem after it has happened.
While programmed inspections have increased since 2015 (9.27%), staff numbers and budgets have decreased in real-terms resulting in a 40.95% reduction in programmed inspections when compared to 2009. In other words, an increased workload is being undertaken by a shrinking pool of staff. In addition, enforcement visits are slightly up from 2015 to 2018 (1.44%), but over-all visits are down by 49.05% when compared to 2009. Food safety premises inspections have risen by 8.35% since 2015, but overall they are down by 17.58% when compared to 2009.
This would suggest that the focus has shifted to reactive, enforcement work, in place of proactive, programmed work which would have traditionally allowed officers to spot potential problems before the need for an enforcement visit.
The number of enquiries and complaints requiring a response in 2018 was very slightly up from 2015 (0.07%) but down by 30.22% when compared to 2009. Noise complaints remained relatively unchanged with a small decrease (1.03%) from 2015 to 2018 and a decrease of 38.13% from 2009 to 2018. However, reported incidents of fly-tipping rose by 6.08% since 2015. In addition, in response to the survey, staff also reported an increase in unsafe, illegal or unlicensed activity.
The FOI data shows that between 2015 and 2018 there was an increase of 8.53% in the number of prosecutions commenced, but between 2009 and 2018 there was a 36.23% increase. This would suggest that there are simply not appropriate resources available to tackle these issues before they happen. This is backed up by staff reporting that little proactive and investigatory work is now being carried out and fewer incidents are being investigated.
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