IEMA slams 'startling' enforcement gap for environmental standards

20th August 2019


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Enforcement budgets for environmental standards have fallen by half in the UK over the last decade, threatening the future of safety, food, water, and air quality.

That is according to analysis published by the Unchecked.uk campaign, which was launched today and is backed by sustainability body IEMA and 19 other organisations.

It reveals that funding for 10 environmental and social regulators fell by 50% on average between 2009 and 2017 in real terms, with the Environment Agency's budget slashed by 62%.

Moreover, the total number of full-time staff working at these regulators reduced by 30% during this period, with spending by local authorities and fire authorities falling by 35% on average.

In a letter to the Times, IEMA and the 19 other bodies warned: “The steep reduction in inspections and monitoring of regulated business in recent years risks undermining the achievement of public policy objectives.

“The shift towards self-reporting leaves the regulatory system vulnerable to abuse. If enforcement teams are to continue their invaluable work to protect UK citizens, they must be properly equipped.“

Friends of the Earth, the Green Alliance, Mums for Lungs, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are among the signatories.

The analysis shows that the Food Standards Agency's total funding fell by 47% between 2009 and 2017, with meat hygiene inspections falling by 41% and staff numbers by 28%.

Prosecutions of businesses by the Environment Agency fell by 80% as staff numbers reduced by 22%, while funding for Natural England and the Forestry Commission reduced by 66% and 53% respectively.

Among various other budget and staff cuts, funding for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency fell by 34%, while investment in the Health and Safety Executive reduced by 53%.

IEMA described today's findings as “startling“, and warned that huge funding declines for environmental agencies have created a “dangerous enforcement gap“.

Chief policy advisor, Martin Baxter, said: “We need a properly funded regulator to underpin our vital environmental protections. Businesses that effectively manage compliance with environmental regulations shouldn't be undercut by those who flout the rules.“

Image credit ©Shutterstock

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