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Trading standards merger with Plymouth would give service ‘more clout’

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Proposals to create a single Trading Standards service to cover Devon, Somerset, Torbay and Plymouth were approved by Devon County Council’s (DCC) Cabinet this week. (Wednesday 9 September).

If agreed by all four authorities, the plans would see Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service merge with Plymouth City Council Trading Standards from April 2021.

The proposal would give all four councils ‘greater clout’ at a time of significant financial pressure, regulatory change and increasing demand.

At the same meeting, cabinet members additionally agreed to renew the current shared Trading Standards Service arrangement with Somerset County Council and Torbay Council until 2031.

Both proposals now need to be considered and approved by all four authorities.

If ratified, the newly expanded service would cover the entirety of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership area, creating a consistent approach for businesses across the region.

The larger single service would benefit from further economies of scale, leading to an increased capacity for tackling major investigations, greater resilience in dealing with emergencies and allow for wider specialisations in the support and advice it can offer businesses.

DCC’s decision follows the success of the Devon and Somerset shared service, formed in 2013, and the subsequent merger with Torbay in 2017.

The joint service will maintain its current offices in Devon, Somerset and Torbay and will retain offices in Plymouth

It is not anticipated that any staff will have to relocate, and no redundancies are proposed as a direct result of this merger.
Paul Thomas, the Head of Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards, said: “This proposal is a win-win for businesses, residents and all four councils. The delivery of certain trading standards functions has always benefited from working on a larger scale. There is the significant benefit of consistent, comprehensive and easily accessible regulatory advice across the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership area at a time when they need it most.

“In addition, this larger shared service would also give trading standards officers better resources and increased flexibility to deal with complex or emergency situations and would mean we are better placed to tackle major organisations or instances of serious detriment.

“The whole has more clout than the sum of its parts and the prospect of Plymouth joining us adds to that.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Skills and trading Standards said at the cabinet meeting: “This is another example of Devon County Council acting collaboratively, efficiently and cost effectively.”

He added: “By joining forces with Plymouth we can deliver a stronger, more resilient service, better able to meet future challenges and demands. “We will be able to better handle major incidents such as animal health disease outbreaks, deliver more effective interventions against increasingly sophisticated criminal activity and improve our service to businesses.”