CIEH is urging the UK government to build on the recent cross-government review of regulatory services by committing funds that will enable environmental health and other regulatory services to implement the review’s recommendations.
Environmental health has been hit year-on-year by funding cuts, threatening the sustainability of services and the profession. This has led to reduced proactive inspections and investigations, reduced enforcement and, ultimately, reduced public protection. This situation has been exacerbated by unprecedented demands from tackling COVID-19 and the EU transition.
The Cross-Government Regulatory Services Task and Finish Group was set up last November to review the challenges facing regulatory services. Convened by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, it ran until July 2021.
CIEH was able to inform the review through Graham Farrant, chief executive at BCP Council. During the review period, CIEH set up a working group of EH managers to inform that feedback and developed an action plan to deliver the relevant recommendations of the group.
CIEH will now report progress in delivering these actions to the government quarterly.
Farrant said: “As a former EHO, I was keen to engage with the government on regulatory services to ensure that the value of those services was being recognised, particularly in response to COVID.
“Thanks to the support of CIEH we were able to be clear about the growing demands on EH and address how we could get a better balance between resources and demands. Reducing demand is useful, but more importantly we looked at how we can increase the size of the profession and its influence in government.
“Thank you to everyone who contributed.”
The Task and Finish Group comprised officials from the government, local authorities, the LGA and professional bodies. Five workstreams were created to cover:
- backlogs of work
- new demands on services
- cost recovery
- resourcing, capability and qualifications
- coordination across government.
CIEH contributed directly to the latter two.
Resourcing: The group created an action plan to mitigate an ageing and shrinking workforce, a lack of funding for training posts (including apprenticeships) and loss of capacity and expertise in the workforce, which is critical for the development and mentoring of new talent.
Coordination: The review found that government departments and regulators confine their interest in regulatory services to those areas where they are the policy lead. This means there is no coordination in terms of the asks of regulatory services in government, or assessment of the cumulative impact of new burdens on these services. CIEH and other bodies have lobbied for a chief EHO post in England and for the Association of Chief Environmental Health Officers (ACEHO) group to be consistently recognised as the point of contact for environmental health in local government. The organisation has been working with Peter Wright from Gateshead Council and current chair of the ACEHO group, to establish the group on a more formal footing.
Kate Thompson, CIEH Director, said she was pleased the government had recognised the challenges facing regulatory services and the risks if action is not taken. She said: “As the professional membership body for environmental health, we have developed an action plan to ensure we play our part in implementing the recommendations of the cross-government group, particularly in relation to the future pipeline of practitioners and working more closely with ACEHO to inform the development of government policy.”
In September CIEH worked collaboratively with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and the Local Government Association to prepare a submission to the Treasury as part of the government’s Spending Review, making the case for the government to consider the urgent needs of environmental health in its future spending priorities. Further, CIEH and CTSI have joined forces in a letter to the Chancellor making the case for investment in these critical services. Government spending plans will be set out on 27 October alongside the Autumn Budget.