CIEH and CTSI ask Minister for apprenticeships funding to support Levelling Up agenda
CIEH and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) have written to Kemi Badenoch MP, Minister of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Equalities, calling for Government funding of apprenticeships in regulatory services.
The letter coincides with National Apprenticeship Week and comes after the high- level policy announcements in the Levelling Up White Paper, promising a full review of health inequalities, improved conditions for private renters and publication of a new National Food Strategy.
Local government regulatory services are at the forefront of public protection, responsible for areas such as safe housing, food and product safety, the control of communicable disease and environmental protection. They have provided essential support throughout the pandemic. The professions will play a key role in achieving some of the key ambitions of the Levelling Up White Paper. CIEH and CTSI said they are committed to assisting the UK Government in levelling up the country and have called for local government regulatory services to be recognised in plans to support policy rollout.
The letter calls on Kemi Badenoch MP to establish a bursary programme for local authority regulatory apprenticeships, which would help fund Environmental Health and Regulatory Compliance Officer trainees.
This was a key recommendation from the UK Government’s own Cross-Government Regulatory Review 2021, created to address concerns about the capability and resilience of the local government regulatory workforce. The recommendations of this important review have not yet been taken forward by Government.
CTSI found in consultations with its professional membership that the trading standards profession is at a critical junction – without investment soon there will be no competent officers available to deliver these essential trading-standards services.
The number of environmental health staff working at local authorities reduced by 32% between 2009 and 2019 and a recent CIEH workforce survey found that 4 out of 5 local authorities in England are using agency staff to deliver their environmental health services. In 2019/20, 52% of LAs did not have a single environmental health apprentice or trainee in place.
Current plans to establish the National Regulator for Construction Products within the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is not sufficient and will not ensure a sustainable and competent local government workforce for environmental health or trading standards.
Dr Phil James, Chief Executive at CIEH said:
“Environmental health services have played a central role in protecting the public during the pandemic and the profession can make big headways to achieving parts of the Levelling Up agenda. We would like to see the Minister’s department engage with the issue of the future workforce and be willing to prioritise finding a workable solution to the shortages of competent and skilled staff in regulatory services today.
Apprenticeships are crucial to introducing both young people and upskilling existing staff to deliver essential roles in the local government workforce. Providing funding now would bring new opportunities for young people right across the country. It is important to see the Government invest in the future and help maintain a competent workforce on the front line of public protection.”
John Herriman, Chief Executive at CTSI said:
"Apprenticeship programmes are of fundamental importance for establishing the sustainability of both the trading standards and environmental health professions. During this Apprenticeship Week, CTSI is promoting the crucial role of the Regulatory Compliance Officer (RCO) programme in developing new professionals across the country, many of whom have gone above and beyond to contribute to the Avian Flu response while undertaking their duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"CTSI and our partners in CIEH seek a firm commitment from the UK Government to the future of the consumer protection system through prioritising apprenticeship schemes. We are in dialogue with the UK Government about reprioritising a proposed £14 million apprenticeship bursary scheme which would play a significant role in providing workforce sustainability. This moment is an opportunity for us to level up consumer protection by investing in the frontline workforce that delivers vital protections to the public and business, enhancing consumer confidence and helping drive the economic recovery."