New research and whistleblower testimony show staggering scale of the UK’s perilous ‘Enforcement Gap’

Landmark new research published today (25 October) by Unchecked UK has revealed a huge gap in UK regulatory enforcement capacity.  The research – which includes shocking whistleblower testimonies – shows that over the last decade regulatory budgets in key areas have fallen by 41 per cent in real terms, with staff numbers cut by over a third.

Unchecked UK, an organisation supported by more than 40 organisations across civil society, finds that few regulators have been spared, with many so hollowed out by successive cuts that they are no longer fit for purpose.  The figures uncovered include:

  • A 72 per cent cut in funding for Natural England between 2009 and 2019, with a 20 percent reduction in permanent staff
  • A 51 per cent cut in funding for the Food Standards Agency between 2009 and 2019, with an accompanying 24 per cent reduction in staff numbers
  • A 49 per cent cut in spending on Health and Safety by Local Authorities in England between 2009 and 2019, with a reduction of 54 per cent in the number of Local Authority Health and Safety Inspectors
  • A 60 per cent cut in Local Authority Trading Standards funding between 2009 and 2018
  • A 74 per cent fall in funding for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with a 61 per cent reduction in staff numbers
  • A 106 per cent increase in the annual budget shortfall for road maintenance in London between 2009 and 2019

The implications of these cuts are significant, with declines in almost every metric of regulatory activity – including food safety checks, water pollution sampling, workplace inspections, health and safety visits, checks on consumer goods and prosecution of offenders.

The research exposes the consequences of these massive gaps in enforcement activity:

  • National Minimum Wage inspections completed by HMRC have fallen by 17 per cent between 2009 and 2019 – meaning the average employer can now expect an inspection by the HMRC National Minimum Wage once every 500 years.
  • Warning letters issued to illegal dumpers by English local authorities have fallen between 2010 and 2019; but fly tipping is on the rise, with nearly 3,000 recorded incidents every day in 2018-19 – the highest for a decade – at a cost of £57m to taxpayers.
  • Real terms spend by Natural England on monitoring Sites of Special Scientific Interest has declined by 62 per cent between 2010 and 2019, and the number of planning response deadlines missed by Natural England due to resourcing issues has increased by a staggering 148 per cent between 2013 and 2019.

Emma Rose from Unchecked UK said:

“Most people in the UK, regardless of their political persuasion, support the strong, common sense rules that help to keep them and their families safe.  But these rules and protections are only as good as the enforcement which underpins them. If they are not enforced, they are not worth the paper they are written on.

“Our research has uncovered an astonishing “Enforcement Gap” in UK regulatory enforcement capacity.  The public protectors that help to keep us safe have been hit by a series of catastrophic budget cuts.  They have seen their reputations tarnished by efforts – from successive governments –  to rid us of ‘red tape’, and they have been forced to oversee the deterioration of the regulatory areas they are tasked with protecting.

“This report shows that eroding regulatory enforcement is a false economy.  Now more than ever, with the spectre of Covid-19 still dominating everyday life, we know the value of shared rules, and of the institutions that defend them.

“It is vital that this Government learns from past mistakes, faces the facts and figures, and takes immediate action to reverse the UK’s perilous enforcement gap.”

Read the report

ENDS

< BACK

New research and whistleblower testimony show staggering scale of the UK’s perilous ‘Enforcement Gap’

Landmark new research published today (25 October) by Unchecked UK has revealed a huge gap in UK regulatory enforcement capacity.  The research – which includes shocking whistleblower testimonies – shows that over the last decade regulatory budgets in key areas have fallen by 41 per cent in real terms, with staff numbers cut by over a third.

Unchecked UK, an organisation supported by more than 40 organisations across civil society, finds that few regulators have been spared, with many so hollowed out by successive cuts that they are no longer fit for purpose.  The figures uncovered include:

  • A 72 per cent cut in funding for Natural England between 2009 and 2019, with a 20 percent reduction in permanent staff
  • A 51 per cent cut in funding for the Food Standards Agency between 2009 and 2019, with an accompanying 24 per cent reduction in staff numbers
  • A 49 per cent cut in spending on Health and Safety by Local Authorities in England between 2009 and 2019, with a reduction of 54 per cent in the number of Local Authority Health and Safety Inspectors
  • A 60 per cent cut in Local Authority Trading Standards funding between 2009 and 2018
  • A 74 per cent fall in funding for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with a 61 per cent reduction in staff numbers
  • A 106 per cent increase in the annual budget shortfall for road maintenance in London between 2009 and 2019

The implications of these cuts are significant, with declines in almost every metric of regulatory activity – including food safety checks, water pollution sampling, workplace inspections, health and safety visits, checks on consumer goods and prosecution of offenders.

The research exposes the consequences of these massive gaps in enforcement activity:

  • National Minimum Wage inspections completed by HMRC have fallen by 17 per cent between 2009 and 2019 – meaning the average employer can now expect an inspection by the HMRC National Minimum Wage once every 500 years.
  • Warning letters issued to illegal dumpers by English local authorities have fallen between 2010 and 2019; but fly tipping is on the rise, with nearly 3,000 recorded incidents every day in 2018-19 – the highest for a decade – at a cost of £57m to taxpayers.
  • Real terms spend by Natural England on monitoring Sites of Special Scientific Interest has declined by 62 per cent between 2010 and 2019, and the number of planning response deadlines missed by Natural England due to resourcing issues has increased by a staggering 148 per cent between 2013 and 2019.

Emma Rose from Unchecked UK said:

“Most people in the UK, regardless of their political persuasion, support the strong, common sense rules that help to keep them and their families safe.  But these rules and protections are only as good as the enforcement which underpins them. If they are not enforced, they are not worth the paper they are written on.

“Our research has uncovered an astonishing “Enforcement Gap” in UK regulatory enforcement capacity.  The public protectors that help to keep us safe have been hit by a series of catastrophic budget cuts.  They have seen their reputations tarnished by efforts – from successive governments –  to rid us of ‘red tape’, and they have been forced to oversee the deterioration of the regulatory areas they are tasked with protecting.

“This report shows that eroding regulatory enforcement is a false economy.  Now more than ever, with the spectre of Covid-19 still dominating everyday life, we know the value of shared rules, and of the institutions that defend them.

“It is vital that this Government learns from past mistakes, faces the facts and figures, and takes immediate action to reverse the UK’s perilous enforcement gap.”

Read the report

ENDS

< BACK