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FSA budget freeze to lead to £6m spending fall

Corin Williams06/01/2016 - 14:09

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Heather Hancock
Heather Hancock

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is to redesign its regulatory regime within three years in an attempt to cut back expenditure by around £6m by 2020.

In giving evidence to the parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee this week, FSA chair Heather Hancock indicated charging businesses for official food controls would only take place after the agency made cut backs.

She said short-term budget management might include ‘further incremental staffing reductions’.

‘I am concerned to be sure that we carve out from that budget enough to invest in a better long-term system,’ she said.

‘It’s all very well to say local authorities are under pressure, but what are the alternative models that we can look at for how we can, with local authorities, ensure that local level functions currently done by EHOs and trading standards officers are re-thought and re-positioned.’

She indicated she would want to re-design a ‘more fit for purpose regulatory regime’ within three years.

In November chancellor George Osborne announced the FSA would receive £85.4m a year from 2015/16 until 2020. In 2014/15 the FSA’s budget was £108m.

The FSA said the freeze on front-line delivery and administration costs would lead to a real-terms reduction of about 7 per cent.

A spokesperson said: ‘This cut requires us to make further savings over the next four years.

‘The wider environment we work in will also remain extremely challenging, particularly as local authority funding is reduced and other government departments face similar pressures.’

The Treasury defended the FSA’s settlement in response to a letter from the CIEH, Tifsip and the Food and Drink Federation to protect front-line environmental health services.

The Treasury’s response said: ‘This settlement will enable the FSA to continue to uphold the same high standards of food safety and continue to deliver the requisite official meat hygiene controls as they did in the last Parliament.

‘Food safety and authenticity will be further strengthened by the expansion of the Food Crime Unit from April next year, and the FSA’s settlement includes funding for this expansion.’

In December the Department for Communities and Local Government announced councils’ central grant would be phased out by 2020.

The Treasury said other sources of income including council tax receipts and business rates are forecast to increase, leading to a 1.7% reduction in spending per year.

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