Cutbacks at Hampshire County Council Trading Standards

I’ve been contacted by an ex-employee of Hampshire County Council Trading Standards. They have provided me some communication they had with their councillor, which makes for interesting, if not alarming reading.

This just sums up for me the problem of having Trading Standards in local authorities, namely

  • senior managers above the Trading Standards department who don’t know anything about Trading Standards, making decisions and not understanding the implications, not just in their own area, but on the rest of the country because most things TS do can affect people outside of our area
  • we are told that local councillors can decide priorities and monitor what is going on in their local authorities. These emails reflect my own experiences – that councillors generally don’t have any idea of what is going on and don’t have that much control

The context is that Hampshire TS had a major restructure in 2022. A fair number of people were made redundant and a similar number resigned due to how badly it was handled. I’ve been told that since these emails were sent (November 2022) a further two people have resigned and more are looking to go.

I have also been informed that the department has difficulty replacing the people that have left with jobs being advertised multiple times and not being filled. This is something I have seen myself when monitoring job adverts. I have seen one job advertised three times and another one twice.

I recently wrote an article on the state of weights and measures enforcement in the UK. I have been told Hampshire have lost their main weights and measures officer and no work is currently being done in that area at this current time. A county as big as Hampshire and no weights and measures checks….astonishing.

The thing that interests me most from reading the councillors responses is that there seems to be no desire to deal with or learn from what appears to be a badly run restructure process. If 7 people (20%) resign from a small department in one year that is usually a sign that something is seriously wrong.

It is a shame that a department like Hampshire which would at one time have been one of the largest in the UK appears to have shrunk so much.

The emails were sent when the councillors were being asked to consider a report AFTER the restructure, outlining some of the changes that had been made. I’ve been told the councillors were not given any say on departmental priorities or budget cuts before the decisions/restructure was made – they were just rubber stamping something that had already happened. The reports presented to the councillors do not really detail the changes that had been made – so I would query whether they were actually properly informed of the changes..

I have not included the name of the ex-employee – they no longer work in TS and have asked to remain anonymous.

Email 1 sent from employee to councillor


I am writing to you about the meeting you will be having on Monday 15 September 2022 at the Countryside, Culture and Communities Select Committee

My contact relates specifically to do with the restructure to Trading Standards.

More information about this restructure will be published in due course but I wanted to bring some points to your attention so the matter could be properly debated by councillors at your meeting.

This email is being sent to all councillors due to attend the meeting as well as the Executive member who is deciding on the report.

Trading Standards, like many other HCC services have undergone numerous cutbacks and restructures since austerity started 2010.

Trading Standards are responsible for enforcing hundreds of pieces of legislation, covering a wide range of business sectors and practices, these include:

• rogue trading, scams, fraud and money laundering

• fair trading, misdescriptions, pricing

• intellectual property/counterfeiting

• estate agent/rental legislation

• food standards

• product safety

• animal welfare, animal disease control measures and biosecurity

• animal feed safety

• licensing of petroleum storage and explosives premises

• underage sales of knives, alcohol, vapes etc

• illicit tobacco

• weights and measures – ensuring all equipment and products are accurately weighed and measured

In 2010 the headcount was approx. 85 members of staff. In 2022 it is 32 (albeit some posts are vacant). This is not 32 full time equivalents either as some are part time.

TS enforce a wide variety of laws which require a lot of different skills – the saying ‘strength in numbers’ is definitely true here because you need lots of different types of knowledge and skills to deliver a good service. Unfortunately, the TS dept has now been stripped to the bones and is barely functioning. There has been a massive loss in skills and experience over the past 12 years. This has resulted in skills gaps in many areas.

In this email I will refer to ‘the presentation’ which is made available to councillors and can be seen here:

I will also refer to the update report which can be seen here:

I will say that I have nothing to gain from sending you this. I do not work for TS. I feel the restructure was badly managed and the end result is disadvantaging residents of Hampshire. It is worth considering any improvements that could yet be made.

The restructure started in mid-2021. It was led by Claire Fuller a ‘transformation manager’ – who has no TS skills or experience but was making most of the key decisions. It appeared that existing TS managers were side-lined from key decisions.  The restructure was presumably overseen by Emma Noyce (assistant director) and Felicity Roe (director) – albeit neither appeared very visible to staff during the restructure so it is unclear what their involvement was. One presumes they set the budget.

It is worth mentioning that due to internal changes within HCC, none of these people now have any responsibility for Trading Standards. Claire Fuller and Emma Noyce have moved to different departments and Felicity Roe is leaving.

The build up to the restructure was slow, officers knew it was coming years in advance but it was far more severe than anyone really expected and in spite of all of the ‘consultation’ that occurred before hand, the aims and objectives seemed to be very different than what officers had expected.

The main points I’d like to bring to your attention are:

1- The presentation shows 1 officer at grade H before the restructure. For many years, TS had 1 officer at I grade who was ‘Head of Trading Standards’ and 2 officers at grade H who were ‘Trading Standards Managers’.

The Head of TS retired a couple of years ago and up until 2021 the two managers ran the department. One of the managers left the department at the start of 2021 – albeit not officially during the restructure period (which was in the summer) it was definitely in the period building up to it – due to that person knowing posts would be cut. So technically whilst there was 1 person at grade H at the start of the restructure – there were actually 2 just a few months prior and one of those posts was very obviously cut as part of the wider restructuring of the department (notably, no job was advertised to replace the person who left).

And there was 1 person at grade I within a year before that – so in reality senior management has gone from 3 people to 1 person in the space of about a year and a half.

The current person at I who is ‘Head of Trading Standards’ is new to the service as the previous person at grade H unfortunately retired due to ill health.

2- The people at grade G were called ‘principal officers’ – essentially managers or supervisors of teams. They are now called ‘team manager’. There were 6 officers at that grade and there are now 4.

3 people left in the restructure and 2 new people were hired.

3- Considering the above two points – there are now 5 managers leading the dept – consisting of the Head of TS and 4 Team Managers  – 3 out of 5 of them are new to Hampshire TS.

4- The officers at grade F were ‘Senior Trading Standards Officers’ effectively the officers on the ground doing the work. Senior because they tended to have more knowledge/experience. The number of officers at this grade has been halved.

5- The officers at grade E are ‘Trading Standards Officers’ – the number remains the same. Again, these are the officers on the ground doing the work.

6- The officers at grade D are assistants. The number has increased by 4 – this is because 4 apprentices were employed.

7- When the new proposed structure was announced, some officers were given about 2 weeks’ notice to either accept jobs on the new terms or leave – essentially this was a ‘fire and rehire’. This happened at almost exactly the same time as the incident with P&O ferries which made the news. Is this HCC policy?

The new terms usually involved more responsibility, taking on more management responsibility and for some working in areas where they did not have any skills/experience.

8- Other officers (at more senior levels) had to apply for a new created role or take redundancy – this was at Senior Trading Standards Officer or Principal Officer level.

9- I believe 8 people were made redundant or left – either by choice or because they did not get the job they applied for.

10- Due to the extremely poor way the whole thing was handled and the way people were treated – around 5 officers resigned to go to other jobs.

11- This has led to a massive loss of skills which the dept will not be able to recover from. It has massively affected the dept’s ability to carry out some forms of work and has reduced the ability to generate income through commercial activities.

12- Concerns were raised with the Union about the handling of matters. The Union’s response was CCBS managers always behaved in this (aggressive) way.

13- There is currently a massive shortage of experienced Trading Standards Officers available for hire as many have left the profession after redundancy/retirement and austerity has seen a drop-in training of new officers.

The Council has had to recruit to fill numerous posts and has been unable to fill many of them– in some cases resorting to filling posts by using contractors (who are obviously more expensive). This is not to say that contractors should not be used – many depts have to do it – but it is not ideal. In other cases, the work goes undone as there is no one to do it.

14- During the restructure, at the Senior Trading Standards Officer grade – 8 new positions were made available for any of the previous Senior Trading Standards Officers to apply for. These were new roles with new titles and responsibilities than Senior Trading Standards Officers had previously had under the old structure. Some officers took enhanced voluntary redundancy because they did not want one of the new jobs.

After applications were made, some of the new jobs were deleted and replaced with new/different roles. Some job descriptions/responsibilities were also changed.

Applicants were told they were still to be interviewed and they could change their preference of which job they now wanted. This was after they had lost their chance to take enhanced voluntary redundancy. A truly bizarre situation.

This just demonstrates how the transformation managers had not though through the restructure properly if they had to change job descriptions mid-way through the hiring process.

15- Some officers have been put into jobs they had previously no experience of. In some cases potentially critical roles – such as product safety.

16- A Senior Trading Standards Officer was told he was being made redundant after being unsuccessful in a job application. The next day, when a Trading Standards Officer decided to resign, the Senior Trading Standards Officer was then offered that role (at a lower pay grade). They were initially given just 24 hours to decide whether to accept or reject.

When another Senior TS Officer resigned – that officer was then offered that post (on the same pay grade they were on originally). One can imagine how that officer may not have felt very loved/wanted. Understandably, that saga caused a significant amount of stress. That officer went off sick for around 6 months and then resigned. Their post has since been advertised but not filled.

17- Due to the cutbacks in the numbers of managers, management responsibility has been cascaded down. This means that Senior TS officers and TS Officers now line manage staff. It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost everyone is now a manager. This creates a significant amount of bureaucracy.

18- The Council has employed apprentices. It seems that they are going to be tasked to do work that previously would have been done by highly trained Trading Standards Officers – this includes trying to decide which complaints should be looked in. One wonders how they can do this when they do not have any understanding of the various laws that apply or any experience of enforcing the law. Not everything can be done through a ‘follow the script’ process and it is bound to lead to valid/serious complaints not being identified.

19- TS had numerous ‘Primary Authority’ agreements. These are agreements where businesses pay an annual fee for advice and other regulatory support. Almost all of these had to be cancelled because all of the staff doing this work left. This has led to a total drop in income.

20- TS also offered chargeable business advice to businesses – charged at an hourly rate. This stopped for about 6 months because there were no staff left with the skills left to offer it. It has only recently started up again but is very limited in scope because it can only be offered by a couple of officers with expertise in particular areas. This also means businesses cannot get advice. TS do not offer any free advice other than linking to free websites.

21- Both of the above points represent a massive loss of income for the dept. Just a few years ago a report was submitted to Councillors which suggested TS could become self-funding from income generation!

22- The dept carries out a lot of work simply because it is paid to do so by grant money. But is it really in the interests of Hampshire residents to do this work? The presentation makes clear that nearly a quarter of income is externally funded so failure to do this work would lead to an even more dire situation with staffing.

23- One of the raging debates in TS has always been about priorities. Is it a priority to help an old lady who has been conned out of £40,000 or is it a priority to make sure a food is labelled properly or is it a priority to prevent suffering in animals or is it a priority that every scale and petrol pump is accurate? It is not possible to do it all to a high standard with limited resources.

One peculiar thing was that the priorities were not really decided BEFORE the restructure took place and even afterwards, it was not clear what the priorities would were. Officers were told the councillors would ultimately decide (this is important because when you are telling someone you cannot help them it needs to be backed up by senior leaders).

I cannot see anything in the documents provided that lets councillors debate and decide what the priorities should be and where the dept should be focussing its resources. Although I would temper that slightly by stating experienced officers can be good judges of what the areas of highest risk and detriment are – this is learned through experience. Individual councillors will have their preferences no doubt (as we all do), but that doesn’t make them right.

If councillors were to decide it was a priority to visit every food premise in Hampshire to ensure food was properly described and its composition was in line with legal standards then it might be somewhat difficult to achieve now given that 3 food officers have left. This is the sort of thing that should have been decided first so that the dept could ensure it retained the appropriately qualified people to achieve its aims.

Ultimately it seems that councillors have no say other than to agree the contents of Appendix 3 (see below) – which is quite vague in reality and leaves discretion to officers as to what work is actually carried out and what issues are dealt with.

24- The entire process has left the department feeling very demoralised because there has been a massive loss of skills/knowledge and people have been left in jobs with more responsibility but with fewer resources.


25- HCC does not pay its officers very well when compared to pretty much every neighbouring council. In some cases, the gaps are as wide as £6000 for comparable jobs. It is understood the Council is constrained by its own pay scales but there is some scope of manoeuvre within them – such as what justifies a person to be on a certain grade.

26- The transformation managers who decided on the job profiles and grades within the new structure really did not have an understanding on the work a TS officer does, the skills required and the shortage in the labour market. They have only discovered this fact when they have tried to recruit and failed to do so. And of course, those managers have now left and it is up to the remaining TS staff to try and pick up the pieces.

27- A very simple example is when the Head of TS job was advertised, it was advertised at a grade lower than it had previously been (even though it required more work – as I said there were 3 people as senior managers before and now there is 1). No one suitable applied so the job had to be re-advertised at a higher grade to attract suitable applicants.

28- The biggest cull of staff in the restructure was at Senior Trading Standards Officer level. Previously Senior TS Officers were rewarded for their skills and knowledge. Under the new structure the pay is aimed primarily at the taking on of responsibilities and management. It doesn’t seem to appreciate skills and experience (because some lower paid officers have more/equal skills and experience than higher paid ones). It does not for example, reward or encourage anyone to sit and pass exams (which is common in other councils).

One of the reasons mooted for the requiring of certain responsibilities to be a Senior TS officer this is that other officers within the CCBS dept on the same grade as a Senior TS Officer are line managers. But with respect to say a manager in the Library department, the skills needed to do their job are not the same as those needed to work in TS. I daresay replacing a library manager is easier than replacing a TS Officer. It currently takes about 4-5 years to qualify as a TS Officer.

I am also aware of other departments in the council where officers are paid more than Trading Standards managers for their technical skills even though they are field officers. So, it appears to me that at least that department has properly identified on what criteria to pay its staff.

29- The real risk the council now has is losing its remaining staff to other councils. Particularly Senior TS Officers and TS Officers – there are many jobs out there that pay more with less responsibilities. I am aware that multiple members of staff are looking to leave and some are even being proactively touted by other councils.

Points from the presentation

30- The presentation states HC TS now has the lowest number of officers per 100,000 population in the region. It is well known within TS circles how badly Hampshire have fallen from once being one of the country’s best.

31- The presentation refers to a £20,000 illicit tobacco seizure. What was the outcome of this investigation?

32- The presentation refers to 7500+ complaints being triaged. This doesn’t mean 7500 complaints had action taken on them. The vast majority would have been closed off with no investigation or action.

33- The dept does far few inspections than it used to. It should be noted that they set their own targets. So, for example, if they say they want to visit 10 fuel stations to test accuracy of the pumps and they do indeed visit 10 premises then that is a 100% success and the target has been met. Of course, that says nothing about the fact there were 300 other premises not visited. In the presentation a claim of doing 94% of Planned Inspections is made. But this means nothing without the background detail of knowing how many possible inspections there were and why certain premises were chosen for inspection.

34- The department used to take on many large prosecutions against rogue traders etc – these are likely to cease going forward. Having said that, in many areas the Council has been very weak. For example, no prosecutions have been taken in over 20 years for a business selling out of date food, whereas neighbouring authorities regularly take such prosecutions. Southampton Council being a recent example.

Points from the report

35- Appendix 2 point 2.1 states HCC TS will not respond to individual complaints. That is fair enough as it is not possible to respond to every complaint. However, this must be read in conjunction with Appendix 3.

36- Appendix 3 sets out the circumstances in which there will be an immediate response by HCC TS. This is essentially the public criteria which HCC TS is saying it will respond to a complaint or enquiry. Most of the issues relate to very rare circumstances where death or animal disease might occur. Another relates to vulnerable victims being ‘targeted’ (which in itself is very difficult to prove). The other relates to MP/Councillor contact. The vast majority of complaints will not fall into these categories and so will not get a response.

There are also further criteria behind the scenes that may apply – such as financial limits. So, in some cases the amount spent or lost has to be over £25,000 for the matter to be scored highly for further consideration.

37- This policy gives HCC TS maximum flexibility to only deal with the serious stuff when it has to and the less serious stuff if and when it wants to. But it also means that it doesn’t actually have to do much if it doesn’t want to. Who is actually monitoring service level and performance?

38- Appendix 4 talks about communications. An awful lot of resources have recently been pushed towards publishing the work TS are doing on social media etc. That is laudable – but one might think this it gives a bit of a false impression as to how much work is actually being done – particularly in comparison to previous years.

Perhaps it is more important to be seen to be doing something than actually doing it.

Office move

39- One final point relates to the office accommodation that TS occupy in Winchester.

One day all officers were invited in for a meeting. After the meeting was finished and officers went home they received an email to say management were considering moving to a different office but that no firm decisions had been made.

There was a lot of angst and confusion amongst staff as to why they were not told this in person a few hours prior, when they could have asked questions. A sign of bad management perhaps.

Since then (many months ago) no further information has been provided about a possible move other than it won’t happen until at least April 2022. The only thing being that another HCC department may wish to utilise the building.

This has caused significant concern amongst staff because the current office has free parking and anywhere else in Winchester is likely to involve a daily parking fee (most officers need cars for work). This has the potential to cause even more people to look for jobs elsewhere.

It also appears many of the new hires have not been told about an office move – this may affect their desire to stay on as well.

It is also somewhat perplexing as to why TS need to move. The current office was built specifically to cater to TS specific needs such as having an interview room with an emergency alarm and a secure alarmed storage room for evidence. As well as well as storage for explosives and refrigerated/frozen food samples. Moving to a new building seems costly if all of those things need to be rebuilt.

The other issue is that the office has been underutilised for over a decade. When it was occupied by Trading Standards 15 years ago they used the entire building. Now they use less than a 20% of it. The Council could accommodate hundreds of extra staff in this building over the past 10 years – yet it has sat underutilised whilst the Council has no doubt be paying rent on other buildings.

The purpose of this email is to highlight the very poor process of restructure and to encourage consideration of TS department is operating in the way the public would want it to be operating.


Email 2 – response from councillor (23 November)

I am responding to your email of 4th November in my capacity as Chairman of the Culture and Communities select committee. I am grateful to you for taking the time to write to the committee.

Councillors and officers discussed your email in our meeting of the 7/11/2022.  I note that your email considers events or activities which happened in the past.  It did not specifically object to any recommendations in the Trading Standards report presented to Committee. It helppfully provided context and commentary on the background.

You raise several concerns about the reduction in size of the service, not just in the 2021 restructure, but over the past decade. Like all services, TS has reduced in size in response to reductions in central government funding and the need for the County Council to deliver a balanced budget. Whilst previous savings have been piecemeal and opportunistic, often achieved through not replacing staff when they retired or secured other employment, the 2021 restructure genuinely sought to look at the structure, skills and working practices that the service would need for the future. All HCC policies and procedures for managing workforce change were adhered to and the process was supported by HR colleagues. This includes providing appropriate timeframes for a consultation of this type.

Many of the challenges outlined, such as recruitment and retention, and a reduction in officers taking TS qualifications, affect the profession nationally. Hampshire’s response has been to adopt a ‘grow your own’ approach, as evidenced by building apprentice roles into the new structure. As the report set out, the new structure also consciously sought to bring greater consistency across grades, devolve responsibility to lower levels, including line management, facilitate development pathways for officers and develop a more agile workforce. Whilst developing new skills will take time, these remain the aims of the service within its new structure.

You pose two questions in your email.

Firstly, what was the outcome of an illicit tobacco operation conducted earlier this year? The operation was conducted based on cumulative intelligence and yielded a seizure of illicit tobacco worth approximately £20,000, sale of which was prevented. Officers explained that this activity is intended to be disruptive and was successful in this instance. Additionally, it was communicated to the public, to raise awareness of the issue and risks posed by illicit tobacco products, and as a deterrent to criminals. It was noted that to investigate this type of offending fully is highly resource intensive, and high risk given the involvement of Organised Criminal Gangs. Consequently the disruption tactic is a deliberate one given available resource in TS.

 Your second question relates to the percentage of petrol stations in Hampshire tested by TS this year. The target for this year is for 25 stations to be tested, and as of 7th November 10 sites have been tested this year (equating to 214 pumps), plus a further 4 in Portsmouth, with whom we hold a Service Level Agreement for this work. There are a total of 150 sites across Hampshire, so the target represents 16% of sites being tested annually on a rolling cycle that is risk based.  A five year rolling programme of inspection is entirely reasonable and, of course, if we receive a pattern of complaints about a specific operator, this would be dealt with in accordance with our prioritisation policy.

In summary, it is correct to say that Trading Standards has been through a period of significant change.  However, I hope you will understand that this change has been driven by the desire to create a modern Trading Standards Service which is responsive to need and able to operate effectively with the resources available to it.

Thank you once again for taking the time to share your views with the Committee.

Robert Mocatta

Email 3 – to councillor 27 December


Thank you for your response.

I do not think there is any point arguing against cuts because they have to be made. My contact was more about the way they were made which has resulted in a worse outcome than was necessary. That said, residents may not be too happy about the fact that the department is now only obliged to respond to a very limited type of complaint (i.e. 99% of complaints don’t have to be responded to).

The primary purpose of my contact with Councillors was to highlight what the average person would consider poor practice of management within the Council. I thought that Councillors were supposed to be scrutinising the running of the Council. The response you have provided very much feels like a cut/paste job from an officer within the Council. I would have thought there would be some focus on ensuring these managers do not make similar bodges in other departments.

 In relation to  the tobacco seizure – if the Council is suggesting £20,000 worth of tobacco was seized to be disruptive then that would be questionable. Seizures should only be made if an offence is being investigated with a view to enforcing it through the court – not merely to disrupt. There is no power to seize goods to disrupt activity.


Email from councillor – 2 January 2023

I thought that your reply required a personal follow up.

 You are correct that much of my earlier response was an amended version of a reply drafted by an officer. I do not have the technical knowledge to answer such a detailed series of questions, and I (perhaps wrongly) assumed that the questions were based on considerable detailed knowledge that may have been the result of working in either the department directly, or one very similar in another council.

 I do agree that the role of the Culture and Communities committee is to scrutinise the actions of the professional staff, and in my role as chairman, I have tried to encourage detailed questioning of the officers on a non-political basis. I was very grateful that at the last committee meeting a long standing Liberal Democrat Councillor actually thanked me for my non-partisan chairmanship. Scrutinising an area such as trading standards is quite hard, particularly as this was the first time that this part of the County Council had come before the culture and communities committee.

You are probably aware that the culture of the County Council is one in which the elected councillors do not openly criticise the professional officers. I’m not making any judgment on this culture, merely stating that is how it is perceived by most (if not all) councillors. My experience of HCC, East Hampshire District Council, the South Downs National Park, and the various town and parish councils I attend is that this culture pervades local government. It also reflects a significant difference in the roles of the Executive and the councillors. It is a consequence of the situation where the only qualification for a councillor is that they are elected irrespective of background. This means that local councils are run by the officers, and councillors have no legal role in the running of the services provided, nor in determining which officers fulfil each role. I think that analysis would surprise most members of the general public, and indeed many new councillors are surprised by it.

It is very helpful when informed members of the public do pass information onto to councillors – it means that the questions asked of officers can be more thorough.

Thanks again for your information.

Rob Mocatta

End of emails.

If you have a similar story, please email me via the CONTACT ME page.

I will be asking Hampshire County Council for a comment on this.

2 Replies to “Cutbacks at Hampshire County Council Trading Standards”

  1. i ‘left’ in the 2nd wave of cuts when the department had already been decimated once. It was then being run by Library managenent with no idea of regulation or enforcement skills.
    apalling to see this.
    several good experienced officers i recruited have since left. what a waste. Hampshire residents & good compliant businesses loose out.

  2. During my time at Hampshire Trading Standards it was very rare for officers to leave other than for personal reasons or unless they had a significant promotion opportunity. It WAS a great place to work.

    It is therefore both sad and alarming that so many people have happily left over the past year – I think about 15 now which is about a third of the department from only 2 years prior. Many of them having gone to other local authorities or private companies. Many of them experts in their field. Experience that will probably never be regained. It is also very obvious that the department is struggling to recruit with the same jobs being advertised multiple times, not being filled and all the while the work goes undone as there is no one to do it. The mood in the department is at rock bottom.

    The senior managers above the Trading Standards department (assistant director/director) and ‘transformation managers’ over the past couple of years have been clueless. You have people making decisions that they do not understand the consequences of. The transformation process was chaotic and I do not think anyone could have envisaged how badly it turned out – particularly with the transformation managers alienating so many people with their awful style of management. We have been left with a department that is a shadow of its former self and unable to do even the basic work it has a legal duty to do.

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