When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Fears over trading standards partnership plans
A PLAN to start charging companies for advice from Trading Standards may lead to more of them operating outside the law, business leaders have warned.
The county council wants to charge businesses for detailed advice on regulations and the law in order to make the service pay for itself.
Under the proposals, general guidance would remain free, but the council would be able to sign up to a partnership with companies to provide an enhanced advice service.
Other organisations would be able to get advice and help on an infrequent basis for £40 per hour. The charges are eventually expected to bring in up to £50,000 a year.
But Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce chairman Nigel Wild said he had concerns small businesses might avoid getting advice in future, and could end up unwittingly breaking the law.
He said: “I think it’s a bit cheeky. Trading standards is a service, we pay for it through our uniform business rates and they want to make us pay for it again.
“I would think that small businesses will probably stop getting the advice, because every penny counts at the moment.
“They will take a chance and the next thing they will have is trading standards taking them to court.”
Charging for services like trading standards became possible under national legislation introduced in 2008 to allow regulatory services to provide enhanced support.
Under a “primary authority partnership”, councils can recover some or all costs for services provided. The council’s trading standards team already has one such partnership with Sainsbury’s.
Cabinet member for safer and stronger communities Judith Heathcoat said: “This is about charging for very detailed advice and bespoke advice to specific companies who require it on a regular basis and for matters that are very particular to that company.
“General advice will remain free, as will any advice for new businesses. We are very keen to make sure there is absolutely no impediment to new business starts-ups at a time when we need enterprising people to be helping move the Oxfordshire economy forward.
“This is not about raising huge sums of money, it is about the taxpayer being recompensed for very detailed advice that the trading standards team is sometimes asked to provide.
“Legislation allows us to do this and others elsewhere in the country have already taken advantage of that ability.”