The Austerity Enforcement Gap – Where We Live

18th September 2019 / United Kingdom
The Austerity Enforcement Gap - Where We Live

Strong rules help to make sure that the air we breathe and the water we drink is clean, that our food is safe and correctly labelled, our natural spaces are being looked after, and the products we buy are safe. Strong rules protect the most vulnerable in society and provide a level playing-field for British businesses. They allow us to get on with all the things we want to do in life, and they are part of what we have come to expect, and it’s common sense to maintain them. But over the years, the agencies which enforce the rules have had their budgets substantially reduced. Strapped for cash and short on staff, many watchdogs no longer have the tools for the important jobs they do.

Unchecked is a new campaign which investigates the UK’s shrinking enforcement capacity and exposes the real-world costs of the failure to properly enforce the rules. This briefing outlines some of their findings, which we are publishing this week.

Overall, from 2009/10 to 2016/17, real-terms funding for the environmental and social protection work of ten key national regulators1 fell on average by 50%. The total number of full-time staff working at these regulators fell by 30% in this period. And from 2009/10 to 2016/17, spending by Local Authorities and fire authorities in England on key services which protect the health and wellbeing of citizens and the environment fell on average by 35%.

Overall, for areas where we live:


One in eight local roads face closure due to potholes. Local Authority Environmental Health Officers fell by a third, and Local Authority prosecutions of fly tippers fell by 36%

Local spaces: money and manpower

  • From 2010/11 to 2017/18 Local Authorities in England have had their funding cut by 49%
  • Local Authority Environmental Health Officers in England and Wales fell by a third
  • The annual budget shortfall for road maintenance in London rose by 60%
  • Highways England spend on maintaining major roads fell by 43%
  • Spend on road maintenance by English Local Authorities fell by 29%
  • Spend on pest control by English Local Authorities fell by 19%
  • The amount of money spent in England (excluding London) on fixing potholes fell by 17%
  • From 2010/11 to 2016/17 English Local Authority spend on improving private sector homes fell by 63%

Enforcement activity

  • From 2009/10 to 2017/18 Environment Agency prosecutions for incorrect or illegal waste disposal fell by 33%
  • Fly-tipping enforcement actions by English Local Authorities fell by 12%
  • Fly-tipping warning letters issued by English local authorities fell by nearly 50%
  • English Local Authority prosecutions of fly-tippers fell by 36%
  • The average time it takes English councils to replace road surfaces rose by 34%
  • The estimated time it will take London councils to clear the road-care backlog rose by 43%
  • Over half of councils in England and Wales have not prosecuted a single landlord in three years
  • Programmed inspections by Environmental Health officers in England and Wales fell by 41%
  • In 2017 Local Authorities took action in relation to 1% of the most dangerous rented homes in England


Source: UncheckedThe Enforcement Gap report




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