- Paul Gregory of Food Solutions highlights the proposed cost increases affecting all food businesses, particularly artisan
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The FSA wants whole cost recovery for inspections because of cuts in local authority budgets. What does this mean? EC costs include an official’s salary, pension, social security and insurance, facilities, equipment and maintenance, consumables, training, travel, subsistence, laboratory sampling and diagnosis. The cost of all support staff as well – and applied to all outsourced services.
Member States may charge whole cost recovery, partially pay or fund all from central taxation. Germany and France do not charge, the Netherlands charge €70 for a compliant revisit, but more for failure, then penalties. Italy charges manufacturing units €1000- 1500 for setup.
Now inspections (“intervention visits”) are mandatory, so Local Authorities (LAs) cannot charge. Requested revisits are being charged for e.g. Wales £160 to City of London £220.
Historically, LAs gave FBOs free advice, but the October FSA Regulating our Future (ROF) meeting noted that local authorities are now charging between £45-£80 per hour. LAs use the 2011 Localism Act as authority to charge. The response to these charges is in the Food Solutions survey on our website. 98.7% were against any form of charges, while 57% said they would close (EU FBO employee average is three). UK FBOs will be uncompetitive when faced with the increases.
“There is not a single abattoir where officials do not get more than the business” – said in the 1990s at the start of the EC improved hygiene controls, which increased costs by 300% and resulted in the closure of most small abattoirs.
France then compulsorily purchased abattoirs, upgraded them to the new standards, and sold them back to the owners for the same price. They also use an auxiliary official (meat inspector) – not a vet – who refers any problem for a vet’s decision. As vets are charged out £39 per hour, about half could be saved. Installing CCTV – this is subsidised in Wales. In England abattoirs have to meet the unaffordable full cost. Whilst CCTV is installed for animal welfare, most breaches are not in small abattoirs: small abattoirs unable to meet the cost and deadline are threatened with legal action and closure.
A network of small abattoirs should be re-established. In 1938 there were 12,000 licensed/authorised slaughterhouses – small are now reduced to about 90. If costs are not constrained, there will be a large black market with no control of health/ safety. Whilst a £12m grant was given to a large abattoir, nothing is given to small. Funding is essential for a survey of three sites to ensure viability, then erection of modular abattoirs, swiftly to be expanded. HMG should fund them for food security and the benefit of the country.
In the ROF review, the FSA wants to introduce charges for intervention visits and for registration – sustainable funding. Some FBOs have told us that they will pay if there is an equivalent rebate from their rates. Under our Constitution, charges must firstly be enacted by Parliament, in the same manner as the Budget. Otherwise, they are taxes imposed by the back door and thus violate the Bill of Rights.
The Genesis Initiative (the All-Party Parliamentary Small Business Group) has set up its Food Sector and is lobbying MPs on food concerns.