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20 October 2003

Public safety continues to be low priority, despite good enforcement by Scottish councils

The safety of the public and employees is being put at risk, because cowboy employers feel free to get away with flouting health and safety laws across the UK.

This is the key finding from a new report* from UNISON, which found that where you live in the UK determines the level of health and safety enforcement undertaken by local authorities. In Scotland, local authorities delivered appreciably better results than many authorities down south.

However this good result is tempered by the worse inspection record of the HSE in Scotland. The analysis for the report was undertaken by the Centre for Corporate accountability (CCA), who looked in detail at local authorities who are responsible for offices, retail and wholesale shops, warehouses, fuel and storage depots, residential care homes and premises involved in catering, leisure, cultural or consumer and other services.

Scottish authorities come out well in the survey, but Dave Watson, UNISONScotland's Scottish Organiser for Policy and Information, says there is no room for complacency:

"UNISON will be sending copies of the report to all local authorities and raising it with the Scottish Parliament. We cannot let the health and safety of the public be put at risk. Although in Scotland the level of results were better than down south, the targets set for local authority inspections are not always met, and the levels of HSE inspections here tend to be much lower than elswhere in the UK. Employers in some other parts of the UK often have no real incentive to comply with regulations because there is no chance that they will get caught, investigated or prosecuted.

"Many local authorities, particularly in Scotland are providing an excellent inspection service. When resouced properly they are examples of what democratically accountable public services can do. We want to see all local authorities - and even the HSE - co-operate, communicate and support one another to raise standards across Scotland. We should not be sidetracked into expensive and unneccessary reorganisation, when public service networking would be more effective."

David Bergman, Director of the Centre for Corporate Accountability said:

"The report is the first time that a comparative analyses has been made of individual local authorities on a number of different enforcement criteria. It identifies the local authorities which:

* undertake the most and least inspections and investigations;

* impose the most and least number of enforcement notices;

* have the most and least number of inspectors."

Sample of key findings

*Rossendale District Council reported no visits of any kind to its 1,540 registered premises, Clackmannanshire Council with 700 premises undertook 537 visits;

*Lambeth reports no inspections of its 7,680 premises, Inverclyde Council, with 1232 premises made 702 inspections. M/f p2 Cont/P2 - Council enforcement of Public Safety - comparisons

* 90 local authorities - including eleven from Scotland - investigated every single reported injury to a worker; 17 local authorities (none from Scotland) investigated less than 10% of reported injuries;

*While Perth and Kinross imposed 23 notices for its 267 visits - one enforcement notice for every twelve visits - Ashford only imposed one notice in relation to its 1,116 visits

* East Dunbartonshire had 4 inspectors for its 1,105 premises, the London Borough of Islington had one part-time inspector for its 3,418 premises.


Note to editors:This report considers how local authorities enforce health and safety law and, in particular, compares the enforcement of over 300 local authorities in the last available year of data, 1999/2000. In 1999/2000 only 375 out of 410 local authorities sent in their annual returns, and a sizeable number sent in forms that were incomplete. Most of the information in the report is based on an analysis of between 320 and 340 local authorities. As a result there may be local authorities whose record is either worse or better than the ones identified here. In Scotland, no local authorities ever appear in the Bottom 10, and there is always at least one in the top ten.

For a full list of all the different local authorities and comparative tables please go to www.corporateaccountability.org/LA/Report03/Main.htm Safety Lottery - How the level of enforcement of health and safety depends on where you work Summary of the Best and Worst Top 10 local authorities with the highest ratio of visits to premises Kennet D.C.; Mansfield D.C.; St Helens M.B.C.; Thanet D.C.; Brignorth D.C.; Clackmannanshire U.A.; Test Valley B.C.; Derwentside D.C.; South Norfolk D.C.; Havering. Bottom 10 lowest ratio of visits to premises West Oxfordshire D.C.; Blackburn U.A.; Isle of Wight Council U.A.; North Devon D.C.; West Somerset D.C.; Wycombe D.C.; Telford and Wrekin U.A.; Sandwell M.B.C.; Redbridge; Rossendale D.C. Top 10 local authorities with the highest ratio of inspections to premises Mansfield D.C.; Derwentside D.C.; St Helens M.B.C.; Inverclyde U.A.; Brignorth D.C.; Clackmannanshire U.A.; Congleton B.C.; South Norfolk D.C.; Orkney Islands Council; Teesdale D.C. Bottom 10 - with the lowest ratio of inspections to premises Telford and Wrekin U.A.; Lewisham L.B.C.; Sandwell M.B.C.; West Somerset D.C.; Blackburn U.A.; North Devon D.C.; Isle of Wight Council; Redbridge; Rochford D.C.; Wycombe D.C.; Rossendale D.C.; Lambeth Top 10 local authorities which investigated all of its over 100 reported injuries suffered by workers Milton Keynes U.A.; Northampton B.C.; Coventry City Council; Bromley; Basingstoke Deane; Wolverhampton M.B.; West Lothian U.A.; Rushmoor; East Riding of Yorkshire U.A.; Preston Ribble Council Bottom 10 lowest investigation levels into injuries suffered by workers Hounslow L.B.C.; Medway Towns U.A.; Rugby B.C.; Luton U.A.; Rochford D.C.; Bexley L.B.C. Waltham Forest L.B.C.; Leeds City Council; Wigan M.B.C.; Westminster. Top 10 local authorities with highest number of inspectors/premises ratios Orkney Island Council; East Dunbartonshire U.A.; Mid Devon D.C.; North Shropshire D.C.; East Renfrewshire U.A.; Tonbridge and Malling B.C.; East Ayrshire U.A.; South Ayrshire U.A.; Chester le Street D.C.; Clackmannanshire U.A. Bottom 10 with lowest number of inspectors/premises ratio. West Oxfordshire D.C.; Lambeth; St Albans D.C.; Crawley B.C.; Christchurch D.C.; Horsham D.C; Lewisham; Bath and N.E. Somerset U.A. Hillingdon L.B.C.; Eastington D.C.

UNISON has been running a campaign to Revitalise Public Services. This includes a series of principles covering recruitment and retention, performance, democratic accountability, capacity and innovation, and public service networks. These need to be adopted by the government if public service revitalisation is to be successful.

For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Org. - Policy and Info) 0845 355 0845 (w) 07787 558410(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)