One of the least heralded parts of local government is the Trading Standards Department. I think Trading Standards represents local government at its very best, quietly, year after year, protecting the interests of ordinary people.
Trading Standards rarely feature in high profile, glossy publications. Yet they do the nitty-gritty consumer work.
That is why I am delighted that Brighton and Hove’s Trading Standards Department was highlighted in a press release from the City Council on Friday for its work on the Lettings Agents Project which is designed to ensure that all local letting agents are complying with the new laws.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 requires letting agents to display all fees charged to landlords and tenants, both on their website and at the premises. It is also a legal requirement for letting agents to be members of an approved redress scheme. Failure to comply with these laws can result in a fixed penalty fee of up to £5,000.
In Brighton and Hove, Trading Standards have been working with the Home Sweet Home campaign to identify which agents are not following the law.
A lot of credit must go to Home Sweet Home for the campaign they have been running over recent years to improve and protect the rights of people who rely on the services provided by letting agents. Do look at their website for an example of their campaigning work.
A couple of years ago I was involved in a completely different campaign, to revoke the license of a retailer who was selling dangerous high volume alcohol to street drinkers. The campaign brought together, not in any formal way, the London Road Local Action Team, Sussex Police, Trading Standards, the Licensing Department, a local councillor, and others.
I must say how impressed I was by the officer from Trading Standards and the work that the department had done, not least in identifying alcohol on which Duty had not been paid.
When local authorities hand out awards and recognise public service in other ways, I hope that Trading Standards, along with environmental health officers, are at the front of the queue to be recognised and honoured.