An advice line based in Birmingham is set to be axed as part of a hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cuts to a city consumer watchdog, it has been revealed.
Birmingham City Council’s trading standards department has been told it needs to save £275,000 from its budget in the 2012/13 financial year.
In a bid to save the cash, the team’s Consumer Advice Service – a telephone hotline that helps consumers who have been ripped off by rogue traders – is set to be cut.
Instead of the service, manned by Birmingham Trading Standards officers, shoppers will be advised to call Consumer Direct – the Government’s London-based national contact centre for consumer advice.
The cuts, described as “efficiency savings”, come as the council has been ordered to slash its spending this year by £260 million, which has already seen more than 1,200 job losses since April and has sparked strikes and protests.
The council’s website states the Trading Standards team would make other savings through voluntary redundancies, but an authority spokesman insisted the department would not see any job losses.
“There will be no job losses because there is already a number of staff that are leaving due to retirement, and a number of other staff would be moved to other departments,” he said.
“The impact on service delivery should be invisible to the public who will still have access to a telephone consumer advice via the government service that will be managed from next April by Citizens Advice.”
The team was also looking to achieve the savings by boosting officers’ training so that they can claw more money back from convicted rogue traders through the Proceeds of Crime Act.
It was now seeking feedback from the public over the savings, urging consumers to fill in an online survey at www.birmingham.gov.uk/tradingstandards
It will also be discussing the issue at the next Trade and Consumer Forum at The Council House Victoria Square, at 6.30pm on Thursday.
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