PLANNED cuts to Pembrokeshire’s environmental health budget could have “potentially catastrophic consequence for the public”, it has been warned.
Julie Barratt, director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Wales, has raised concerns that continued cuts will lead to important services becoming unsustainable.
She said local authorities had been under “considerable pressure” to save money in the last few years, but while adult social services and education budgets had been protected, smaller services like environmental health and trading standards had “taken the brunt of the cuts”.
And as Pembrokeshire County Council looks to cut £300,000 from a total budget of £1.9million over the next year, Ms Barratt is concerned experienced staff are being lost in order to make these ‘savings’.
“Environmental health protects individuals and communities, supports the NHS and protects the integrity of Welsh businesses,” she said.
“The work that is done is generally unseen, but is essential, and it is cost effective.
“If funding continues to be reduced I think we are at risk of the service failing, which would have potentially catastrophic consequences for the public in Wales.”
Cllr Huw George, Cabinet member for environmental health, said the council had already saved 25 per cent in the last five years by "doing things differently".
But with no "big savings" left to be made, the council was responding to ongoing budget pressures by trying to deliver services – most of which it has a statutory obligation to provide – in a more cost-effective way.
This had included not routinely visiting better performing food businesses - leaving staff more time to support those with lower ratings, sharing information with other councils in Wales, and using machines to test air quality, instead of council staff.
Cllr George said savings had also been made by not filling some vacancies when staff retired.
The council was also looking at establishing a dog registration fee, to help the warden service “pay for itself”.
But he acknowledged that the council could not keep cutting indefinitely.
“If all these saving and shavings go on there will come a time where people will be at risk,” he said.