Councillors are concerned scammers could take advantage of cuts to trading standards resources in north-west London.

They responded to the announcement at a trading standards board meeting yesterday (Thursday, March 25) that Harrow Council would reduce its budget by £200,000 for 2021/22.

This will include a reduction in the number of staff serving the boroughs of Harrow and Brent and could also lead to potential issues associated with paying legal costs for complicated cases.

Cllr Janice Long (Lab, Dudden Hill) said the changes could lead to more problems if con artists look to exploit the situation.

“It makes you wonder what the scamsters are going to get away with in the future,” she said.

“And if people can’t go to trading standards for advice, they might go to some shark and then we’ll have to spend more resources chasing them.”

Cllr Angella Murphy-Strachan (Lab, Edgware) described the situation as “sad”, but said it was an unsurprising call given the financial pressures facing the council.

This view was backed by a report presented to the board, which cited the impact of austerity over the past decade, including the continued reduction of funding for local authorities from central government, as a reason for the decision.

The report noted Harrow’s contribution to the funding pot for next year would drop from £500,000 to £300,000.

To achieve this, it will make cuts to the staff payroll, acknowledged by Simon Legg, head of regulatory services at Brent and Harrow Trading Standards, as “the biggest cost of the service”.

It means the region’s financial investigator will be funded through reserves, currently vacant posts for an enforcement officer and a senior prosecutor will not be filled, and the role of team leader will now be shared between the two boroughs.

The service will benefit from a collective pool of just eight staff – six enforcement officers, a financial investigator, and a team leader – which, according to a 2002 report by Audit Scotland, means it would have “insufficient flexibility and range of expertise to meet all the accepted minimum standards”.

Mr Legg’s report explained the service will not be able to “fully deliver on its statutory duties” as a result of the changes and will need to take a more “generic approach” to duties going forward.

There are also concerns that at least one trading standards court case scheduled for 2022/23 could “attract increased legal costs”, which could bring about further budgetary pressures.

To address all these issues, the department has called on the Government to implement minimum standards for services and provide ring-fenced resources that will allow it to “deliver them well”.