Shocking new figures show important British standards going ‘unchecked’

British safety, food, water and air quality standards are all under threat as vital inspections plummet, and laws are no longer enforced.

Photo: Mouldy bread, courtesy of Chris Young

Photo: Mouldy bread, courtesy of Chris Young

That is the startling message today from twenty organisations representing a diverse range of interests – coming together for the first time in support of a new campaign,

The campaign’s analysis, published today, shows huge declines in the budgets and staff of enforcement agencies overseeing vital areas of public policy – including environmental protection, health and safety and consumer protection. This has created a dangerous “enforcement gap”, highlighted in today’s briefing. [1]

In a letter to The Times, twenty major organisations from across UK civil society join together to warn that “steep reduction in inspections and monitoring of regulated business in recent years risks undermining the achievement of public policy objectives.” [2]

Read the analys showing huge declines in the budgets and staff of enforcement agencies here:

Emma Rose of said,

"The analysis we are publishing today is alarming, and is cause for serious national concern.  With important regulators operating with on average 50% less funding than ten years ago, there is a need for a closer look at the state of our public protection infrastructure."

"As a country we believe in fair play, common standards, and everyone playing by the same rules – but the truth is, the people we rely on to enforce those rules are being hamstrung. Today, we have launched Unchecked to show that vital protections can no longer be taken for granted."

Errol Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said:

“It is thanks to the work of public, private and third sector organisations that the UK’s world-leading safety system has, since the 1960s, saved the lives of at least 125,000 motorists and employees. It is a record that we should all be extremely proud of.

“However, in the last decade, a constant rise in home accidents is driving up hospital admissions, and putting increased pressure on other public services. We need to stem this rise, and the best way to this is through a combination of more, evidence-based interventions and a more robust regulatory regime. To do this, we need an inspection system that is well-resourced and fit for purpose.”

Arnold Pindar, of the National Consumer Federation said:

“We live in an increasingly complicated world, and we expect high standards – clean air, safe water, and better goods and safe products. Strong enforcement is needed to bear down on high-risk suppliers and rogues, and keep us safe from harm. However, enforcement capacity has been cut back since the early 2000’s, and Unchecked’s research shows how serious this has become. It confirms the major concerns highlighted by recent National Consumer Federation Consumer Congresses. [3] This cannot carry on.” 

Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of the Sustain food and farming alliance, said:

“When food production goes unchecked, recent history tells us all too clearly that we end up with dirty meat, food poisoning, food fraud and substitution with unexpected species such as horsemeat. We all rely on independent enforcement teams to ensure that our food is safe, fit to eat, free from contamination and genuinely contains what it says on the label. This will become ever more important and challenging as the UK opens up to new trade deals and food imports. The Sustain food and farming alliance is proud to join diverse organisations in the campaign, unified in our support for high standards, trustworthy inspections and a safe and healthy food supply."


Notes to editors

[1] Read the briefing:

[2] A shortened version of the letter was published in The Times. The full letter is available here. It was signed by the following organisations: 

  • Alliance to Save our Antibiotics
  • Birders Against Wildlife Crime
  • Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
  • Compassion in World Farming
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Green Alliance
  • Hazards UK
  • Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment
  • Mums for Lungs
  • National Consumer Federation
  • New Economics Foundation
  • People Need Nature
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • Save Face
  • Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming
  • The Angling Trust
  • Trade Justice Movement
  • Windrush Against Sewage Pollution
  • Women’s Environmental Network

[3] April 2017 Consumer Voice on Brexit – Key message 3.8  
December 2017 NCF Enforcement Congress Report 
May 2018 Beyond Brexit – Recommendation 4.6 Improve enforcement 


Unchecked is a project of The Ecology Trust, a grant-making charity established in 2003 which seeks to tackle the root causes of environmental and societal problems. It was founded in 2019, and is supported by the JMG Foundation, The Kestrelman Trust, and The Funding Network.

Unchecked works with UK civil society organisations to make the case for proper investment in the public bodies that keep us safe. Unchecked maps the causes and consequences of weak enforcement and carries out public attitudes research around regulation and enforcement.  

Press enquiries: Emma Rose,, 07917 799 203

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