Enforcement of a rule means checking that it is being met. In Britain, this is usually carried out by national regulators and Local Authorities. These teams check on businesses and other operators to make sure they are sticking to the standards.

Good enforcement provides a guarantee, so that you can go about your daily life, making the choices you want to make. You can go out for a meal in the knowledge that your food meets certain standards of hygiene. You can buy a new children’s toy, a new phone, or a sofa, knowing that these products have been checked for things like flammability, chemicals, electrical risks and radioactivity.

These checks and balances make sure that everyone is playing by the same rules. But when protections for the public are not high enough or policed properly, problems arise. Whether it’s being ripped-off by cowboy builders, de-frauded by dodgy firms, or injured by unscrupulous employers, weak enforcement means that ordinary people can lose out.

For year after year UK watchdogs – the defenders of our standards – have had to battle with huge cuts to their budgets. These cuts have come from central government, and have had a devastating impact.

National regulators and Local Authorities have responded by laying off staff, cutting back on inspections, monitoring and checks, visiting fewer and fewer businesses, and even asking businesses to regulate themselves.

This is the UK’s ‘enforcement gap’: the inability of our regulators to keep tabs on business activities or catch rogue operators. When the checkers stop checking, most businesses will continue to act responsibly and fairly. Others, however, will try to cut costs by cutting corners. When this happens, people can get hurt, natural spaces destroyed, and ordinary lives torn apart.

Have you, your family, or your friends ever become ill after eating out? Have you ever driven past a soggy mattress, old fridge or pile of rubbish dumped on the side of the road? Have you noticed a decline in the cleanliness of your local river or quality of local green spaces? Have you or your family ever fallen victim to fraudsters, or been ripped-off by a cowboy trades-person? Do you know anyone who has been injured, or worse, at work?

Usually, we only think about the need for strongly enforced rules when things go wrong – when there is a scandal or tragedy that hits the headlines. But thousands of harms each day are caused, partly, indirectly or directly, by weak enforcement. Left unchecked, the actions of polluting industries, profit-driven businesses, rogue traders and careless individuals could cost us dearly.

Actually, no. Most businesses see the benefits of having standards in place, as they make sure companies are competing on a level playing field and allow them to trade easily with other countries. Trustworthy businesses who are playing by the rules want to know that others are not dodging them in order to undercut competitors.

The Aldersgate Group, whose members include some of the largest businesses in the UK, think good regulations can “result in a range of positive economic outcomes.” A poll by Britain Thinks found that 47% of business leaders think the government should do more to regulate businesses.[1]

For the simple reason that, when things are working well, they are invisible. Each day, when you wake up at home, take a shower, eat breakfast, catch public transport, work in your office or workplace, go for a stroll, do a shop, and return home again, there is a network of checks and balances which is keeping you safe.

Most of the time, enforcement teams go about their business unseen and unapplauded. A good day for an enforcement officer is a day in which nothing happens. It’s only when disaster strikes – the Mid Staffs hospital scandal, the VW emissions scandal, or the Grenfell Tower tragedy – that ordinary people start to notice the hidden heroes who try to keep us safe.

There is lots of evidence which shows that well-designed and enforced rules benefit businesses, lead to innovation, help to create new markets, and deliver public benefits which far exceed their costs.[2][3][4][5] This is because regulations set standards for the market, encourage businesses to innovate in order to meet them, and give companies the confidence to make long-term investments. They also drive up the quality of products and services, leading to increased consumer demand and economies of scale – all of which is good for business. Many studies show that environmental regulations can drive productivity without impacting competitiveness.[6][7][8][9]

Slashing regulations and weakening enforcement is a false economy. What will make the UK uncompetitive is spending lots of money on public services like the NHS to compensate for a failure to make big companies act fairly.

We’re not saying that we need more and more regulations all the time, but we do want the existing rules to be fairly enforced.

It doesn’t make sense if most people are doing the right thing while others are dodging the rules. What’s more, when the really big things are left unchecked, people get hurt. Most often, the taxpayer is left to pick up the pieces.  That’s wrong, and Unchecked wants to change it.

Some people may get frustrated when the small rules are enforced too harshly. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re worried about the fundamental protections that we all rely on, and that keep our families safe. While most of us stick to the standards, unfortunately you can’t trust everyone to do the same. We think its common sense to have controls in place to keep bad behaviour in check.

Sometimes, it will be a rogue business dodging the rules. The 2008 financial crisis was caused by big banks acting irresponsibly. The horsemeat scandal was caused by failures of businesses across the food supply chain. Other harms, such as worker exploitation or targeted scams may originate from criminal organisations. One-off incidents such as fly-tipping or pollution of waterways may be caused by someone acting alone.

Sometimes, accidents and harmful events just happen. But when patterns start to emerge we should begin to take notice.

Front-line enforcement staff work hard to defend people from these kinds of harms, and to catch rogue operators who dodge the rules. But repeated funding cuts are making their job harder. We believe that the responsibility lies in part with the government. If our regulators are to have a chance of success, they must be given the tools for the job.

It’s true that modern economies have more regulations, and that’s largely a result of them being more complex. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, for example, bank accounts were very simple, you would have had a current account or a savings account. Nowadays we have incredibly complicated financial products, and we can see what happened when the government failed to check on the big banks in the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008.

Or take the internet and the growth of companies like Facebook and Google. As a society we haven’t had to deal with fake news in the past, or to protect our children from online predators. This increasing complexity leads to more rules.

We agree it’s important to review the rules from time to time, and to phase out any that are out-of-date. But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to scrap the fundamental protections that keep our families safe.

While we all like to moan about the state of things, most of us agree that Britain is a pretty decent place to live.

Compared with 100 years ago, our traffic and sewer systems are better, our railways, aircraft and roads are safer, and our food and water is cleaner. There are now nutritional standards for baby food and school meals, a Clean Air Act, protections for workers, and rules banning the cruel treatment of farm animals. Today, there are protections banning asbestos from new buildings and the sale of harmful toxins and cancer-causing substances. Today, you are unlikely to come across a flammable sofa.

Regulations have helped to build a prosperous and secure country, to drive up living standards, and to create the rights, reassurances and freedoms that we all enjoy.

But we can’t take these protections for granted. And there is much more to be done to make Britain better, fairer, greener and cleaner. In order to build on this success story, it is essential that our shared standards are properly upheld – by everyone.

The reverse is true. We want to free people up to be successful, and the best way of doing that is to make sure that the government is checking that everyone is adhering to high standards. We want to stop big businesses and rogue operators riding roughshod over everyone else. We want the polluters to pay. That’s only fair.

It can be frustrating when we see big business and the banks getting away with flouting the rules ordinary decent people live by. Regulations are there for everyone, and the government needs to make sure we can trust that the regulations we have are being fairly put into practice.

We can’t afford not to. It often creates a false economy when we don’t act early.  Think of the food you eat. Of course, testing, tracking and tracing ingredients is expensive. But not testing them will mean more illness, lost working days, higher costs to the NHS. Not testing them will cost us more.

Strong enforcement stops people getting harmed in the first place. Without it, more money is spent clearing up the mess that’s made. And this is without considering the human cost. Just look at Grenfell Tower if you want to see what happens when politicians cut corners. Prevention is better than cure. The irresponsible thing to do is not to tackle these problems at source.

Research shows that Trading Standards services generate £6 of consumer savings for every £1 spent on them. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimates that the benefits from its rules are 2.4 times higher than their costs. Every £1 spent on waste crime enforcement yields a return of up to £5.60.[10] To replace the capacity we’ve lost in the last 10 years would cost a fraction of annual government expenditure. It’s more a question of political will than anything else.

[1] https://www.londonfirst.co.uk/sites/default/files/documents/2018-08/BritainThinks.pdf
[2] http://www.epi.org/publication/regulation_employment_and_the_economy_fears_of_job_loss_are_overblown/
[3] https://www.law.upenn.edu/journals/lawreview/articles/volume156/issue2/Coffee156U.Pa.L.Rev.229(2007).pdf
[4] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/sites/public-purpose/files/iipp-wp-2018-06.pdf
[5] Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), (2010), Regulatory Policy and the Road to Sustainable Growth. Available online at: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/41/46270065.pdf
[6] http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jxrjnc45gvg-en
[7] http://personal.lse.ac.uk/dechezle/Impacts_of_Environmental_Regulations.pdf
[8] http://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/blog/more-than-red-tape-environmental-regulations-can-drive-growth
[9] http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publication/the-impacts-of-environmental-regulations-on-competitiveness/
[10] See: Office of Fair Trading, (2009), Trading Standards impact: An evaluation of the impact of the fair trading work of local authority Trading Standards Services in the UK; Defra, (2011), The Costs and Benefits of Defra’s Regulatory Stock: Emerging Findings From Defra’s Regulation Assessment. Environmental Services Association Education Trust, (2014), Waste Crime: Tackling Britain’s Dirty Secret

Enforcement of a rule means checking that it is being met. In Britain, this is usually carried out by national regulators and Local Authorities. These teams check on businesses and other operators to make sure they are sticking to the standards.

Good enforcement provides a guarantee, so that you can go about your daily life, making the choices you want to make. You can go out for a meal in the knowledge that your food meets certain standards of hygiene. You can buy a new children’s toy, a new phone, or a sofa, knowing that these products have been checked for things like flammability, chemicals, electrical risks and radioactivity.

These checks and balances make sure that everyone is playing by the same rules. But when protections for the public are not high enough or policed properly, problems arise. Whether it’s being ripped-off by cowboy builders, de-frauded by dodgy firms, or injured by unscrupulous employers, weak enforcement means that ordinary people can lose out.

For year after year UK watchdogs – the defenders of our standards – have had to battle with huge cuts to their budgets. These cuts have come from central government, and have had a devastating impact.

National regulators and Local Authorities have responded by laying off staff, cutting back on inspections, monitoring and checks, visiting fewer and fewer businesses, and even asking businesses to regulate themselves.

This is the UK’s ‘enforcement gap’: the inability of our regulators to keep tabs on business activities or catch rogue operators. When the checkers stop checking, most businesses will continue to act responsibly and fairly. Others, however, will try to cut costs by cutting corners. When this happens, people can get hurt, natural spaces destroyed, and ordinary lives torn apart.

Have you, your family, or your friends ever become ill after eating out? Have you ever driven past a soggy mattress, old fridge or pile of rubbish dumped on the side of the road? Have you noticed a decline in the cleanliness of your local river or quality of local green spaces? Have you or your family ever fallen victim to fraudsters, or been ripped-off by a cowboy trades-person? Do you know anyone who has been injured, or worse, at work?

Usually, we only think about the need for strongly enforced rules when things go wrong – when there is a scandal or tragedy that hits the headlines. But thousands of harms each day are caused, partly, indirectly or directly, by weak enforcement. Left unchecked, the actions of polluting industries, profit-driven businesses, rogue traders and careless individuals could cost us dearly.

Actually, no. Most businesses see the benefits of having standards in place, as they make sure companies are competing on a level playing field and allow them to trade easily with other countries. Trustworthy businesses who are playing by the rules want to know that others are not dodging them in order to undercut competitors.

The Aldersgate Group, whose members include some of the largest businesses in the UK, think good regulations can “result in a range of positive economic outcomes.” A poll by Britain Thinks found that 47% of business leaders think the government should do more to regulate businesses.[1]

For the simple reason that, when things are working well, they are invisible. Each day, when you wake up at home, take a shower, eat breakfast, catch public transport, work in your office or workplace, go for a stroll, do a shop, and return home again, there is a network of checks and balances which is keeping you safe.

Most of the time, enforcement teams go about their business unseen and unapplauded. A good day for an enforcement officer is a day in which nothing happens. It’s only when disaster strikes – the Mid Staffs hospital scandal, the VW emissions scandal, or the Grenfell Tower tragedy – that ordinary people start to notice the hidden heroes who try to keep us safe.

There is lots of evidence which shows that well-designed and enforced rules benefit businesses, lead to innovation, help to create new markets, and deliver public benefits which far exceed their costs.[2][3][4][5] This is because regulations set standards for the market, encourage businesses to innovate in order to meet them, and give companies the confidence to make long-term investments. They also drive up the quality of products and services, leading to increased consumer demand and economies of scale – all of which is good for business. Many studies show that environmental regulations can drive productivity without impacting competitiveness.[6][7][8][9]

Slashing regulations and weakening enforcement is a false economy. What will make the UK uncompetitive is spending lots of money on public services like the NHS to compensate for a failure to make big companies act fairly.

We’re not saying that we need more and more regulations all the time, but we do want the existing rules to be fairly enforced.

It doesn’t make sense if most people are doing the right thing while others are dodging the rules. What’s more, when the really big things are left unchecked, people get hurt. Most often, the taxpayer is left to pick up the pieces.  That’s wrong, and Unchecked wants to change it.

Some people may get frustrated when the small rules are enforced too harshly. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re worried about the fundamental protections that we all rely on, and that keep our families safe. While most of us stick to the standards, unfortunately you can’t trust everyone to do the same. We think its common sense to have controls in place to keep bad behaviour in check.

Sometimes, it will be a rogue business dodging the rules. The 2008 financial crisis was caused by big banks acting irresponsibly. The horsemeat scandal was caused by failures of businesses across the food supply chain. Other harms, such as worker exploitation or targeted scams may originate from criminal organisations. One-off incidents such as fly-tipping or pollution of waterways may be caused by someone acting alone.

Sometimes, accidents and harmful events just happen. But when patterns start to emerge that we should begin to take notice.

Front-line enforcement staff work hard to defend people from these kinds of harms, and to catch rogue operators who dodge the rules. But repeated funding cuts are making their job harder. We believe that the responsibility lies in part with the government. If our regulators are to have a chance of success, they must be given the tools for the job.

It’s true that modern economies have more regulations, and that’s largely a result of them being more complex. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, for example, bank accounts were very simple, you would have had a current account or a savings account. Nowadays we have incredibly complicated financial products, and we can see what happened when the government failed to check on the big banks in the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008.

Or take the internet and the growth of companies like Facebook and Google. As a society we haven’t had to deal with fake news in the past, or to protect our children from online predators. This increasing complexity leads to more rules.

We agree it’s important to review the rules from time to time, and to phase out any that are out-of-date. But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to scrap the fundamental protections that keep our families safe.

While we all like to moan about the state of things, most of us agree that Britain is a pretty decent place to live.

Compared with 100 years ago, our traffic and sewer systems are better, our railways, aircraft and roads are safer, and our food and water is cleaner. There are now nutritional standards for baby food and school meals, a Clean Air Act, protections for workers, and rules banning the cruel treatment of farm animals. Today, there are protections banning asbestos from new buildings and the sale of harmful toxins and cancer-causing substances. Today, you are unlikely to come across a flammable sofa.

Regulations have helped to build a prosperous and secure country, to drive up living standards, and to create the rights, reassurances and freedoms that we all enjoy.

But we can’t take these protections for granted. And there is much more to be done to make Britain better, fairer, greener and cleaner. In order to build on this success story, it is essential that our shared standards are properly upheld – by everyone.

The reverse is true. We want to free people up to be successful, and the best way of doing that is to make sure that the government is checking that everyone is adhering to high standards. We want to stop big businesses and rogue operators riding roughshod over everyone else. We want the polluters to pay. That’s only fair.

It can be frustrating when we see big business and the banks getting away with flouting the rules ordinary decent people live by. Regulations are there for everyone, and the government needs to make sure we can trust that the regulations we have are being fairly put into practice.

We can’t afford not to. It often creates a false economy when we don’t act early.  Think of the food you eat. Of course, testing, tracking and tracing ingredients is expensive. But not testing them will mean more illness, lost working days, higher costs to the NHS. Not testing them will cost us more.

Strong enforcement stops people getting harmed in the first place. Without it, more money is spent clearing up the mess that’s made. And this is without considering the human cost. Just look at Grenfell Tower if you want to see what happens when politicians cut corners. Prevention is better than cure. The irresponsible thing to do is not to tackle these problems at source.

Research shows that Trading Standards services generate £6 of consumer savings for every £1 spent on them. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimates that the benefits from its rules are 2.4 times higher than their costs. Every £1 spent on waste crime enforcement yields a return of up to £5.60.[10] To replace the capacity we’ve lost in the last 10 years would cost a fraction of annual government expenditure. It’s more a question of political will than anything else.

[1] https://www.londonfirst.co.uk/sites/default/files/documents/2018-08/BritainThinks.pdf
[2] http://www.epi.org/publication/regulation_employment_and_the_economy_fears_of_job_loss_are_overblown/
[3] https://www.law.upenn.edu/journals/lawreview/articles/volume156/issue2/Coffee156U.Pa.L.Rev.229(2007).pdf
[4] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/sites/public-purpose/files/iipp-wp-2018-06.pdf
[5] Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), (2010), Regulatory Policy and the Road to Sustainable Growth. Available online at: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/41/46270065.pdf
[6] http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jxrjnc45gvg-en
[7] http://personal.lse.ac.uk/dechezle/Impacts_of_Environmental_Regulations.pdf
[8] http://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/blog/more-than-red-tape-environmental-regulations-can-drive-growth
[9] http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publication/the-impacts-of-environmental-regulations-on-competitiveness/
[10] See: Office of Fair Trading, (2009), Trading Standards impact: An evaluation of the impact of the fair trading work of local authority Trading Standards Services in the UK; Defra, (2011), The Costs and Benefits of Defra’s Regulatory Stock: Emerging Findings From Defra’s Regulation Assessment. Environmental Services Association Education Trust, (2014), Waste Crime: Tackling Britain’s Dirty Secret