Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by FDA


  FDA represents a number of senior managers, lawyers and statisticians in HSE. We are seriously concerned about HSE's resource position. HSE has lost over a quarter of its staff in the last 5 years and is likely to lose more as a result of further resource constraints. The contribution made by FDA members in the organisation is particularly under threat from the need for more savings including the planned move of the London HQ to Merseyside. HSE urgently needs an injection of more resource if it is to continue to serve its purpose as an effective regulator of health and safety in this country.


  1.  FDA represents a number of senior managers, lawyers and statisticians in HSE HQ.

  2.  Our submission focuses, as will those of the other HSE trade unions, on the resource problems which currently confront HSE.

  3.  HSE received a flat cash settlement for 2005-08 and has therefore had to make £50 million worth of efficiency savings in that period (to be seen in context this is against an annual budget of £235 million in 2007-08). This has resulted in significant staff reductions, for example in human resource management, and inadequate resources for example to develop effective new computer systems.

  4.  HSE's primary resource is its staff and staff-related costs comprise the majority of its budget. Staffing levels are therefore especially sensitive to resource reductions. In April 2002 HSE had 4,282 Full Time Equivalent posts (FTEs) but at the end of August 2007 there were less than 3,200. Including the loss of staff to the Office of Rail Regulation, this represents a 27% reduction in just over 5 years.

  5.  DWP has now agreed to a financial settlement of minus 5% each year for the next three financial years. HSE may now therefore be expected to take on similar cuts to DWP. If this happens, HSE's staffing levels will continue to fall by more than 100 FTEs a year throughout that period.

  6.  Any settlement below the rate of inflation, let alone of the level contemplated, and coming on top of the reductions of recent years, will seriously undermine HSE's ability to meet its basic aim of `reducing risks and protecting people'. HSE urgently needs an injection of resources to maintain its capabilities and effectiveness.

  7.  HSE has punched above its weight in terms of what it has achieved against diminishing resources, but there are signs that this position cannot be maintained. For example the (provisional) figure for the number of workers fatally injured in 2006-07 was 241, compared with 217 in 2005-06—a rise of 11%. And the rate of fatal injuries rose to 0.80 per 100,000 workers in 2006-07 from 0.72 in 2005-06. Also, HSE is no longer on track to achieve its targets for ill-health or number of working days lost.

  8.  The levels of enforcement activity are down: in 2002-03 13,324 enforcement notices were served but in 2006-07 there were only 8,099, a fall of 39%. Over the same period the number of offences prosecuted fell from 1,659 to 1,141, a fall of 31%.

  9.  The sums of money that would make a real difference to HSE's effectiveness are very small in comparison to the overall budget of DWP (£8,105 million in 2007-08), and in comparison to the costs to society of occupational injuries and ill-health (estimated to be approximately £25.9 billion in the UK annually). HSE received just £235 million for 2007-08.

  10.  Protecting "front line" inspection, as the Government promises, is a red herring because without support from policy staff keeping the legislation up to date, lawyers advising on application of the law, statisticians and other analysts collecting and interpreting evidence and scientists providing robust and objective technical support for enforcement action, so-called "front line" staff cannot be effective. Of particular concern to the FDA is the recent loss of the post of Deputy Chief Executive covering the policy function. This could diminish HSE's ability to provide policy advice to the HSE/Ministers and to keep health and safety concerns central to Government policy-making.

  11.  Another issue of concern to us is the proposed relocation of all HSE's London-based HQ posts to Merseyside. This will result in the loss of virtually all HSE's policy and litigation legal staff within two years, because very few of those currently in post are willing to move. We understand that in the present financial climate there is great pressure on HSE to make savings by transferring staff out of London, but we are concerned that the costs in terms of the loss of experienced, competent staff and the consequent loss of business continuity, have not been taken fully into account. For example, under present proposals it is possible that HSE's Legal Adviser's Office will be split between London and Merseyside which would divide a Unit which has worked successfully as one for many years. HSE is in danger of losing influence with key stakeholders who are based in the capital, including other Government Departments; it will have to work very hard to maintain its credibility with them. The proposed move to Merseyside is causing many staff to leave the organisation and this is already impacting on delivery.

  12.  The effect of the resource constraints is not only that `front line'/visible activity is diminishing, but that all staff are having to drop important work in order to do essential work—the result is that key tasks like liaising with stakeholders and reviewing and updating legislation are not being done. The consequences of this in terms whether this country has an effective and relevant national health and safety regulator will be felt not only in the short term but also in the long term future.


January 2008

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