Bristol City Council has reversed planned cuts to meat sampling carried out by the authority’s trading standards team.
Mayor George Ferguson’s had proposed “less sampling” of foods and petrol as part of a £25,000 cut in the department’s budget. But officials have had to draw up a contingency plan – believed to be in the region of £50,000 – to plug the hole and provide extra cash as a result of the horsemeat scandal.
Councillors, butchers and food standards groups called for action on Friday as the scandal spread to a Bradley Stoke meat distribution firm. The proposed cuts were first highlighted by Labour councillor Ron Stone at a Neighbourhood Partnership meeting in St George last week.
Council officials addressed the meeting, at which residents raised concerns.
The original council budget proposals stated: “The reduction would reduce the level of sampling that could be carried out.”
It added that the impact was likely to be “minimal”.
But residents at the Neighbourhood Partnership Meeting told officers to abandon petrol sampling and focus on food in the wake of the crisis.
Mr Stone told The Post he had lobbied officers for a change in the budget which forced the eventual U-turn. He said: “It’s a relatively small amount of money but one that has the potential to have a huge impact. “Residents in the meeting last week were absolutely unanimous in their call for a rethink on the budget.”
He added: “They all recognised we need to find a little bit of money or the implications could be enormous.” On Friday Mr Ferguson said he had asked that the council does not cut back on sampling.
He added: “In addition a contingency fund has been earmarked in light of these increased concerns nationally on meat quality.
“Extra checks and sampling of meat and meat products are being carried out by our trading standards officers who are stepping up their work in sampling meat processed in wholesale centres and cold stores.”
Abdul Malik, a former city councillor and owner of Pak Butchers, said the proposed cuts posed a threat to health.
He said: “The council needs to look at the resources it can get on board to really monitor what is happening in Bristol. “This is about public health and hygiene here, it’s a big issue.”
He added that he was already concerned about shortfalls in the department affecting its ability to monitor unregistered butchers in the city.
Spokeswoman at Bristol based charity Soil Association Natasha Collins-Danie said: “We would be very concerned about any proposals to cut testing and sampling of products.”
She added: “The Soil Association will continue to sample and test products, and we believe that other food assurance schemes and government bodies should remain free to do the same.”