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, "7":"News The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has teamed up with Warwickshire Trading Standards to offer clear and consistent business advice to its members throughout the UK. TPO expects its members to follow its established codes of practice, and deals with unresolved disputes between members IEF N BR SI NEW estate agents and letting agents and New rules governing the food information their customers. revealed to people when they buy packaged and loose food came into force in December. The Food Information Alarm raised over cost of food fraud Widespread fraud in the UK food and drinks industry costs the country as much as 11bn a year, according to an alarming new report, which also found that little more than three per cent of it gets detected. Researchers found people siphoning-off cash at every stage in the supply chain, with each participant short-changing the next: in quality or quantity; by substituting ingredients; making false claims; or simply by stealing money. The cost of this fraud is ultimately borne by the consumer, contributing 5p to the cost of a 1 loaf of white bread, 33p to a 6 bag of white rice, 11p to a 2 half-dozen box of eggs, 9p to a 1.70 block of butter, 3p to a 49p lettuce and 16p to a pint of beer equating to about 424 per household, per year. Food and drink fraud is the crime in our baskets, said Jim Gee, coauthor of the report, Minimising Fraud and Maximising Value in the UK Food and Drink Sector 2014, and head of forensic and counterfraud services at PKF Littlejohn. It results in food and drink being more expensive than it should, and its reduction can significantly improve value for money, he said. The fraud encompasses everything from using lower-grade our than claimed in a loaf of bread or adding filler, such as chalk to claiming a chicken is free-range when it has spent its entire life in a cage. It also involves pilfering, giving slightly less than the agreed amount, substituting ingredients such as horse for chicken or donkey for beef and claiming organic status where none is merited, according to thereport. Researchers calculated the cost of fraud by analysing the expenses and revenues of 73 UK food and drink companies listed on the stock exchange. It found that only a tiny fraction of the fraud committed about three per cent actually gets detected because, contrary to expectations, fraud is actually a high-volume, low-value activity, making it much harder to spot, says Gee. BRIAN A JACKSON / SHUTTERSTOCK Only six out of 22 Welsh local authorities agreed to merge by the deadline, following recommendations in the White Paper, Reforming Local Government. According to the Welsh Local Government Association, others are prepared to merge, while some have made a case to stay on their own. Meanwhile, 10 Welsh councils have agreed to work together to develop a combined authority that could make key decisions for development, transport and planning. 1 2 3 4 restaurants, which until now did not need to provide customers with information about the food allergens present in non-prepacked foods. Find out more here. 1 2 3 4 Click numbers for more stories IEF BR S IN EW N Caroline Lucas MP has tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons on local government funding, warning that central government is slowly but surely putting an end to local government as we know it. The motion notes: a 40 per cent reduction in local government funding; the demand for council services is growing; and that the poorest and most disadvantaged are suffering under government policies. 1 2 3 4 Click numbers for more stories New body to cover Scottish food standards IEF BR S IN NEW the South East Wales region on economic supermarket bakeries, delis, cafs and The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood is to pass legislation setting up an independent food standards agency north of the border. Food Standards Scotland (FSS) will cover food safety, standards, nutrition, labelling and meat inspection. It will continue the work carried out by the UK-wide Food Standards Agency (FSA). In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, the new agency created as a result of MSPs passing the Scottish governments Food Bill will also be given powers to seize food that does not meet labelling rules. Scottish ministers brought forward plans for FSS after the UK government moved responsibilities for nutrition and food labelling in England from the FSA to the health, environment and food and rural affairs departments. The Scottish government said FFS would be independent, evidencebased, consumer-focused and transparent, as well as allowing a Scottish approach to be taken on food-related issues. Retail Ombudsman makes its debut The Office of the Retail Ombudsman, which came into operation on 2 January 2015, will have the power to investigate complaints about high street products and services, among other duties. It has been set up with the backing of the government under European Directive 2013/11/EU on Alternative Dispute Resolution. It will investigate complaints about products and services on the high street, as well as independent shops, retail businesses like petrol stations, garden centres and shopping websites. Its activities will be paid for by retailers that have signed up to the service, including major names such as Debenhams, Mothercare, Halfords, Argos and Boots. They will contribute up to 2,000 a year, and 45 for each case that the ombudsman takes on. However, the ombudsman will be independent and will report directly to an independent standards board. This will have a majority of non-industry members and will be chaired by businessman and government adviser, Sir Eric Peacock. Dean Dunham, consumer rights lawyer and consumer champion at the Sunday People, has been spearheading a campaign to create the body, and will now act as legal adviser. Retail is one of the only sectors that until now has no redress scheme for consumers when things go wrong, said Dunham. Where customers have had a dispute with a retailer, their only recourse has been to take legal action when the retailer rejects their complaint. But, the overwhelming majority of the British public either cannot afford legal advice in disputes with retailers, or do not feel it is financially beneficial to involve a lawyer. The important thing is that consumers will pay nothing it is totally free. It is an impartial and independent scheme with a highly trained team of case workers, which will benefit both parties because it is putting someone in the middle to mediate in disputes. The ombudsman expects to handle about 170,000 complaints in 2015. SCORPP / SHUTTERSTOCK Regulations will affect businesses such as "