“The unique thing about LTS Week is that it showcases the 33 London authorities working together,” says LTS’s Maria Gartside. “It allows each individual local authority to get involved in what way they can.”
Running from September 10-14, each of LTS Week’s five days was based around a key theme. On Day 1, the focus was on product safety, with a particular emphasis on the sale of second-hand tyres.
Day 2 tackled scams and doorstep crime, especially with regards to protecting vulnerable people and saving Londoners money.
Buying a used car was the theme of Day 3, while Day 4 focused on housing – specifically lettings. The work that had been carried out across London over the previous year was a key factor in both of these days, and was used as the basis for the advice and information LTS put out to consumers.
To wrap up the week on Day 5, the theme was ‘protecting young people’ – as Gartside observes, “This is quite a wide area, encompassing lots of different things. We publicised results of underage sale test purchasing undertaken by Trading Standards teams in London of items such as knives, alcohol and tobacco.
“Some local authorities focused work on knife sales; other local authorities went for the public health angle, focussing on tobacco and raising awareness of the serious health issues around illegal and illicit tobacco.”
Spreading the word
Each of the local authority London trading standards services took a different approach to LTS Week; many put out press releases and promotional materials which were picked up by local and national media outlets. This was crucial to the aims of the initiative: spreading awareness and raising the profile of trading standards work.
The BBC covered the underage knife sales test purchases research on Day 5, for example, as did Sky News, ITV News and the Evening Standard. The ‘buying a used car’ theme on Day 3 caught the attention of the Telegraph, while the Metro and the Daily Express were among the publications that covered the product safety activities on Day 2.
Some local authorities set up stands on their high streets to spread the trading standards message to consumers and businesses at a grassroots level. “In Bromley, the National Trading Standards scams team came down and had an awareness stand,” says Gartside. “In Greenwich, a member of the team carried out talks to local carers on fraud and scam prevention.
“It’s tailored to each local authority, but it’s able to show what London can do as a whole.”
Listening to London
The key themes of LTS Week were based on what local authorities said were the main priorities for trading standards in London. “A lot of work went into LTS Week before the actual event, looking at what were the five priority areas, which cover all of our 33 local authorities,” says Gartside.
“We have our own assessments and look at the work of trading standards nationally, and the work of CTSI, and that’s how we came up with those five themes. The same priorities are reflected in most individual local authority teams and can be incorporated into their local-level work.”
Discussing LTS Week’s main achievements, Gartside says that collaboration and raising awareness were central to the campaign. “It’s a really great opportunity to show how trading standards can work together, how we can collaborate across London to highlight some really important issues,” she says.
“Each local authority may have different priorities, resources and numbers of staff, so they may each take a different approach. It demonstrates what local authority teams can do individually with limited resources and very small teams in a number of areas.”
In terms of getting the message out, says Gartside, LTS Week is “really important to showcase what work we can do in trading standards in the capital”.
“The biggest impact it’s had is around communications – promotion on Twitter, the LTS press releases, working with CTSI and seeing the various media outlets that picked up on the awareness campaign.”
Against the backdrop of cuts to trading standards services, raising awareness of the work of LTS – and the trading standards profession as a whole – is more important than ever. “Across London there are many local authorities whose services have been reduced,” says Gartside. “Promoting trading standards across London and taking part in campaigns like LTS Week show what we can do when trading standards services collaborate.”
As a means of benefiting Londoners, LTS Week was a valuable addition to the work carried out by trading standards services in the city year-round. “The more people that we can reach in LTS Week – consumers and businesses – the more we can signpost to trading standards throughout the rest of the year,” says Gartside.
“When a legitimate business needs some advice they know where to come to, and when consumers have any consumer-related issues, they know where to report them.”
Looking ahead to next year’s campaign, Gartside says the plan is to build upon the momentum that LTS Week has gathered over the past two years. “Each year we look at what work has been done across the year, promote and highlight that, and that will then carry on into the following year.
“Early next year the LTS coordination team will be sitting down again and looking at what the priorities are, checking the intelligence across London, and seeing where we will focus LTS week 2019.”
It’s too early to say what the specific themes of next year’s event will be, but it’s safe to say that they will be informed by the most pressing challenges facing consumers, businesses and trading standards professionals across the city and beyond.