15th January 2024

Opinion: TS’s biggest fan

The work being done on the front line of Trading Standards is backed up by passion and dedication behind the scenes.

By Kerry Nicol
JoTS Editor-in-Chief and CTSI Policy and Campaigns Executive
We have more influence than ever, the result of sitting around the right tables and contributing to the right conversations

As I celebrate a milestone birthday the realisation dawns on me that I have spent more than half of my life at CTSI — and I can honestly say that if I could go back I wouldn’t change a thing.

The admiration I have for the Trading Standards profession has grown each year that I’ve been at CTSI and I would even put my neck out and class myself as your biggest fan.

I’ve been lucky enough in my time at CTSI to work across different teams at head office and experience nearly all of the work streams that keep the Institute thriving. I feel I am well placed to say that your Institute is in very safe hands. But I must be honest in saying that I have never felt as at home as I do now in the Policy team. For me this is where the magic happens. This is where we see what is coming down the line, where we really see the challenges that you all face and how we can amplify our voice and presence with our policy messaging.

I sit as the secretariat for CTSI on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Consumer Protection, and I’ve been lucky enough to oversee Evidence Sessions in Parliament on key issues like the challenges around online marketplaces and the supply chain.

Over the past few years I have seen our profile and exposure grow. CTSI has become an authoritative voice in key conversations that are affecting society — such as the widespread use of vapes by children, the unsafe products that flood online marketplaces, and concerns around food safety and standards. These are all big issues that we have campaigned hard to raise awareness of and make the concerns of Trading Standards heard at a national level. We have more influence than ever, the result of sitting around the right tables and contributing to the right conversations. This says a lot about our leadership, and CTSI is striving to make sure the outstanding efforts of the profession are recognised, with the ultimate aim of the UK being a safe place for consumers to live and for honest businesses to thrive.

Key highlights
In my policy role in 2023 my focus was on several key consumer issues. Most recently we campaigned for a legal definition for vegan food (how does that not exist already?!). CTSI also built a coalition of organisations that shared our concerns about the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, which was set to see thousands of pieces of important legislation revoked at the end of the 2023. We made sure the repercussions of this were noted in Parliament through peer briefings and parliamentary debates. It felt such an achievement when the government announced the scrapping of the sunset and assured us that these important pieces of legislation would remain in place.
It is more crucial than ever to make the case that Trading Standards is a vital resource. If I was in charge of your budgets the sky would be the limit, but all I can do is strive to promote the fantastic work that you do day in and day out, and try to get you even a small part of the recognition that you deserve.

When people ask me what I do, I’m proud to say that I work for Trading Standards. It’s too complicated to explain over a coffee (or preferably a glass of prosecco) what CTSI is and how that relates to Trading Standards. So I simply say that I’m part of the profession. I may not hold a qualification that says I’m authorised to carry out weights and measures or food safety inspections, but I class myself as an honorary Trading Standards Officer.

Loud and proud
When you see my name pop up in your email inboxes, I apologise in advance as I am likely asking you for something. But I can assure you I’m asking for the right reasons. It’s because I want to sing and shout about the amazing work you are doing on a local and national level.

As I am writing this I am gearing up for the Annual Hero Awards, which is my favourite time of the year, and in my opinion the best event that we hold (sorry Conference). By the time you read this the Hero Awards will be all done and dusted for another year. But I already know it will be a fantastic event, celebrating the successes of individuals and groups who deserve untold amounts of recognition for their contributions to consumer protection — after all that is the reason we are all here.

In my time at CTSI I have been lucky enough to work with some of the very best from our profession, individuals who have inspired me to always be the best that I can be and to put the needs of the profession at the forefront of everything that I do.

I started my career at CTSI under the safe stewardship of Ron Gainsford, a man that every single one of you will know and respect. Ron helped me to gain my core skills of always maintaining professionalism and doing everything to the highest standards possible. Short cuts have always been a no-go for me, and if something is worth doing then it needs doing right.

When I look back over the years I remember key people who have influenced me along the way and are no longer with us, such as David Templeton and Brian Smith. These individuals left an impression on me with their passion and proactive approaches towards issues that the public really care about.

And then we move on to our network of lovely Lead Officers, who have supported me over the years on more occasions than I can mention in just one article. As a profession we are extremely lucky to have these highly qualified people representing us in the media, in meetings with government and in forums that help to shape the landscape in which we operate. We couldn’t do what we do without you all – so please let me extend my thanks and gratitude to every single one of you.

Thank you for making my last few decades so fulfilling — and I look forward to joining you for the next one. There is still much work to be done!

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