July 1 brings the first anniversary of CE marking becoming mandatory for structural steel products, such as purlins, eaves, beams and rails, supplied in EU member states.

That day is also the second anniversary of CE marking being made obligatory for all construction products covered by a harmonised European standard or technical specification.

Steadmans has always been strongly in favour of this regulation and invested a great deal of time and expense in ensuring that all its own affected products met the requirements for CE marking ahead of these deadlines.

We should, therefore, be celebrating this birthday – and were indeed pleased to read in the trade press earlier this year of building products industry companies across the UK reporting trading standards departments – the enforcing authorities – demanding evidence of compliance from them.

However, there now appears to be a cloud over the future of CE marking enforcement, which is causing us some concern.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), the body representing professionals in this field across the UK, has written to the new Minister of State for Skills, Nick Boles, to express alarm at its finding that staff numbers in Trading Standards departments have halved since 2009. The organisation says provision in some boroughs currently consists of one part-time officer and that “a postcode lottery of protection for consumers is now a real threat”. The CTSI is therefore calling for “urgent action to save our trading standards services”, saying “the current delivery model for trading standards service is broken”.

The organisation is proposing larger, strategic trading standards authorities to replace the current structure of 200 local authority services which, it says, “in the face of more budget cuts to come, is no longer sustainable”.

As we made clear in another recent post, Steadmans is neutral in party politics, though we are, of course, hugely interested in the subject where it affects our own organisation, the building products industry and the wider construction sector.

One opinion we do have, however, is wanting to see CE marking of relevant products being as near universal as possible. An inescapable prerequisite for this is adequate resources being available to enforce the regulations.

We therefore want to see trading standards departments – if they are to continue being the bodies responsible – having the muscle to do the job. So the fact that the CTSI is now expressing real doubt about whether staffing is large enough worries us. CE marking is simply too important for standards in the sector and the reputation of our industry for enforcement to be potentially inadequate.

For more information, call Steadmans on 01697 478 277 or email [email protected]