Discussing costs at the SAMW conference

I always enjoy going to the SAMW conference each year, not just for the whisky, the presentations aren't bad either! It was interesting last week to glean that competition is emerging between Food Standard Scotland and Aviation House on cost of meat inspection, nearly 10 years after Tierney recommended competition to be a key requirement for change to the FSA Board.

Geoff Ogle was waxing lyrical on how Scottish meat inspection costs are now less than south of the border with indirect costs in Scotland now only 13.87% compared to 16.53%.

That set off a whole train of thoughts. The first being why, if a fully managed contract meat inspector or OV costs about 15 per hour, are they being charged to industry at twice those rates? How does a 100% markup square with indirect costs being "only" 13.87%?

EU legislation is clear, only the salaries and costs of those involved in official controls can be charged for. In most other member states it is the meat inspectors and OVs that are considered to be in involved in official controls and their costs are calculated to be about the EU minima. Both FSS and FSA appear to consider everyone who has anything to do with meat to be included, which is why UK charges are about twice EU minima. The promised move to a sustainable charging system must address this.

My second thought is why are Scottish overheads less than English and Welsh? Is it just that FSA are still doing work that FSS is benefiting from and Sottish producers are not being charged for or is it that FSA is simply less efficient?

Just on overheads, I noted that Geoff Ogle was planning to visit other EU countries to see how they do it there. FSA officials have been visiting other countries for a few years now, and we havent seen any changes as a result of their visits. Maybe getting on a frequent flyer programme will help get the overheads down a bit?

My third thought is why are FSA charges this year increasing by 10 times the rate of inflation if FSS charges are going down? The biggest FSA increase being in the cost of the CEO's office, a whopping 21% (Not a very good example, Catherine, to the rest of the staff!). FSA tell us that the cost increase is largely down to less hours being charged. That appears to provide the answer - FSA remain inefficient. Time to outsource and let those with business skills take over.

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