Spalding traders call for more raids on shops selling illegal goods
There are calls for more cash to be poured into the fight against illegal cigarettes and booze following a massive drop in shop visits by Trading Standards.
Up to June 26 this year, Trading Standards checked for illicit tobacco and alcohol at just two establishments in the whole of Lincolnshire - compared to 34 in 2017.
Trading Standards made 170 searches for illicit goods between 2013 and June 2018 and 29 of those were in Spalding, second only to Lincoln on 44.
Darren Sutton, chairman of Spalding Town Retailers Association, says the county council should allocate more cash so Trading Standardscan raid shops and seize illegal goods.
Mr Sutton knows tip-offs have been given to Trading Standards when the response has been "we don't have the resources".
He said: "Trading Standards should be adequately supported (funded) so they can take the information they get about illegal cigarettes and use that information and do raids.
"People selling illegal cigarettes are not paying anything in to the HMRC and are not putting back into the coffers of the local community or the Government.
"Obviously it affects small traders."
Mr Sutton will now take up the issue with local MP John Hayes.
Figures revealing the dip in raids were obtained by the Free Press in a Freedom of Information request to Lincolnshire County Council.
Illegal cigarettes caused four deaths in Spalding house fires with pensioner June Buffham losing her life in 2012 and three men perishing together in 2016.
Sales of illegal cigarettes are also undermining legitimate traders and Sheep Market shop Classic News was put on the market following four burglaries and competition from illegal cigarette sales.
Asgar Vanparekh, co-owner, says sales of illegal cigarettes go on blatantly and nothing is done.
"Everybody can see this," he said. "It's done openly and what else can you need, the evidence is there? I know the council have a lot of things to do but this is a priority as well."
* Of the 170 Trading Standards visits,owners of 77 premises had done nothing wrong. But a prosecution report was prepared in 33 cases, 18 traders were given a warning notice and four received a fixed penalty.
Other outcomes included 20 cases where advice was given to traders and five cautions.
Lincolnshire County Council were asked for a comment.