On behalf of 1,700 inspectors, policy advisers, scientists and managers within the safety executive, Prospect Negotiator Mike Macdonald said: "The news that HSE is to receive a flat-cash settlement, and not have to strive to find the cuts imposed on its parent department, has come as a great relief.
"Given the increasing pressures on occupational health and safety, our members believe that a 20% increase in funding is needed to improve Britain’s health and safety record to an acceptable standard.
"If the government had imposed threatened 16% cuts over the next three years HSE would have been shackled further, leaving workers exposed to excessive risk at work with the loss of essential expert advice and enforcement from the executive.
"We recognise that this is a significant step back from the original suggested cuts and welcome the change in thinking, particularly if HSE is allowed to retain more charging income and carry over the surplus in this year’s budget."
Under the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, the Department for Work and Pensions is committed to a 5% real terms cut in public spending which will reduce its budget from April 2008 by 16% over the three years. But a flat-cash settlement at HSE means its funding will remain constant, bar erosion through inflation over the same period.
Macdonald said: "Once the Commons’ Work and Pensions Committee and the public inquiry into the Stockline factory explosion have published their conclusions, the union will be urging the government to reconsider HSE’s funding. Greater investment in this key service would reduce the cost to the taxpayer of industrial injury and illness and avoid the undoubted suffering caused by workplace accidents."