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Government seeks to curb 'excesses of health and safety culture'

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The government has announced new proposals to punish local councils that wrongly ban events and activities on health and safety grounds. One idea under consideration would be to force councils to pay compensation where they unnecessarily block events taking place.

Lord Young will flesh out his proposals at the Tory party conference in Birmingham this week and has already spoken about how he wants to "curb the excesses of health and safety culture".

"It has gone to such extremes," he told the Mail. "What I have seen everywhere is a complete lack of common sense. People have been living in an alternative universe."

He said council officials often claim powers to stop village fetes, sporting activities and other events when they have none. He cites the example of the annual Whitsun cheese-rolling event in the Cotswolds which was cancelled this year under pressure from the local authority.

If, as seems likely, Young's proposals are implemented, people affected by wrongful bans on health and safety grounds will be able to go to the local government ombudsman to claim compensation.

Lord Young said: "I want officials to think twice and make sure they have the authority.

"This sort of nonsense has come from the last government trying to create a nanny state and trying to keep everybody in cotton wool.

"Frankly if I want to do something stupid and break my leg or neck, that's up to me. I don't need a council to tell me not to be an idiot. I can be an idiot all by myself."

Richard Jones, policy and technical director of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, says health and safety is generally offered as an excuse by organisations trying to find excuses not to run events due to a lack of money.

He said: "Sadly, in recent years, health and safety has been used as a convenient excuse for avoiding doing things, when the actual risks involved are perfectly manageable."

TUC health and safety officer Hugh Robertson also questioned Young's report .

"For sure, silly things are sometimes done in the name of health and safety.

"But the real health and safety scandal in the UK is the 20,000 people who die each year due to injury or diseases linked to their work. A serious review of health and safety would put far more emphasis on dealing with this avoidable death and suffering."

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