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SHARED REGULATORY SERVICES JOINT COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of the Annual Meeting held on 30th June, 2015.

 

Present:

Representing Bridgend County Borough Council – Councillor R. Williams

Representing Cardiff Council – Councillor D. De’Ath

Representing the Vale of Glamorgan Council – Councillor A.G. Powell.

 

 

(a)       APPOINTMENT OF CHAIRMAN –

 

Having been nominated and duly seconded, Councillor D. De’Ath was appointed Chairman for the current Municipal year.

 

Councillor De’Ath took the Chair.

 

 

(b)       APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN –

 

Having been nominated and duly seconded, Councillor A.G. Powell was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Joint Committee for the current Municipal year.

 

 

(c)        APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillor C.E. Smith (Bridgend County Borough Council); Councillor Ms. J. Parry (Cardiff Council) and Councillor Ms. B.E. Brooks (Vale of Glamorgan Council).

 

 

(d)       MINUTES –

 

Subject to it being noted that the matter of Branding and Design matters discussed at the last meeting had been amended in accordance with the Committee’s request made at the last meeting, the minutes were approved as a correct record.

 

 

(e)       DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

(f)        FOOD LAW ENFORCEMENT SERVICE PLANS (DVSH) –

 

The Joint Committee’s approval was sought in respect of the Food Law Enforcement Service Plans for the Councils for the period 2015/16. 

 

The Head of Service indicated that the three Councils had a duty which had been delegated to the Joint Committee to enforce the Food safety Act 1990; the Official Food and Feed Controls (Wales) Regulations 2009 and a wide variety of other food / feed legislation including the Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006. 

 

Consequently, the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Framework Agreement required Councils to produce Food Safety Service Plans setting out the arrangements in place to discharge the above duties.  The Shared Services Food and Feed Law Enforcement Service Plan was produced in response to that requirement and was designed to inform residents, the business community of Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan of arrangements the Councils had in place to regulate the various food safety regulations.

 

Attached for consideration by the Joint Committee was a copy of the draft Food and Feed Law Enforcement Service Plans for 2015/16 for the partner Councils.  These Plans would detail how the Shared Regulatory Service would fulfil the major purpose of ensuring the safety and quality of the food chain to minimise risk to humans’ and animals’ health.  To achieve this, the Councils would provide advice, education and guidance on what the law required, conduct inspections, investigations, undertake sampling and take enforcement action where appropriate.  The Plan also detailed the demands placed on the service, the risk based work programme and the resources available to deliver the required work.  In addition, the Plan explained the FSA expectations of Local Authorities, some of the achievements in 2014/15, and the challenges for the year ahead and the report set out some of the key elements of the Plan viz:

 

Performance Review 2014/15

 

·         Bridgend

An overall high risk inspection rate of 100% was attained against a target of 100%.

 

The percentage of high risk businesses that were identified during the year which (a) were subject to a risk assessment visit or (b) submitted a self-assessment questionnaire was 90% against the target of 80%.

 

In terms of the percentage of food establishments which were broadly compliant with hygiene standards, this was 93% against a target of 78%.

 

The percentage of food complaints responded to within service standard (3 days) was 100% against a target of 95%.  In 2014/15, the section received 208 complaints in relation to food hygiene.

 

In addition, the percentage of new food hygiene businesses identified during the year that were subject to an inspection was 90% against the target of 80%.

 

100% of high risk food standards businesses were inspected during the year.

 

·         Cardiff

An overall high risk inspection of 82.98% was attained against a target of 100%.  It was recognised that at the time of the Plans adoption that resources were insufficient to deliver the full requirements of the Food Law Code of Practice.  In year budget management strategies compounded the resources issue.  However, in light of the reduced resources available contractors were subsequently employed between January and March 2015, to help support the delivery of the inspection programme.

 

The priorities set out in the 2014/15 Food Law Enforcement Plan were to complete all A, B and non-broadly compliant C premises inspections, of which 99.71% of these premises were inspected.  High risk premises due for inspection, but now inspected as part of the programme for 2014/15 had been included in the programme for 2015/16.

 

In terms of overall intervention rates, 33% and 82% were achieved for category D and E premises respectively.

 

100% of premises which were unrated new businesses on 1st April, 2014 were inspected during the year.  629 inspections were completed for premises that were not identified, at the outset of the year, as part of the above programme. 

 

·         Vale of Glamorgan

100% of high risk food hygiene premises had been inspected during the 2014/15 period.  It was noted that the available resources had been prioritised to meet this target which had consequently resulted in only 70.83% of D rated premises and 77.3% of E rated premises inspected in the same period. 

 

100% of premises which were unrated new businesses on 1st April, 2014 were inspected during the year.  The percentage of other new businesses not identified at the outset of the year but, formed a part of the food hygiene inspection programme had received a risk rating visit was 94.02%.  The shortfall to reach 100% was a total of 16 premises.

 

In terms of "broadly compliant food premises" the main indicator used to assess the Council’s performance was the "Proportion of food establishments in the Local Authority area which were broadly compliant with food hygiene law". 

 

The performance trend over the last five years for compliance showed an overall improvement in the Councils’ performance.  The performance for the last three years was as set out below:

 

 

Bridgend

Cardiff

Vale

2012/13

84%

75.57%

80.04%

2013/14

88%

87.27%

84.22%

2014/15

93%

91.76%

90.73%

 

The Head of Service referred to the challenges for the financial year 2015/16 and these related to the following matters:

 

·         Events - The Head of Service indicated that the challenges of hosting throughout the region many outdoor events and across a wide range of venues should not be underestimated.  The time spent planning, organising, monitoring events and inspecting and sampling at the food premises during events each year were considerable.  These were additional commitments above the planned inspection programme, often not experienced by other Councils in Wales. 

 

·         Collaboration - Since 1st May, 2015, the Councils have been delivering their Regulatory Services through a collaborative arrangement across the three authorities.  The Shared Service was now being delivered under a single management structure and hosted by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  The Head of Service indicated that there would be considerable change in-year to move to the proposed new operating model and whilst delivering business as usual would be an important priority, the process would be characterised by significant change to structures, branding, working practices, procedures and methods. 

 

·         Financial - The continuing financial difficulties faced by all local authorities had required implementation of remedial measures to off-set budgetary deficits.  This had had an impact on the delivery of the services in recent years.  These pressures would continue in the year to come, however, the new collaborative model provided a budgetary framework to work within over the forthcoming three years.  This allowed a greater level of certainty for the service, than would otherwise be possible.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the 2015/16 Food and Feed Law Enforcement Service Plans be approved.

 

(2)       T H A T the Head of the Shared Regulatory Service be authorised to make administrative amendments to the above plans, should the need arise.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1&2)  The Food Standards Agency required all Local Authorities to produce and approve an annual plan that set out how it was going to discharge its responsibilities.

 

 

(g)       OVERVIEW AND UPDATE ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SHARED REGULATORY SERVICE (DVSH) -

 

At the previous meeting of the Committee, it considered and noted the contents of the Joint Working Agreement and Associated Business Plans.  Furthermore, at that time, the Committee appointed the Head of Service to manage the new Shared Service organisation.  Accordingly, the report under consideration provided an update to the Committee on the development of the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS) between the three local authorities. 

 

At this juncture, the Head of Service introduced Mr. T. O’Neill, who had recently been appointed as the Shared Regulatory Services ICT Project Manager who would have the responsibility for managing the workstreams for delivering the services new ICT infrastructure. 

 

The Head of Human Resources reminded the Committee of the number of important milestones that were successfully reached during May, 2015 and as reported to the last meeting of the Committee as part of the HR work programme and in partnership across the three local authorities.

 

Some 170 "in-scope" employees were successfully transferred to the Vale of Glamorgan Council, as the host employer, on 1st May, 2015 and paid under their newly transferred contract on 15th May, 2015.  He was pleased to inform the Committee that there had been no incidents of reported payment failures or errors and feedback had been positive to date.

 

In terms of ongoing work, he indicated that the post transfer induction/introduction sessions were completed for all "in-scope" employees during the first few weeks of May 2015, in order to ensure that pre-transfer assurances had been followed through. 

 

The post transfer restructure consultation process had now commenced following discussions regarding principals and protocols with the Trade Unions and would continue in accordance with the following schedule:

 

CONSULTATION / MANAGING CHANGE PROPOSED TIME-LINE

 

Key Activities

Description

Time-scale

 

Transfer Date

Formal transfer of staff to host employer

1st May 2015

 

Management of post transfer restructuring consultation process

 

 

Commence consultation process

-    indicative structure

-    selection and assimilation process

-    approach to mitigating redundancies

-    meetings with trade unions

-    meetings with staff group

-    continuation of 1-1 sessions

-    consider outcomes from consultation

-    refine proposals as appropriate

-    respond to staff / unions

-    finalise prior to next stage

 

June to August 2015

Populating the new organisational structure

 

To be managed on a "tier by tier" basis
-    dealing with matching issues

-    invitation for selection process

-    selection for new posts

-    processing voluntary redundancies

 

September to October

2015

 

 

Implementation of new staffing structure

-    implementation of new structure

-    processing redeployment

-    processing termination as appropriate

November 2015

 

A summary of the proposed protocols for populating the new structure were set out in Appendix A to the report for the consideration of the Committee.  These included the "ring-fenced" and wider assimilation proposals and as indicated had been developed on the basis of good practice from each of the three local authorities in consultation with the relevant Trade Unions. 

 

A key point of the agreement with the Trade Unions and staff had been to bring forward the appointment process for the second tier managers within the new structure i.e. the three Operational Managers.  These interviews would be conducted over the following three weeks and it was anticipated in securing the appointments on 10th July, 2015.

 

The above arrangement had been agreed on the basis that it would help support the Head of Shared Regulatory Services to manage the restructuring process over the coming months and add early capacity to the development of the new service.

 

The Head of Shared Regulatory Services outlined the ICT and mobile working arrangements that had been carried out prior to 1st May, 2015 to enable transferring staff to continue to carry out their duties without interruptions during the transfer process.  He also indicated that all three authority networks were connected and other ICT infrastructure works were untaken to allow Cardiff and Bridgend based staff and any remote working staff access to a number of Vale systems. Approximately 200 new accounts were created in the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Oracle, Timeware, E-mail and E-learning systems.  In addition to these matters, transferring staff were also provided with E-learning training resources and face to face training sessions for Oracle and Timeware.  These staff were also provided with access to Oracle, Timeware and the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s StaffNet. 

 

In terms of the ICT delivery project, the Head of the Shared Service indicated that three key projects had been identified, two of which had gone through project scoping and initiation phases:

 

Development of the SRS Website:

 

·         Key objectives - to develop a new website for the Shared Regulatory Service which would involve auditing and migrating existing Regulatory content from the partner local authority websites and holding workshops with key service staff to capture functionality and service requirements.  Once this work stream had been completed work would then commence on identifying and prioritising website functionality and phased delivery of the new Shared Service website.

·         Projected outcomes by the end of Quarter 3 - workshops would be completed; the website functionality and navigation structure would be documented and prioritised; the website delivery phases would be identified and prioritised; content would be migrated into the new website; Phase 1 would be live 1st November, 2015. 

 

SRS software and systems audit:

 

·         Key objectives - as recommended in the Atkins report, the scope of this project was to identify the software and systems that were currently in place and in use in the SRS and report and make recommendations towards a collaborative model.

·         Projected outcomes by the end of Quarter 3 - consolidated any audit results available to date; establish the valuation criteria and reported mechanisms; audit would be complete; compiled the results in a report including recommendations.

 

SRS Laptop roll-out (this project was in the scoping stage at present):

 

·         Key objectives - the introduction of a single shared ICT suite that incorporated mobile technology and digital customer access channels.  This project proposed distributing laptops to SRS staff to provide access to Regulatory back-office systems, following the transfer of staff to the Shared Regulatory Service. 

·         Projected outcomes by the end of Quarter 3 - following the project plan that was currently under discussion, it was anticipated to achieve the objective following a three-stage process; distribute laptops to a core number of SRS staff and run a mobile access pilot as proof of concept; trial the laptop solution to select SRS staff and roll out the laptop solution to all staff.

 

The Head of the Shared Services’ attention then turned to financial monitoring and indicated that the agreed gross 2015/16 budget for the Shared Service was £9.799m.  This included allocations for core service costs, implementation costs as well as several Authority specific costs which would be recharged to the relevant authorities at cost plus, management fees.  He further indicated that the Finance Officers from all three partner authorities had met several times to discuss and clarify financial procedures for the Shared Service going forward.  This process would continue in the short term. 

 

As for financial monitoring, he indicated that for Quarter 1 reporting arrangements (May and June 2015) this would be prepared using consolidated figures gathered from each partner authority for the said period.  Whilst all staffing costs for the SRS were held within the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Oracle system, all non-staffing costs were currently held remotely by each authority.  He anticipated that Quarter 1 and 2 finance reports would be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee.  The current budgetary forecast was for a predicted underspend against the profiled Budget.

 

In response, the Chairman enquired if Trade Union membership had increased as a result of the project.  The Head of Human Resources indicated that he was unable to confirm if indeed Trade Union membership had increased and only could comment within the context of the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  In response, the Chairman enquired if there had been any commonality of concerns ‘urban myths’ raised by staff.  In response, the Head of Human Resources indicated that in the main representations had been received from staff in regard to the assimilation process and how this had been structured.  Staff were concerned that the Appointment Panel responsible for staff appointments was equally represented by all three partner authorities.  The Chairman enquired if there had been any feedback on the content of the draft job descriptions proposed for the Shared Service and the Head of Human Resources indicated that the overall feedback had been encouraging.  Assimilation proposals were currently out with staff and Trade Unions for consultation and he was open to alternative proposals on this issue being put forward by the Trade Unions for his consideration.  The Head of Shared Service also indicated that in regard to job-grading issues, these had been a point of conversation of staff and Trade Unions.  However, he reminded the Committee that a careful balance needed to be struck taking account of the available funding.  Staff were also engaging in the process by suggesting possible alternative options / improvements to areas under discussion which was also encouraging. 

 

The Head of Human Resources indicated that there had been small pockets of staff concerned regarding the standing of the staff consultation arrangements in that they considered it to be a fait accompli.

 

In response, the Vice-Chairman enquired as to why there had been confusion in regard to the status of staff discussions bearing in mind that the transfer was an anxious period for staff of all partner authorities and enquired what measures were being taken to reassure staff who had expressed these feelings.  In response, the Head of Human Resources indicated that it had been anticipated that all relevant information had been passed to staff and that this information had been read and understood.  However, he acknowledged that given the feedback received, there were small pockets of staff that had expressed concern as alluded to above and felt that it was a case of persevering with consultation with staff and ensuring that all relevant information was effectively conveyed.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the overview and update on the development of the Shared Regulatory Service be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To ensure that the Joint Committee was appropriately apprised of developments in regard to the creation of the Shared Regulatory Service.

 

 

(h)       WALES AUDIT OFFICE: DELIVERING WITH LESS - THE IMPACT ON ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AND CITIZENS (DVSH) -

 

In 2014, the Wales Audit Office (WAO) undertook a Pan Wales audit of all the Environmental Health Services to consider the impact of cuts in resources on the ability of the services to deliver their statutory obligations.

 

Consequently, a national report by the WAO was published in October, 2014 and received significant coverage in the Welsh media.  Subsequently, in December, 2014, the individual local authority reports were made available. 

 

The WAO reports covered the performance of the three partner Councils and provided a summary of the overall national level findings and compared the ‘All-Wales’ picture with the specific findings for each partner Council.  In preparing these reports, the WAO used a wide range of documentary evidence supplemented by visits to all three local authorities and the subsequent audit process included:

 

·         an assessment of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Wales Best Practice Standards and the current levels of performance within each Council

·         a detailed analysis of revenue expenditure and staff data at each Council against the Best Practice Standards and

·         a survey of all local authority environmental health staff and Elected Members and made available and promoted an on-line service for Welsh citizens.

 

The WAO audit concluded that:

 

·         Bridgend Council was mostly delivering environmental health services at minimum standards or above and whilst expenditure and staff numbers had been maintained, survey respondents had a mixed view on the quality of the current services and the Council would find it difficult to take on new statutory duties that protected the public and the environment in the future.  The Head of Service at Bridgend Council indicated that he had queried the WAO findings given that he felt that there were a number of gaps in the assessment.  In particular, certain service delivery elements were not at the time of WAO assessment being delivered by Bridgend Council.  However, the WAO report findings remained unchanged.

·         Cardiff Council was mostly delivering environmental health services at a good standard or above but, due to cuts in resources and negatives views on the quality and management of the current services, the Council would find it difficult to take on new statutory duties that protected the public and the environment in future.

·         The Vale of Glamorgan Council was delivering environmental health services at above minimum levels despite a cut in budgets and a significant fall in staff numbers but, stakeholders had a mixed view about the management of services and the Council would find it difficult to take on new statutory duties that protected the public and the environment.

 

Having regard to the above the WAO conclusions were made for the following reasons:

 

·         Councils had many statutory environmental health duties, spending was not being protected during the current period of financial austerity, which made it more difficult to deliver national strategic projects.

·         survey respondents were mostly negative about the current standard of the environmental health service and there was a low awareness of current performance or future plans.

 

The reports provided an indicative assessment of the state of the environmental health functions in 2014 and could be used to maintain and improve service provision in the future. 

 

The overall conclusion of the WAO was that Environmental Health Services were becoming unsustainable in their traditional guise.  Councils needed to make more strategic choices and find more efficient and effective ways of working if they were to continue to meet the current and future statutory responsibilities.  The national report on Environmental Health Services acknowledged the move to a Shared Service as such was a strategic choice aimed at addressing those challenges stating:

 

"With the exception of proposed collaboration between Bridgend County Borough Council, City of Cardiff Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Council, no transformational programme of change has taken or is taking place.  This means that work to future proof environmental health services to ensure that Councils continue to meet their statutory responsibilities has been very limited in most Councils.  This represents a risk for the health and well-being of all those living and visiting Wales".

 

The Head of the Shared Service indicated that having been identified as a "strategic response" to the challenges facing the environmental health discipline service, it was felt important that the new Shared Service use the WAO work as a basis to determine whether new arrangements were maintaining and, where possible, improving service delivery.  He also indicated that whilst the Shared Service would adopt a new "Operating Model", in the area of Environmental Health the core functions would continue to be delivered.  Using the WAO work and other appropriate performance management matrix, the Committee could be apprised on progress in the future. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues it was

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the findings of the Wales Audit Office’s "Delivering for Less - The Impact on Environmental Services and Citizens" reports for the partner Councils be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the extent and impact of the work undertaken by Environmental Health Services be acknowledged.

 

(3)       T H A T the Joint Committee receive further reports on the status of the Environmental Health Service using the criteria adopted by the WAO.

 

(4)       T H A T similar assessment mechanisms be adopted to monitor the status of Trading Standards and Licensing disciplines of the Shared Service.

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1-4)    To inform the Joint Committee of the current position in relation to the Wales Audit Office’s report and to enable Members to monitor progress as the new Operating Model for the Shared Service is implemented.

 

 

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