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SHARED REGULATORY SERVICES JOINT COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 3rd November, 2015.

 

Present:

Representing Bridgend County Borough Council – Councillor R. Williams;

Representing Cardiff Council - Councillor D. De’Ath (Chairman);

Representing the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Council - Councillor Ms. B.E. Brooks and Councillor A.G. Powell (Vice-Chairman).

 

 

(a)       APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillor C.E. Smith (Bridgend County Borough Council) and Councillor Mrs. J. Parry (Cardiff Council).

 

 

(b)       MINUTES –

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the Annual Meeting held on 30th June, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

(c)        DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

(d)       OVERVIEW AND UPDATE ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SHARED REGULATORY SERVICE (HSRS) –

 

The Committee had previously been apprised of the ongoing work relating to key elements of the HR work programme which had been achieved over previous months following the transfer of 170 staff to the Vale of Glamorgan Council on 1st May 2015.

 

In addition to the above, the Head of Human Resources indicated that the post transfer restructuring consultation process had been completed between June and August 2015 as part of refining the new staffing structure and the finalising of job descriptions.  This process included three separate and sequential consultation sessions with staff in each of the three participating Authorities and continuing meetings with Trade Unions as part of the cross Council Joint Trade Union Forum.  He indicated that a copy of the refined organisational structure was appended to the report.  The structure reflected a range of constructive feedback from staff and Trade Unions.  Critically however, it remained congruent with the agreed operating and financial model for the new service.  This process was agreed with recognised Trade Unions on 19th September 2015 as set out in Appendix 1 to the report and was now being progressed on a tier by tier basis (7 in total ranging from the Head of Service to Administrative support functions).  He envisaged that the process would be completed by the end of the current calendar year.  The process had been significantly helped by the appointment of three Operational Managers in July, 2015 and this in itself would continue to provide additional leadership and capacity in ensuring the early and successful delivery of the new service. 

 

The Joint Committee was made aware that the population of the new structure would be challenging and would result in a number of employees remaining “at risk” at the end of the process or requiring salary protection as part of the TUPE provisions. He also alluded to a number of appeals relating to the matching assimilation exercise which had been dealt with under the relevant appeal mechanism.  The implications and costs of this were anticipated as part of the business plan for the service and would be managed sensitively as part of best practice change management principles.  He further indicated that during this period a number of applications had been considered and approved by the Vale Council’s Early Retirement / Redundancy Committee and who were the responsible body for determining such matters.

 

In terms of ICT and mobile working, the Head of the Shared Service indicated that officers continued to develop a website for the service.  This had involved auditing and migrating existing Regulatory content from the partner LA websites and holding workshops with key service staff to capture functionality and service requirements.  A “soft” launch of the website had been initiated by utilising certain service staff to “proof check” content and a Welsh translator had been commissioned from the Council’s approved list and the process to translate the site had commenced.  It was anticipated the welsh language version once completed, would be available under a separate and distinct website URL and would be expected to be compliant with the new Welsh Language Commissioner’s Standards which would come into effect March 2016.

 

In regard to the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS) software and systems audit, the scope of this project was to identify the software and systems that were currently in place and in use in the SRS.  An audit had taken place and all software and systems had been identified.  Officers were currently evaluation the need for, and the likely use of, the software in the SRS. 

 

As for SRS technology rollout, the remodelling of the service introduced a single shared ICT suite that incorporated mobile technology and digital customer access channels.  This project proposed distributing mobile devices to all relevant SRS staff to provide access to the existing Regulatory back office systems following the transfer of staff to the Shared Service.  Officers were 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 with select SRS staff; rollout the laptop solution to all staff. 

 

In addition to the above, laptops had been distributed to a core number of staff; a mobile working pilot had been underway with six core staff from different disciplines within the service.  The pilot had proven to be successful, albeit with some challenging technical issues that were eventually overcome.  All officers engaging in the pilot now had full mobile access across the service and the second stage rollout to 20 additional staff began in October. 

 

The Chairman in referring to the various initiatives referred to above enquired if a Twitter / FaceBook account would be available for users to utilise to engage with the service. In response, it was indicated the as the service matured a separate Twitter account would be created but, in the meantime, service users could engage with the service through the Vale of Glamorgan’s Council existing Twitter Account. The Chairman considered that a FaceBook facility would be desirable to engage with service users and to promote the service.

 

In regard to financial monitoring the Head of the Service reported that the agreed gross budget for 2015/16 for the SRS was £9.799m.  This included allocations for core service, implementation costs, as well as several Authority-specific services which would be recharged to relevant authorities at cost plus management fees.

 

The new senior management had now agreed their operational structures and established financial cost centres to reflect this.  The proposed budget for 2016/17 and the revised budget for 2015/16 were allocated on this basis. 

 

Set out at Appendix B to the report was a financial monitoring report for the period 1st May to 30th September 2015 and had been prepared from the consolidated figures gathered from each Authority for this period and did not include income streams but, indicated that these were in line with previous years financial information.  Whilst all staffing costs for the SRS were held within the Vale’s Oracle system, all non-staffing costs were currently held remotely by each Authority.  On completion of appointment process to the new staff structure, the budget would reflect more accurately associated costs.

 

In referring to additional information that would be made available to the Joint Committee in the future, the Director for Environment and Housing Services indicated that the minutes of the SRS Management Board would be submitted to the Joint Committee for information.  He also acknowledged that the financial information as reported was high level in nature and in future, financial information would be more detailed particularly in regard to income generation.  He also referred to budget estimates for the next financial year and that these would be available before the end of December 2015.

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the update on the development of the Shared Regulatory Services between Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the minutes of the SRS Management Board be submitted to the Joint Committee for consideration.

Reason for decisions

 

(1&2)  In acknowledgement of the Joint Committee’s responsibility for monitoring progress and delivery of options in relation to the Shared Regulatory Service.

 

 

(e)       COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT POLICY (HSRS) –

 

The Committee received a brief presentation from the Head of the SRS on the important changes taking effect as a consequence of the above Act coming into effect.

 

Each of the participant Councils in the Shared Service had an enforcement policy setting out details of the respective approach to enforcement and the principles through which issues of non-compliance were dealt with.  Having regard to the establishment of a Shared Regulatory Service (SRS) it was now necessary to develop a single policy to ensure consistency across geographical boundaries and across the various areas of work.  A single policy ensured that any legal challenges to enforcement action could be more effectively mitigated.

 

The purpose of an Enforcement Policy was to set out the standards that would be applied by an enforcement agency when dealing with issues of non-compliance and what residents, consumers and businesses could expect from the service.  Such a policy helped promote efficient and effective approaches to regulatory inspection and enforcement and balanced the need for improvement in regulatory outcomes with minimising unnecessary burdens on business.

 

Traditionally such a policy was based upon the principles of the Enforcement Concordat and the Regulators Compliance Code, Local Authority Enforcement Policies must reflect the Regulators Code 2014 and the regulatory principles required under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. 

 

The Regulators Code was based on six broad principles, details of which were set out in paragraph 5 of the report. 

 

The Shared Service must be able to demonstrate that it had embraced these principles and this could be achieved through the adoption and use of an Enforcement Policy explaining how the Service would respond to issues of non-compliance among those it regulated. 

 

The overarching Compliance and Enforcement Policy had been drafted to cover all areas of work of the SRS.  The inclusion of “compliance” in the name of the Policy reflected the better regulation agenda and the desire to work, where possible, with reputable businesses to achieve compliance, while taking robust enforcement action against those that flouted the law. 

 

The proposed Policy explained how the enforcement actions of the SRS would have an impact and details were set out in paragraph 8 of the report. 

 

In addition, a number of area-specific policies sat below the overarching Policy and added additional detail where needed to specialist areas of work, e.g. Food Law and Health and Safety. 

 

In order to capture the views of those that would be affected by the activities of the Service it was proposed to undertake a consultation exercise on the draft Policy which was set out in Appendix A to the report.  Such consultation would include a range of stakeholders and partners and would be conducted over a 28 day period with potential respondents being able to participate via a range of challenges including via the SRS website, e-mail and in hard copy format.

 

On the conclusion of the consultation exercise all comments received would be collated and acted upon as appropriate, and the draft Compliance and Enforcement Policy submitted to the next meeting of the Joint Committee in February 2016 for approval.  Until such time the draft Policy was approved, existing policies current in operation across the partner Authorities would continue to be in force and form the basis for decision making on enforcement action. 

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the draft Compliance and Enforcement Policy as set out in Appendix A to the report be approved for consultation purposes and that a further report be submitted to the Joint Committee on the conclusion of the consultation exercise.

 

Reason for decision

 

To allow engagement with relevant stakeholders on the content of the draft Compliance and Enforcement Policy and to subsequently approve a single Policy for the Shared Service to ensure consistency across geographical boundaries and across the various areas of work. 

 

 

(f)        THE CONSUMER RIGHTS ACT 2015 (HSRS) –

 

The Committee was apprised of the important changes taking effect with the forthcoming introduction of the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 which had recently been enacted by the UK Government as part of its Consumer Landscape Review and the requirement to implement the EU Consumer Rights Directive. 

 

The above Act also consolidated consumer rights which had been contained in different pieces of legislation and updated the law to cater for the trade in digital technology.  It also contained additional measures that required property letting agents to display clearly their charges and in respect of the online resale of tickets for sporting, recreational and cultural events, clear information must be provided to prospective purchasers. 

 

In addition the Act amended and consolidated officers’ investigatory and entry powers where were currently derived from different Acts and regulations.

 

The report also updated the Committee on the various aspects of the Act in relation to the following matters: 

  • Consumer Rights and Remedies – the supply of goods and services;
  • Enhanced Consumer Measures;
  • Requirements relating to Letting Agents;
  • Requirements relating to the online resale of tickets; and
  • Investigatory Powers.

RESOLVED – T H A T the implications of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for the Shared Regulatory Service be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

In acknowledgement that the above Act updated and replaced longstanding legislation on consumer rights and remedies including a potential increase in demand for business advice; complaints about business and enforcement of the new provisions, including the implications of amending and consolidating the investigatory and entry powers of authorised officers undertaking work on behalf of the Shared Service.

 

 

(g)       HEALTH AND SAFETY ENFORCEMENT SERVICE PLANS (HSRS) –

 

The Shared Regulatory Service (SRS) together with the Health and Safety Executive was responsible for the enforcement of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974.  Councils had a duty which had been delegated to the Joint Committee to enforce the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974. 

 

In particular, Section 18 of the above Act required Local Authorities to produce a Health and Safety Service Plan setting out arrangements in place to discharge such duties. 

 

Consequently, a draft Health and Safety Enforcement Service Plan for 2015/16 for the Shared Service had been attached at Appendices 1 to 3 for consideration by the Joint Committee.

 

Local Authorities had a duty to produce a Health and Safety Enforcement Service Plan for approval by its Elected Members and made clear their arrangements for contributing to the current Health and Safety Commission priorities.  The Plan was required to take account of local needs whilst addressing national priorities as set out the Health and Safety Commission in its Strategic Plan.  The draft Plan must also identify both reactive and proactive work and included details of planned promotional and educational activities.  Performance information previously collated as part of Welsh Government requirements in regard to the delivery of the Council’s Health and Safety service was still being monitored internally and the Health and Safety Executive required each Local Authority to complete a return which outlined the work activities undertaken in the previous year by that Authority.

 

The report set out the challenges for the service for the period 2015/16 relating to events, collaboration and financial matters, details of which were set out in paragraph 13 of the report.

 

Having regard to the above, it was

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the Health and Safety Enforcement Service Plans for 2015/16 be approved.

 

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

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1&2)  To ensure the Shared Regulatory Service have robust arrangements in place to deliver its obligations as an enforcing Authority under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and to comply with statutory guidance.

 

 

(h)       APPOINTMENT OF PROPER OFFICERS (HSRS) –

 

A request had been received from Public Health Wales to the Councils to update its existing list of Proper / Port Medical Officer appointments. 

 

The Committee was advised that it was now necessary to nominate and appoint suitably qualified persons to fulfil the roles required as Proper Officers and Port Medical Officers under the provisions of the Public Health Act 1936, the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 (as amended), the Public Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations 1988, the Public Health (Ships) Regulations 1979 as amended, the Public Health (Aircraft) Regulations as amended, the Public Health (International Trains) Regulations 1994, the International Health Regulations 2005, the Health Protection (Notification) (Wales) Regulations 2010, the Health Protection (Local Authority Powers) (Wales) Regulations 2010,  and the Health Protection (Part 2 A Orders) (Wales) Regulations 2010.  Such officers would be normally drawn from the Health Protection division of Public Health Wales.

 

Having regard to the above and related issues, it was

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the following persons be appointed as Proper Officers and Port Medical Officers for the purposes of the legislation set out above as follows: 

  • Dr. Jörg Hoffman, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, Mid and West Wales
  • Mr. Siôn Lingard, Consultant in Health Protection, Mid and West Wales
  • Dr. Marion Lyons, Director of Health Protection, South East Wales
  • Dr. Gwen Lowe, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, South East Wales
  • Mrs. Heather Lewis, Consultant in Health Protection, South East Wales
  • Dr. Rhianwen Stiff, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, South East Wales
  • Dr. Graham Brown, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, North Wales
  • Dr. Christine Whiteside, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, North Wales.

Owing to retirement, the following person will be removed as a Proper Officer:

 

Dr. Lika Nehaul, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, South East Wales.

 

Reason for decision

 

To update the current list of Proper / Port Medical Officers as required by Public Health Wales.

 

 

(i)         PRIMARY AUTHORITY (HSRS) –

 

The concept of Primary Authorities was launched as a result of the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008.  Business, particularly those that operated across Local Authority boundaries, could enter into a statutory partnership with a Primary Authority of their choice and receive consistency in advice, support and inspection from Local Authorities.  Primary Authorities come with certain statutory powers allowing Better Regulation Delivery Office to direct Local Authorities in their dealings with companies. 

 

Such an Authority, once formed, would be charged with providing robust and reliable advice on legal compliance.  Other Councils must take this assured advice into account when carrying out inspections at business premises or dealing with any issues of non-compliance.  This formal relationship required there to be a contractual arrangement in place between the Authority and the business it entered into partnership with.

 

In addition to the above, in 2013, the scope of the Primary Authority principles was extended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act and now businesses having shared approach to compliance (commonly through a body such as a trade association) were able to enter into what was known as a co-ordinated partnership with a Primary Authority.  The added value of the co-ordinated partnership with a Primary Authority was that it allowed many businesses who may not be eligible for a direct partnership (particularly small businesses) to join together to benefit from a Primary Authority. 

 

An Authority may charge partners businesses for some or all the services supplied through Primary Authority partnerships, however, it could only recover the costs reasonably incurred. 

 

Consequently, an important element of the business model of the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS) is the building of a portfolio of Primary Authority relationships.  In addition to satisfying the participant Councils’ shared goals of economic development and support reputable businesses, increasing the reach of the Primary Authority work was central to the Service’s cost recovery and income generation capacity as envisaged in the approved Business Plan for 2015/18.

 

The SRS currently maintained two Primary Authority arrangements, one a direct partnership with a catering company for Trading Standards and Environmental Health matters and the other was a co-ordinated partnership with the Association of Convenience Stores for devolved, Wales only law.  Both of these partnerships were set up by Bridgend County Borough Council.  Since the inception of the Shared Service, two more Primary Authority partnerships were contemplated and should be formed in October 2015. 

 

Working forward, all Primary Authority contracts would be between the relevant business entity and the Vale of Glamorgan Council as the Host Authority for the Service.  It was noted that the two existing Primary Authority contracts would be migrated from Bridgend County Borough Council to the Vale of Glamorgan Council as soon as practicable. 

 

In addition to the provision of assured advice, other services could be delivered to Primary Authority businesses, e.g. bespoke training packages on a range of regulatory topics, tailored to the needs of the business.  All such services could be charged at a rate to enable full cost recovery and work carried out to determine the appropriate rate for the existing partnerships had identified a charge of £50 per hour of officer time.  It was proposed that this rate would be reviewed on an annual basis. 

 

The Head of the SRS indicated that it was proposed that an Annual Report on the work of the Primary Authority would be prepared and submitted to the Joint Committee for consideration.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the contents of the report, including the proposed Primary Authority operating model for generating additional income within the Shared Regulatory Service, be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

The building of a portfolio of Primary Authority relationships was central to the approved business model of the Shared Regulatory Service in terms of cost recovery and income generation capacity in addition to supporting economic development and the growth of local businesses. 

 

 

 

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