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SHARED REGULATORY SERVICES JOINT COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 18th May, 2016.

 

Present

Representing Bridgend County Borough Council - Councillor R. Williams;

Representing Cardiff City and County Council - Councillor D. De’Ath (Chairman) and Councillor Ms. J. Parry;

Representing the Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Council - Councillor G. John.

 

 

(a)       Apologies for absence -

 

These were received from Councillor C.E. Smith (Bridgend County Borough Council) and Councillor A.G. Powell (Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Council).

 

 

(b)       Minutes -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 4th February, 2016 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

(c)        Declarations of Interest -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

(d)       Shared Regulatory Services (SRS) Business Plan 2016-17 (DEH) -

 

The above matter had been the subject of a previous report to the Joint Committee at its meeting held on 4th February, 2016. 

 

The report sought to update the Joint Committee on the outcome of the then proposed consultation on the draft SRS Business Plan which had been undertaken with a range of stakeholders and partners.  The Operational Manager for Neighbourhood Services indicated that the draft Business Plan had been modified following a number of comments and suggestions raised by stakeholders.  However, there was broad support for the Strategic Priority of the Shared Service namely:

 

  • Safeguarding health and wellbeing.
  • Protecting the vulnerable.
  • Improving local environment.
  • Supporting the local economy.
  • Maximising the use of resources.

 

Taking account of comments and suggestions received the following changes had been made to the draft Business Plan and related to the following matters:

 

  • References to the Vale of Glamorgan Council as the host authority for the service had been amended to better reflect the delivery of services across the three local areas.
  • The original wording of the objectives contained in the Action Plan at Appendix 1 to the draft Business Plan      contained both actions and outcomes.  This was reviewed in light of the consultation response and had been clarified to set out the required outcomes together with a series of milestones to demonstrate the measureable actions of the Service would take during the year.
  • Risks contained within the Risk Register at Appendix 3 to the draft Business Plan had been amended to show the scale and potential consequences of identified risks in the relevant order of significance.  These had been more clearly aligned to the challenges for the service in Section 5 of the draft Plan. 
  • The challenges and risks had also been separated into two distinct strands, namely those relating to the      development of the Service and those relating to the service delivery to make clear the added challenges facing the SRS in its on-going development as a new service.  It was noted that the amended draft Business Plan was attached at Appendix A to the report.

 

Brief discussion centred on the contents of the draft Plan which the Committee considered very informative and Members thanked officers for their efforts.  In summing up, the Chairman enquired if officers felt that the most had been made of raising the profile of the SRS via the various communication strands available to the Partner Authorities.  In response the Operational Manager for Neighbourhood Services and the Operational Manager for Commercial Services referred to ongoing work which was being undertaken with all three authorities Communication Teams to raise the profile of the SRS.  She made reference to a recent airing of the consumer affairs programme ‘X-Ray’ in which all the items featured concerned activities undertaken by the SRS.

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the contents of the report be noted and that the Shared Regulatory Services Business Plan for 2016/17 be approved.

 

 

(e)       Overview and Update on the Development of the Shared Regulatory Service (DEH) -

 

As in the case of previous reports to the Joint Committee the report sought to update Members on the development of the Joint Service between Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils.

 

In regard to Human Resources, progress had been made since the last report to the Committee in that consideration had been given to applications for both voluntary redundancy and where necessary compulsory redundancy.  Consequently, the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Early Retirement and Redundancy Committee had considered and approved 23 applications.  The Head of the SRS indicated that it was important for Members to be aware that applications had only been supported where the applicant had not been successfully assimilated to the new structure and where no suitable alternative post was available.  The associated costs for these redundancies had been funded from the former employing authority for each of the employees in accordance with the Shared Regulatory Services Joint Working Agreement.  Funding of any other redundancies that were effective beyond 30th April, 2016 would be met by the new Service.

 

Paragraph 7 and Appendix 1 to the report set out details of the number of officers who had left the Service since 1st May, 2015, along with the originating authorities for those officers.  Of the 40 officers who had left the Service, 10 were previously employed by Bridgend, 18 by Cardiff and 12 by the Vale of Glamorgan.  Appendix 1 also illustrated the time period for those officers leaving the service; those who left before the population of the new structure and those who had left following a decision of the Early Retirement and Redundancy Committee. 

 

The Service had undertaken a recruitment exercise to fill posts where existing members of staff were unable or unwilling to fill the roles.  This process was now complete and the organisational structure was now also complete.

 

In addition to the above issues, the Head of the SRS indicated that the creation of a collaborative service had provided significant challenges in terms of bringing three distinctly different organisations into one and then to be organised into the Joint Service over a very short period of time.  Lessons had been learnt from this process and he hoped that this would hold the Service in good stead going forward and whilst staff had been lost together with their knowledge and expertise in specific core services, significant work was underway to train and up skill staff recently appointed to the new staff structure.

 

In referring to the training of staff and subsequent bedding in, a Member enquired of the likely impact of the up skilling and training new staff would have in terms of service delivery and referred specifically to food hygiene inspections.  The Operational Manager for Commercial Services made reference to the operational model for the service and to the recent recruitment of nine new staff to technical posts of which five were fully experienced and competent with the remaining four requiring support in their role.  Where service resilience issues had been identified and where necessary, additional resources would be utilised e.g. contractors to mitigate risk to the public and to the three partner local authorities. 

 

In
regard to ICT and mobile working updates, the Head of the SRS indicated that the SRS website was now at its second phase of development with a number of staff selected for website CMS (Content Management System) training to enable amendments to the website and for media updates to the same to be undertaken.

 

In regard to the SRS database, the Project Board approved the Business Case that recommended the adoption of a new database provider Tascomi; the procurement process for the new database to replace the four instances of Civica App Flare was underway.  He indicated the chosen system must incorporate the necessary security protocols to ensure compliance with Data Protection legislation and officers were completing a Privacy Impact Assessment that considered a change in working practices to ensure continued data compliance within a consolidated database.  The Head of the SRS indicated that during this process the legacy websites would remain intact during the development of the new systems with the contract itself to be shortly signed off.  It was anticipated that the new system would be operational from 1st March, 2017.

 

In regard to the SRS mobile roll out, mobile phones had been issued to all agile staff in the Service.  In regard to the Accommodation Stream, officers had been identifying ICT requirements across the three major hubs and establishing the need for:

 

  • fixed desks
  • hot desks or agile working points
  • user requirements relating to hardware, software
  • ICT requirements in respect of infrastructure demand and wi-fi connectivity.

 

The Head of the SRS indicated that in regard to the above Accommodation Streams, close attention had been taken to ensure the health and safety provisions were in place for all staff. 

 

He indicated that the ‘One Number’ initiative had progressed developing a single telephone contact number for the service (0300 1236696).  Officers had agreed the call messaging and routing arrangements  and were in the final stages of implementing the new number.

 

In terms of archiving and migration, the Head of the SRS indicated that officers continue to explore the extent of data migration to the new database and data archiving.  He also indicated that this was a vital piece of work and was integral to the success of the consolidated database system.

 

In referring to the Accommodation Stream progress, a number of Members referred to specifically agile working arrangements and in particular lone working and enquired what arrangements were in place to safeguard staff when undertaking their duties.  In response, the Head of the SRS indicated that risk assessments had been undertaken on the type of role for all officers completed in the various different environments.  In addition, lone working arrangements were in place to mitigate any risks to staff and additional arrangements including tracking devices on vehicles were currently being considered.  In referring to the introduction of technology, the Chairman sought assurances that staff were not ‘atomised’ and able to function within a team environment.  In response officers confirmed that a mixture of home/office working arrangements were in place to ensure staff continuity was maintained around teams for example, there was a requirement to attend team meetings and in addition a ‘buddy’ working system had been implemented.  The ICT Project Manager anticipated that new software arrangements could minimise the potential for staff to feel isolated with the possibility to introduce video conferencing. 

 

The Joint Committee’s attention then turned to financial monitoring for the period 1st May, 2015 to 31st March, 2016. 

 

The Head of Finance and the Section 151 Officer (for the Vale of Glamorgan Council) referred to the supplementary information which provided the Joint Committee with provisional outturn figures for the Shared Service.  The Statement of Accounts would be approved by the Council before 30th September, 2016, which would follow the audit by the host authority’s external audit.

 

In accordance with the Joint Working Agreement for the SRS, the Joint Committee should decide upon the treatment of any surplus or deficit balance held by the SRS following completion of the audit of the annual accounts.  The Head of Finance indicated that the draft outturn of the approved gross budget was set out in table 1 to the supplementary report and showed an overall underspend for the service of £835,000, excluding the implementation budgets.  She indicated that it should be acknowledged that the Service had been in a state of transition during 2015/16, with the staffing structure only recently having been fully populated. 

 

Paragraph 4 of the report summarised the underspend on Core Services of £869,000 against a budget of £6,395,000 and indicated the following:

 

Core Services

Budget

Actual

Variance

Authority

%

£000

£000

£000

Bridgend

22.56

1,443

1,239

204

Cardiff

57.04

3,648

3,169

479

Vale of Glamorgan

20.40

1,304

1,118

186

Total Core Services

6,395

5,526

869

 

The Head of Finance referred to one of the main factors contributing to this underspend related to reduced staffing costs due to posts remaining vacant longer than initially being assumed in the budget.  Consequently, for the whole year, there had been an estimated £390,000 reduction in anticipated staffing costs.  She then referred to transport costs for the Service which were £159,000 below the budget and this was due mostly to staff vacancies during the year.  In addition, expenditure on supplies and services was also £103,000 below budget due mainly to the fact that during the transitional period with the service, levels of sampling were below the normal levels.  It was further anticipated that the financial picture would change during 2016/17 as the SRS would be operating at a normal level.  The Head of Finance also referred to underspends on management, administration and hosting costs during the year which in the main related to vacant posts.  This equated to circa £110,000 underspend on Core Services.

 

Her attention then turned to authority specific services and indicated that the approved 2015/16 gross expenditure for non-core services was £2.324 million.  A detailed breakdown of gross Authority-specific and additional budgets was set out in table 1 to the report and the below summary illustrated the actual gross expenditure of services, for each authority, and showed an overall underspend of £34,000. 

 

Authority-Specific Services

Budget

Actual

Variance

Authority

£000

£000

£000

Bridgend

319

264

55

Cardiff

1,571

1,662

-91

Vale of Glamorgan

434

432

2

Total Authority Specific Services

2,324

2,358

-34

 

The major variances against approved gross budgets within the above figures included an underspend of £49,000 in Licensing at Bridgend which reflected vacant posts within the service.  An overspend of £152,000 on Licensing at Cardiff which reflected additional staffing, although this had been more than covered by income received by Cathays HMO Licensing which showed an overspend on gross budget of £127,000 due to additional staffing support required for the six month consultation period to reinstate HMO Licences in Cathays which had not originally been budgeted for.

 

When incorporating the income received on this service there was an overall under-recovery of £206,000 during 2015/16.  However, income was only achievable from January 2016 once the consultation period had ended, so it was anticipated that the net position would improve going forward.  In regard to Plas Newydd HMO Licensing showed an underspend on gross and net budgets, however, this position would mitigate the position at Cathays. 

 

The Illegal Money Lending Unit (IMLU) showed a gross underspend of £130,000 and reflected the direct costs of running this service.  Its Legacy Authority, Cardiff, would allocate its in-house overspend to the service prior to recovering grant funding.  The SRS IMLU budget had been reduced in 2016/17 to reflect this position.

 

In accordance with the JWA, any under or overspend on non-Core Services budgets must be refunded to or recovered from the Participant Authority.  It was proposed that this action would be held over until the draft accounts were audited.  The Head of Finance indicated that she would be in contact with the Section 151 Officers at the partner authorities regarding the future use of the underspend.  In terms of going forward, in the future she suggested that it would be prudent to establish a reserves fund with guidance on how the same would be accessed by the SRS. 

 

As far as implementation costs were concerned for the Shared Service these were set out below and covered redundancy costs, IT set up costs and project management.  The redundancy costs had been recharged to the Legacy Authorities.  IT and project management costs up to £125,000 had been charged to the Welsh Government Regional Collaborative Grant, while costs in excess of this figure had been recharged using the population basis of apportionment as agreed in the JWA as follows:

 

Authority

Budget

Actual

Variance

£000

£000

£000

Bridgend

244

296

-52

Cardiff

616

185

431

Vale of Glamorgan

220

112

108

Total Implementation Costs

1,080

593

487

           

 

The underspend of £487,000 was due to re-profiled IT expenditure for the project, mainly relating to the new £400,000 software solution for the Shared Service which was now profiled to be spent during 2016/17 and 2017/18.  In addition, anticipated alterations to accommodation which had originally been profiled to be spent in 2015/16 had been slipped into 2016/17.  As set out in the 2016/17 Draft Budget Proposals and previously considered by the Joint Committee at its meeting in December 2015, the re-profiled implementation costs were to be budgeted at £404,000 in 2016/17 and a further £200,000 budgeted for 2017/18.

 

In regard to the Net position of the SRS and in line with the JWA, income budgets were currently the responsibility of each Participant Authority and was shown below for completeness, it was intended to review the inclusion of income in the SRS during the forthcoming year.

 

Table 2 appended to the report illustrated the overall net position of the Service having taken into consideration the income received by the Participant Authorities.  It had been prepared using income figures provided by Participant Authorities.  The following table summarised the position (excluding implementation costs):

 

Authority

Net   Budget

Net   Actual

Variance

 

£000

£000

£000

Bridgend

1,400

1,147

253

Cardiff

3,184

2,845

339

Vale   of Glamorgan

1,419

1,194

225

Total Net   Expenditure 2015/16

6,003

5,186

817

 

The Joint Committee noted that in relation to Licensing Income, Participant Authorities had been advised that the elements of income received during 2015/16, but related to up front purchases of three or five year licences must be carried forward into future periods as income received in advance, in line with proper accounting practice.

 

In referring to financial reporting arrangements, a Member acknowledged the difficulties in setting the budget for the Service particularly, during this transitional period.  However, he considered that it would be useful in the future if the Joint Committee received regular financial monitoring reports to enable the Committee to understand the spend against Service areas and any financial pressures relating to service provision.

 

The Committee’s attention then turned to performance monitoring the details of which for the period 2015/16 was set out in Appendix 3 to the report and indicated the following:

 

[View Performance Monitoring Information]

 

 

General discussion ensued regarding the merits of the Food Hygiene Premises Rating Scheme and in particular, matters relating to enforcement.  Members were apprised of current working arrangements in regard to the above Scheme and the importance of Elected Members within the local areas reporting any incidents of breaches to officers so the matter could be investigated.  It was also indicated that a Scores on the Doors survey would be undertaken during the Summer 2016.

 

A Member referred to illegal workers employed in the food-restaurant industry and enquired if the various enforcement agencies co-operated with each other to share intelligence.  The Head of the Joint Service indicated that information was regularly shared between enforcement agencies with various enforcement joint initiatives being undertaken.

 

A Member in referring to the issue of food hygiene and enforcement enquired if the current measures in place were robust enough to dissuade owners from breaching food hygiene regulations i.e. fines.  In response, the Head of the Joint Service indicated that there was little guidance to magistrates when dealing with such matters.  However, officers were proactive in providing sufficient information to solicitors so that magistrates were fully informed on each case under consideration. 

 

In terms of service updates, the Head of the SRS referred to the following initiatives:

 

  • 6th April, 2016, the Micro chipping of Dogs (Wales) Regulations 2016 came into force requiring all dog owners to have their dogs micro-chipped and keepers details to be registered on an approved database.
  • The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Regulations 2015 which would require the standardised packaging of all cigarettes and rolling tobacco would come into effect on 20th May, 2016.
  • The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2015 would take effect from 20th May, 2016 and implement the European Tobacco Products Directive.
  • The withdrawal of the Welsh Government’s Public Health Bill.
  • From April 2017, funding responsibility of the UK’s Illegal Money Lending Unit (including the Wales Unit) would move from the current arrangements through the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to the Treasury and for the first time the cost of funding the Units would be raised by a levy on businesses in the financial sector.

 

To conclude, the Head of the SRS referred to details of recent cases investigated by the Shared Regulatory Service and had resulted in prosecutions and these were set out in Appendix 5 to the report.

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Overview and Update on the development of the Shared Regulatory Service be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Head of Finance be requested to submit regular financial monitoring reports to the Joint Committee.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       In acknowledgement of the activities and work undertaken by the Shared Regulatory Services.

 

(2)       To enable Members of the Joint Committee to monitor financial expenditure in relation to the Shared Regulatory Service.

 

 

(f)        Health and Safety Enforcement Service Plan (DEH) -

 

Local authorities had a duty to produce a Health and Safety Enforcement Service Plan that was endorsed by Elected Members and made clear their arrangements for contributing to current Health and Safety Commission priorities.

 

The Plan was required to take account of local needs while addressing national priorities as set out by the Health and Safety Commission in its Strategic Plan. The Plan must identify both reactive and proactive work and include details of planned promotional and educational activities.

 

Previously the Welsh Government had only one performance indicator pertinent to Local Authority delivered Health and Safety functions but no longer existed however, results were still monitored internally and the HSE required each Local Authority to complete a return known as the LAE1 which outlined the work activities undertaken in the previous year.

 

The report also set out the challenges for 2016/17 and related to the following matters:

 

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

 

Financial - The continuing financial difficulties faced by all local authorities had required implementation of remedial measures to offset budgetary deficits.  This had had an impact on the delivery of services in recent years.  This pressure will continue in the year to come. However, the new collaborative model provided a budgetary framework to work within for the next 3 years. This allowed a greater level of certainty for the service, than would otherwise be possible.

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Health and Safety Enforcement Service Plan for 2016/17 be approved.

 

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

 

Reasons for decisions

 

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

 

 

(g)       Licensing of Animal ‘Day Care’ Facilities (DEH) -

 

At its last meeting, the Joint Committee approved a schedule of fees to be charged for licences administered by the Shared Regulatory Service, including the full range of animal related licences.

 

Since that time, the Service had become aware of a growing trend for day care centres being set up which charged members of the public to look after their dogs while they are out at work or otherwise away for the day. Popularly known as ‘doggy day care’ or ‘dog crèche’ facilities, some of these businesses run from industrial type units while others appear to be run from domestic premises.

 

The Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963 required that any business providing accommodation for other people’s dogs and cats is licensed by the local authority.

 

The legislation defined a boarding establishment as the carrying on of a business of providing accommodation for other people’s dogs or cats, and acknowledged that the premises could be of any nature, including a private dwelling. There was no distinction in the Act between premises that provided overnight accommodation and those that accommodated animals only during the day, as in the case of day care / crèche facilities.

 

A 2007 Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) opinion provided further clarification on the subject of novel business models, advising that ‘Local authorities are advised to look at the ‘primary function’ of the business. Where the primary function is to board animals then this would suggest that the business requires a licence. Businesses where the boarding is ancillary to the primary function are unlikely to require a licence, for example, pet groomers and trainers’.

 

It was clear from the above that day care and crèche type premises were covered by the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963, and it is important that they were brought into the licensing regime as soon as possible. This is for a number of reasons, in particular.

 

  • Public safety
  • Animal welfare
  • The avoidance of nuisance
  • Fairness to other animal boarding premises in the region which have to comply with strict licence conditions and pay an annual licence fee.

 

These premises had not been previously licensed and consequently there would be additional work for officers to inspect, but this would be compensated through the licence fees.

 

As these business models were quite distinct from those currently licensed by the Service under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963, a specific set of model licence conditions was required.  A number of local authorities already licenced such premises and good practice examples had been identified by the SRS in arriving at suitable and appropriate conditions for this particular business type.

 

The set of model licence conditions proposed was attached at Annex 1 to the report and were based on the principles contained in the Animal Boarding Establishments Act whereby the local authority, in determining whether to grant a licence, must have regard to securing:-

 

“(a)      that animals will at all times be kept in accommodation suitable as respects construction, size of quarters, number of occupants, exercising facilities, temperature, lighting, ventilation and cleanliness;

 

(b)       that animals will be adequately supplied with suitable food, drink and bedding material, adequately exercised, and (so far as necessary) visited at suitable intervals;

 

(c)        that all reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent and control the spread among animals of infectious or contagious diseases, including the provision of adequate isolation facilities;

 

(d)       that appropriate steps will be taken for the protection of the animals in case of fire or other emergency;

 

(e)       that a register be kept containing a description of any animals received into the establishment, date of arrival and departure, and the name and address of the owner, such register to be available for inspection at all times by an officer of the local authority, veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner.”

 

It was proposed that those businesses that would be affected by the suggested extension in the licensing regime were identified and are consulted over a 28 day period on the proposed licence conditions. Other stakeholders such as the RSPCA could also be included in the consultation. Respondents would be able to participate via a range of channels, including via the SRS website, email and in hard copy format.

 

All comments would be collated and acted upon as appropriate, and the draft licence conditions and a proposed fee structure submitted to the next meeting of the Joint Committee for Members’ approval. 

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the position in regard to the licensing of Animal ‘Day Care’ Facilities as set out in the report be noted and the principle of licensing such premises be approved.

 

(2)       T H A T a period of consultation with businesses offering Animal Day Care facilities and other relevant stakeholders, on the content of the proposed licensing conditions be approved.

 

(3)       T H A T a further report on the outcome of the consultation exercise in respect of Resolution (2) above be presented to the next meeting with a view to approving a model set of licensing conditions for Animal Day Care premises and the associated fees to be charged.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To enable the SRS to administer the licensing of a range of animal related premises including kennels, pet shops and horse riding establishments including the principle of licensing this new class of animal establishment, a set of conditions and a fee structure to be agreed.

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