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Agenda Item No. 8

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee: 20th December, 2016

 

Report of the Director of Environment and Housing

 

Overview and Update on the Shared Regulatory Service

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. This report provides an update for Elected Members on the development of the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS) between Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils.

Recommendation

The Committee is asked to consider, note and agree the contents of the attached report.

Reason for the Recommendation

The report apprises the Committee of the work of the service and the progress toward completing the implementation programme.

Background

  1. On 20th September 2016, this Committee received a report on the implementation of the Shared Regulatory Service. This report provides a further update on matters pertaining to the creation, development and operation of the new service.

Relevant Issues and Options

ICT and mobile working update

  1. Implementation of the single database

The Service is moving towards the implementation of a consolidated database to replace the four instances of Civica App Flare that are currently in place. The teams have identified the data that needs to be deleted, archived and migrated to the new system. Officers are in the final stages of and testing data as it is transferred; this work and is integral to the success of the consolidated database system. The process has required input from a significant number of professional staff and resources have been diverted from some operational areas to this work, which will affect some performance activity. The project is on target to go-live 25 January.

Officers are currently receiving 'Train the trainer' training in the new database system that is being provided by the new database provider. Once complete officers will cascade training to their own teams. Officers have been identifying the ICT requirements for the database archives that will be in use once Civica App Flare has been retired. Officers are liaising closely with colleagues in Cardiff and Bridgend to implement the archive for each Partner.

  1. One number

The Service has developed a single telephone contact number: 0300 123 6696. Officers have agreed the call messaging and routing and are trialling the new number. The call routing has been setup to cater for calls in English or Welsh with calls routed depending on the geographical area of the service request.

 

Financial Outturn 2015/16

  1. The 2015/16 audited Statement of Accounts was presented to the Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee on the 20th September 2016, where Members approved treatment of the underspend. Surplus contributions have been refunded to the Authorities and the specific earmarked SRS reserve has been created.

Financial Monitoring Quarter 2

  1. A financial monitoring report for the period 1st April 2016 to 30th September 2016 is attached as Appendix 1 and has been prepared from the consolidated figures gathered from each Authority for this period. The service is currently projected to achieve an overspend of £178k against the gross revenue budget. However, information provided by the legacy authorities advocates that this position can be mitigated by the level of income received directly by the authorities. Whilst all staffing costs for the SRS are held within Vale's Oracle system, non-staffing costs are currently held remotely by each Authority and details are provided on a monthly basis from finance colleagues at Cardiff and Bridgend. It should be noted that progress continues to be made on increasing the use of the Vale's system to incur Shared Regulatory Service's expenditure.
  2. To summarise the apportionment of costs of the new service, all core costs of the service, which are shared by each Authority, are allocated based on population whilst several services are provided uniquely within each Authority and these 'Authority-specific' services are charged back to the relevant Authority at cost plus an element of management and administration.

Performance Monitoring

  1. Joint Committee members have asked the service to provide data on activity levels to help reassure local members that SRS activity continues to tackle issues across the region. Performance data for quarter 2 of 2016/17 is set out at Appendix 2 and is being reported to each Council in line with the legacy performance management regimes and existing service plans.
  2. A presentation on the current performance will be provided at the Joint Committee meeting.

Service Updates

Operational Plans

  1. The Committee has recently approved the Food Law Enforcement Service plan and the Section 18 Health and Safety plan; these plans have a statutory basis and require political approval.

The SRS also publishes a number of operational plans to advise stakeholders of the work to be carried out in certain environments. Two of those plans have recently been completed and are appended for consideration by the Joint Committee.

 

The document set out at Appendix 3 is the Port Health Plan, which sets out how the SRS will fulfill its purpose of preventing infectious disease coming into Cardiff, Barry and the surrounding areas via the ports and airports to protect the health of the public. The Plan also demonstrates how these statutory obligations in relation to food safety, imported food control, ship sanitation, disinsection, waste control and animal health will be delivered.

 

The document set out at Appendix 4 is the Communicable Disease Plan, which sets out how the SRS will fulfil its role of protecting public health through the investigation of cases and outbreaks of communicable disease and the application of control, preventative and enforcement measures.

  1.  In February 2016, the Committee approved the Compliance and Enforcement Policy. This document sets out how the SRS will administer legal requirements and the approach taken to deal with instances of non compliance. That document contains reference to a number of annexes within the document. Two of those annexes, the Food Safety Enforcement policy and the Health and Safety enforcement policy have been updated to reflect the merging of processes across the SRS. The documents are attached as Appendices 5 and 6

The Joint Committee is asked to consider these annexes and agree that they are incorporated into the over arching Compliance and Enforcement policy for the SRS.

Service activities

  1. The SRS recently hosted an evening business forum for registered tattooists, semi-permanent makeup artists and body piercers working in Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. The event - sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health - provided free training on how to manage hygiene standards and how to prevent infections, whilst also outlining the kind of enforcement work SRS does to combat illegal tattooists, or 'scratchers'.

SRS officers, nurses, consultants from Public Health Wales, and Welsh Government debated with practitioners the tattoo hygiene rating scheme, and the benefits of the special procedures licensing scheme previously proposed in the Public Health Bill. 

 

There proved to be unanimous support to reintroduce the bill; it was agreed that the proposed licensing scheme was the only enforcement approach that could provide a level playing field for registered practitioners, and provide appropriate deterrents for illegal artists.

 

Practitioners also benefitted from advice given on how to manage underage clients who attempt to conceal their age. Public Health Wales also provided a useful insight into past incident investigations, and gave advice on Hepatitis B vaccinations.

Elected members will receive a short presentation on this work at the Committee meeting and an officer will be available to answer questions.

  1. Safeguarding

The SRS Major Investigations and Safeguarding Team has a small number of dedicated enforcement staff whose role is to investigate cases where vulnerable individuals are targeted, often repeatedly, by fraudsters and suffer financial abuse as a result. The precise nature of the crimes can be wide ranging but fall broadly into the two categories of mass marketing scams and doorstep crime.

 

Mass marketing fraud is a crime that exploits mass communication techniques such as telephone, mail and digital technologies to trick money out of unsuspecting consumers by making false promises. Research has shown that over 50% of the over 65s have been targeted by scams and those living alone are particularly vulnerable. Communications are often personalised to lure individuals in to a scam and once this is achieved, it can be difficult to break the cycle. In some cases individuals have lost tens of thousands of pounds over a period of time.

Doorstep Crime is committed by criminals who cold-call at residents properties. As in the case of scams, the criminals involved prey on the most vulnerable in our communities, often those who are older and those living with ill health, by pressurising them into paying extortionate prices for unnecessary goods or services. The work carried out may involve roofing, the laying of driveways and garden maintenance. It is invariably substandard, often left unfinished, and in the worst cases residents will have been convinced that work was necessary as a result of the criminals causing deliberate damage to the fabric of the property.

 

In addition to the financial damage caused by both mass marketing fraud and doorstep crime, those suffering incidents of both these crimes tend to be left feeling socially isolated, often too uncomfortable or embarrassed to tell their friends and family what has happened. Not surprisingly, the rate of reporting such incidents is extremely low at less than 10%, meaning that the cases that present themselves to the enforcement agencies represent only the tip of the iceberg of a very significant problem.

 

The Welsh Government's Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 imposes a statutory duty on authorities to facilitate joint working and cooperation between departments and a new focus on early detection and the prevention of abuse. The Shared Regulatory Services has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with South Wales Police on dealing with incidents of doorstep crime and the Rapid Response Scheme previously functioning in Cardiff has been rolled out to residents in the Bridgend and Vale areas via the SRS single number 0300 123 66 96.

 

Members of the Joint Committee will be pleased to hear that their approval of funds to be retained by SRS for the 2015-16 financial year has enabled £6000 to be spent on the purchase of call blockers. These devices have already been installed in the homes of some of our most vulnerable residents and provide peace of mind that the only calls being received in those homes are from friends and family. We will be able report back in detail on the effectiveness of the call blockers after their use has been properly evaluated, but the early indications are that their use is already proving successful.

 

Elected members will receive a short presentation on this work at the Committee meeting and an officer will be available to answer questions.

  1. Noise Pollution

In the field of Environmental Health, Pollution Control teams traditionally deal with complaints regarding noise and air pollution from domestic and commercial sources as well as regulating the environmental impact of industrial processes through the issuing of Environmental Permits. They also play an important role in reviewing Planning and Licensing applications to ensure any impact on the environment and residential amenity is taken into account in the decision making process. In terms of service requests however, complaints regarding noise form the majority of the demand on resources and constitutes a very busy frontline service.

 

Within the Shared Regulatory Service, responsibility for responding to complaints about noise now rests with the Neighbourhood Services teams. Requests can include commercial and domestic complaints relating to amplified music, DIY activities, house and car alarms, barking dogs and noise from construction sites. Apart from the obvious nuisance aspects of noise complaints such as sleep disruption, stress and annoyance there is also a significant body of evidence linking prolonged exposure to unwanted environmental noise to measurable physical and psychological health effects, including potential cognitive impairment in children.

 

Across the Shared Service in the last financial year, we received nearly 5,000 service requests relating to noise complaints. Whilst we aim to resolve all complaints informally, wherever possible, we also have a legal duty to investigate noise complaints and assess whether they constitute a statutory noise nuisance, in which case we must take formal action through the service of an abatement Notice. In 2015/6 we served nearly 200 abatement Notices across the SRS and took a range of regulatory actions in response to complaints, including prosecutions, seizures of noise making equipment and silencing property and car alarms in default.

 

We retain an ability to respond outside normal working hours across the SRS and in heavily populated urban areas such as Cardiff we operate a reactive night time noise service at peak times of demand over the weekend where Officers work shifts dealing with complaints as they arise.

 

Elected members will receive a short presentation on this work at the Committee meeting and an officer will be available to answer questions.

  1. Elected Members will be aware that the Service seized a large number of horses using the provisions of the Control of Horses Wales Act 2014 in the summer for unlawful fly grazing. Owners reclaimed a small number of horses, but a large number of animals remained unclaimed. The service has been seeking to rehome the animals and avoid having to dispose of the horses through euthanasia. The cost of caring for these horses is unexpected expenditure and managed through a combination of Welsh Government monies (19k) in year budget (30k) and the use of the Shared Service reserve created earlier this year (50K). The Service will seek to obtain some further contribution from Welsh Government, given that this is a new piece of legislation. The Head of Service will provide a fuller update at the next Committee.
  2. Details of recent cases investigated by the SRS that have resulted in prosecution are set out in Appendix 7 to this report.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The Participants' contribution towards the Shared Regulatory Service is recharged on a quarterly basis, based upon the approved budgets for 2016/17. Accounting for the full year will reported to the Committee in 2017 at the Annual General Meeting.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no immediate sustainability or climate change implications associated with this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The legal implications were contained in the relevant Cabinet and Council reports.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. The crime and disorder implications were contained in the relevant Cabinet and Council reports.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The Equality implications were contained in the relevant Cabinet and Council reports.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The key service and improvement objectives contained in the SRS Business Plan identify and link to the Corporate Plans of each Council.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The adopted Scrutiny regime will engage in the review and developments of plans, policies and strategies that support the corporate objectives of each Council.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. No specific consultation has been undertaken in relation to this report, although Members will appreciate that considerable consultation and engagement has been and continued to be undertaken with the Trade Unions and staff.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. The SRS is currently scrutinised through the arrangements in place at each partner Council.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Head of Shared Regulatory Services

Officers Consulted

Corporate Director, Bridgend County Borough Council

Director of Environment, City of Cardiff Council

Legal Services, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Accountant, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Responsible Officer:

Director of Environment & Housing Services, Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

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