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Agenda Item No. 5

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee: 26th September 2017

 

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 on the work undertaken by the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS).

Recommendation

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

Reason for the Recommendation

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

Background

  1. The SRS has a Business Plan that was developed in consultation with stakeholders, which informs and directs the work of the service and contributes toward the corporate priorities of each partner Council. The service has five key aims, namely,
  • Improving health and wellbeing
  • Safeguarding the vulnerable
  • Protecting the local environment
  • Supporting the local economy
  • Maximising the use of our resources.
  1. This report contains information outlining how the service is working to achieve better outcomes for the residents and businesses within the region through a series of different actions and work programmes. The report provides an overview of actions undertaken in the period June 2017 to August 2017.

Relevant Issues and Options

  • Human Resources
  1. In the 2016/17 period, attendance levels were higher than the previous year. The table below shows an improvement from the sickness rate of 5.6 days per FTE in 2015/16.

Year

Average FTE

Days Absent

Days per FTE

2016/17

170.26

918

5.39

  1. Figures for this financial year up to end of July 2017 are set out below. A projection based on current figures up to the end of this financial year is uncertain, but there is an indication that attendance will improve again for the 2017/18 period.

Year

Average FTE

Days Absent

Days per FTE

April 2017 to July 2017

189.38

182

1.02

Last year same period -

April 2016 to July 2016

168.86

286

1.69

  1. Over the last nine months, approximately 50 officers have undergone a core competency programme in regulatory professional practice. This training has been fundamental in ensuring that our officers are equipped to deal with regulatory breaches competently and effectively. The programme involves "classroom" sessions and a series of assignments that leads to NVQ level 5 qualifications in investigative practice.
  • Financial position Quarter 1
  1. A financial monitoring report for the period 1st April 2017 to 30th June 2017 is attached at 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 underspend of £17k against a gross revenue budget of £8,830m. However, it is considered that this position can be mitigated by the level of income received directly by the Authorities.
  • 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 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

Attendance at Scrutiny Committees

  1. The SRS has appeared before a number of Scrutiny Committees in the last quarter. Officers provided advice on Fire Safety matters in private rented accommodation and financial inclusion to the Vale of Glamorgan Homes and Safe Communities Committee. At Cardiff, officers provided the newly constituted Environmental Scrutiny Committee at Cardiff with an overview of the SRS as a collaborative service. Officers have also met with the Cabinet Member at Cardiff and the Chair of the Economy and Culture Scrutiny Committee to discuss the work of the SRS in supporting local businesses and the local economy.

United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)

  1. In July 2017, the metrology laboratory based at Cardiff County Hall was subject to a scheduled reassessment visit by Auditors of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). The purpose of the visit was to ensure continuation of the laboratory's compliance with ISO/IEC 17025 standard 'General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories'.
  2. When the laboratory went through its full audit in August 2016, the Auditors commented on their finding of 'a mature and very competent accredited laboratory for the scheduled calibrations, with no significant areas of weakness identified. The quality of calibration has been sustained for a considerable length of time and this is attributable to the professional diligent approach taken by the staff'.
  3. At this recent reassessment, the Auditors were pleased to see that the high standard of work has been maintained and were particularly impressed with the recent investment in the metrology laboratory which has seen the purchase of some pieces of higher accuracy, state of the art equipment. This investment was approved by the Joint Committee earlier in the year and is already driving an increase in calibration work coming into the laboratory with an associated boost to SRS income generation.
  4. Our commitment to development of the laboratory facility continues over the next three years as we move towards adoption of the revised ISO/IEC 17025 standard.

Air Quality

  1. The issue of Air Quality has not been far from the headlines over recent months and the impact of poor air quality health is well documented. Indeed air pollution continues to be the largest environmental risk linked to deaths in the population with long term exposure (over several years) contributing to a reduction in life-expectancy primarily due to an increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory causes. While a number of sources contribute to the problem of poor air quality, the impact of private motor vehicles is of great concern given the levels of nitrous oxide and particulate matter emitted.
  2. The role of SRS is to monitor air quality across the region. Those activities are reported to each Council through their Cabinets and, Cardiff, the Public Protection Committee, but are included here for information.
  3. When areas of concern are identified through the Local Authority Air Quality Management (LAQM) process Local Authorities must review regularly and assess air quality to determine whether the air quality objectives for health protection are likely to be achieved. Where exceedences are considered likely, an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) must be declared and an Air Quality Action Plan prepared, setting out the measures to be put in place in pursuit of the air quality objectives. A number of AQMAs exist within the SRS region and the Service provides annual progress reports to the participant Authorities.
  4. At a national level, the UK and devolved Governments have legal obligations to achieve nitrogen dioxide annual average limit value (40ug/m3) compliance in 'the shortest possible time'. This stems from an EU Directive and was meant to be achieved by 2010; the EU provided time extensions to this date and the Westminster Government recently published the UK Plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations (July 2017). There is an indication that the Cardiff Council area may not be compliant with the nitrogen dioxide limit value after 2020 and a number of options are available to tackle this potential problem. SRS is currently working with Departments across Cardiff Council to co-ordinate the creation of a Clean Air Strategy for the city to be implemented by the end of the financial year. An element of this strategy may be the creation of a Clean Air Zone for the city.
  5. Besides stressing the importance of policy integration and collaboration between Local Authority departments, Welsh Government has issued new statutory policy guidance which highlights the need for Local Authorities to inform the public about the state of air quality in their area in a timely fashion and involve local communities in identifying local solutions to air quality problems. The SRS has undertaken to perform this role for all three Councils.

Safeguarding / Scams

  1. Earlier in the year, Joint Committee approved spending on a number of call blockers. These devices can be installed at the homes of residents being repeatedly targeted by scams, and once fitted, prevent all calls coming through other than those from recognised friends and family numbers. The two recent cases highlighted below provide an update on the usefulness of the call blocker devices and illustrate how they are making a real difference in the lives of some of our most vulnerable residents.
  2. In one case, a resident purchased three TV boxes as a result of being repeatedly targeted, together with a subscription service from a trader costing £750. None of the boxes worked, and in any case are potentially illegal if they allow and are used to stream subscription service content without payment. The Officer involved in this case has obtained a full refund for the resident and provided the necessary support to prevent their being targeted in the future.
  3. Interestingly, the second case involved a 91 year old resident who was receiving calls from companies offering call blocker services. The first company sent communication relating to a subscription renewal for a device the gentleman had never had, and were charging him £85 for a yearly service and device update. A second company then sold the consumer a call blocker that did not work. SRS has recently installed a bona fide call blocker to prevent these scam phone calls getting through to the resident in future, thereby helping to restore his confidence in living independently.

APSE Award

  1. The Association for Public Sector Excellence (APSE) shortlisted the SRS for one of its annual awards; the Best Service Team of the Year: Environmental Health, Trading Standards and Regulatory Service category. This is a huge achievement for a service that has been fully functional for less than two years. It is testament to the huge amount of hard work and commitment shown by staff and the support of Elected Members over this short space of time.

Allergens Survey

  1. In February 2017, Officers carried out test purchasing at ten Chinese takeaway premises chosen at random across SRS. Officers requested special fried rice containing no egg and informed the food businesses that they had an allergy to this particular ingredient. Having purchased the meal it was then sent to the Public Analyst who confirmed that every meal had failed in that they all contained egg and/ or egg protein suggestion cross contamination.
  2. People who suffer an allergic reaction when consuming an egg product might experience skin reactions, such as swelling, a rash, hives or eczema. They may have difficulty breathing and in the worst instances stomach pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea.
  3. Following the exercise officers re-visited all of the premises and gave full and comprehensive advice regarding the danger of serving meals to customers who declare an allergen at the point of ordering. The advice was provided in writing in accordance with the Food Business operators' language preference.
  4. In May 2017, officers carried out a formal sampling programme re-visiting all of the premises that had previously failed to confirm compliance to the legislation. Officers again stated that they required the special fried rice to contain no egg due to an allergy. Two premises stated that they were not able to guarantee that the dishes could be egg free; no samples were taken. Of the remaining eight premises that did sell a product declared as egg free; all of them failed the formal sampling.
  5. Officers are now in the process of investigating these premises and formally interviewing the owners of the businesses involved with a view to taking formal enforcement action. It is expected due to the high failures in this sampling exercise that a further sampling exercise will take place later in the year testing others food businesses

Communicable Disease Plan

  1. The SRS also publishes a number of operational plans to advise stakeholders of the work to be carried out in certain environments. One of those plans has recently been completed and is appended for consideration by the Joint Committee. The document set out at Appendix 3 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.
  2. A presentation on the plan will be provided at the Joint Committee meeting.

Enforcement Activity

  1. Details of recent cases investigated by the SRS that have resulted in prosecution are set out in Appendix 4 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 2017/18. Accounting for the full year will reported to the Committee in 2018 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

40.     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:

Miles Punter - Director of Environment and Housing

 

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