Agenda Item No 7
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee: 30th June 2015
Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing
Wales Audit Office: Delivering with Less – The Impact on Environmental Health Services and Citizens
Purpose of the Report
1. This report outlines the findings of the 2014 Wales Audit Office (WAO) assessment of all the Environmental Health Services in Wales and how the audit findings can benefit the new Shared Regulatory Services.
1. That the findings of the Wales Audit Office’s 'Delivering for Less’ reports for the partner Councils are noted.
2. That the extent and impact of the work undertaken by Environmental Health Services is considered and understood.
3. That future reports are received on the status of the Environmental Health Service using the criteria adopted by the WAO
4. That similar assessment mechanisms are adopted to monitor the status of the Trading Standards and Licensing disciplines
Reason for the Recommendations
To inform Members of the current position in relation to the Wales Audit Office’s 'Delivering for less’ study of Environmental Health Services and to enable members to monitor progress as the new Operating Model for the Shared Service is implemented.
2. In 2014, the Wales Audit Office (WAO) undertook an audit of all the Environmental Health Services in Wales to consider the impact of cuts in resources on the ability of the services to deliver their statutory obligations.
3. A national report 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.
4. This report outlines the findings of those assessments of the partner councils and sets out how these issues might be best addressed through the shared service in the coming years.
Relevant Issues and Options
5. The reports covering the performance of the three partner councils provide a summary of the overall national level findings and compare the 'all Wales' picture with the specific findings for each partner council.
6. In constructing these reports the WAO used a wide range of documentary evidence supplemented by visits to all 3 local authorities. The 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 all elected members and made available and promoted an on-line survey for Welsh citizens.
7. The audit reports conclude that:-
- Bridgend Council is mostly delivering environmental health services at minimum standard or above and whilst expenditure and staff numbers have been maintained, survey respondents have a mixed view on the quality of current services and the Council will find it difficult to take on new statutory duties that protect the public and the environment in the future. Bridgend council have queried the findings, but the report findings remain unchanged.
- Cardiff Council is mostly delivering environmental health services at a good standard or above but due to cuts in resources and negative views on the quality and management of current services, the Council will find it difficult to take on new statutory duties that protect the public and the environment in the future.
- The Vale of Glamorgan Council is delivering environmental health services at above minimum levels despite a cut in budgets and a significant fall in staff numbers but stakeholders have a mixed view about the management of services and the Council will find it difficult to take on new statutory duties that protect the public and the environment
8. These conclusions were drawn for the following reasons: -
- Councils have many statutory environmental health duties but spending is not being protected during the current period of financial austerity, which is making it more difficult to deliver national strategic priorities;
- Survey respondents are mostly negative about the current standard of the environmental health service and there is a low awareness of current performance or future plans;
9. These reports provide an indicative assessment of the state of the environmental health functions in 2014 and can be used to maintain and improve service provision in the future.
Future Challenges for Environmental Health Services
10. Some of the future challenges facing Environmental Health Services are highlighted in the reports. The overall conclusion is that Environmental Health services are becoming unsustainable in their traditional guise. Councils need to make new strategic choices and find more efficient and effective ways of working if they are to continue to meet their current and future statutory responsibilities. The national report on Environmental Health Services acknowledges the move to a Shared Service as such a strategic choice aimed at addressing those challenges stating:
With the exception of the 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.
11. Having been identified as a 'strategic response' to the challenges facing the Environmental Health discipline service, it is felt important that the new Shared Service uses the WAO work as a basis to determine whether the new arrangements are maintaining and, where possible, improving service delivery.
12. While the shared service will adopt a new 'Operating Model’, in the area of Environmental Health the core functions will continue to be delivered. Using the WAO work, and other appropriate performance management metrics, the Committee can be apprised on progress.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
13. There are no financial implications directly associated with this report.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
15. There are no financial implications directly associated with this report
Crime and Disorder Implications
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
Policy Framework and Budget
18. This report is a matter for Joint Committee decision
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
Delivering with Less - the Impact on Environmental Health Services and Citizens; The 2014 Wales Audit Office
Dave Holland, Head of Shared Regulatory Services
Lee Jones - Head of Service, Bridgend County Borough Council
Tara King - Assistant Director, City of Cardiff Council
Director of Visible Services and Housing