Agenda Item No. 6
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee: 28 February 2017
Report of the Director of Environment and Housing
Overview and Update on the Shared Regulatory Service
Purpose of the Report
- This report provides an update on the work undertaken by the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS).
- 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.
- 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,
- Safeguarding health and wellbeing
- Protecting the vulnerable
- Improving the local environment
- Supporting the local economy
- Maximising the use of our resources.
- 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 rather than a full breakdown of activities; these will be reported in the Annual Report submitted to the Committee in June 2017.
Relevant Issues and Options
ICT and mobile working update
- Implementation of the single database
- The Service is moving towards the implementation of a consolidated database to replace the four instances of Civica / Flare that are currently in place. In last quarter, the teams have undertaken a data protection assessment to ensure that all data archived or migrated to the new system is compliant with the information governance requirements of each partner Council. Officers are in the final stages of testing data as it is transferred which is integral to the success of the consolidated database system. The project is on target to go live in mid-February.
- The introduction of the new database should deliver a number of benefits;
- It alleviates the responsibilities on all three Councils' ICT services to maintain the four instances of Civica; that will now sit with the Vale of Glamorgan Council as the Host Authority.
- The single database solution offers efficiencies to the SRS, most notably the ability to access the system at any time of the day, regardless of location creating a truly agile workforce.
- The new database system is a "cloud based" product, thus removing the dependence on the traditional Council operated infrastructure and is an innovative approach to the delivery of services for the partner Councils.
- Using data that is more robust supports the goal of a more resilient service, eliminates duplication of effort and enables linkages into the planned Public Protection Cymru initiative which presents opportunities for further expansion and better interoperability
- One number
- The Service has developed a single telephone contact number: 0300 123 6696 which went live in November 2016. The service is operated through the Vale of Glamorgan's call centre C1V. Calls are handled in English and / or Welsh. Calls previously managed by the Bridgend CBC contact centre are now handled by C1V, and calls from Cardiff will transfer to C1V in due course.
- The introduction of the single number should deliver a number of benefits;
- Service users can now call a single number regardless of where they live in the region and at times that will potentially more convenient to them given the longer operating hours of C1V.
- Calls to the single number can be logged more effectively and will provide the SRS management team with more reliable information about call volumes and service demand. It will also assist with understanding levels of customer satisfaction with the service.
- C1V is a fully bilingual service and complements the existing bilingual on line provision available through the SRS website.
- This change to service delivery is largely focused upon improving the customer's experience rather than delivering efficiency gains. While there may be insignificant cashable savings removing duplication from the system will enhance the capacity of the SRS to more effectively deploy our professional resources.
Financial Monitoring Quarter 3
- A financial monitoring report for the period 1st April 2016 to 31st December 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 overspend by £144k 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.
- 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 3 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.
- A presentation on the current performance will be provided at the Joint Committee meeting.
- In December, the National Audit Office (NAO) issued its report on its recent review of the Consumer Landscape; Members will recall that the NAO visited the SRS as part of its research. The report's key findings can be summarised as follows:
- There is no system-wide reporting of the impacts of consumer protection work across the country.
- There is limited robust data on the overall scale of consumer detriment, but it is estimated that consumers lost at least £14.8 billion in 2015.
- Consumers are facing increasingly complex and wide-ranging threats, in particular from the rise in e-commerce, and scams are becoming more targeted.
- Government has improved the overall co-ordination of consumer protection bodies but has little control over the majority of resources, making effective system prioritisation difficult. Some 75% of funding is delivered locally, where Local Authorities have to balance resources with other services such as social care.
- Local Authorities have demonstrated that they have achieved good impacts with limited resources. However, the nature of commerce is changing, and consumer detriment is increasingly national and international rather than local. The system has not yet adapted to these changes. The local level, which receives the majority of funding, has suffered from declining status, significantly reduced capacity, and gaps in coverage which leaves consumers inadequately protected.
- The report recommends that:
- Government should ensure that consumer detriment is estimated and reported regularly in a consistent manner.
- Government should work with relevant departments and Local Government, towards a shared understanding of risks to consumers, setting clear and realistic expectations of what each body should deliver, alongside reporting progress, so as to ensure that system priorities are met alongside local priorities.
- The Government has yet to respond to the report.
- 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. One of those annexes, that dealing with Feed Law enforcement, has been updated to reflect the merging of processes across the SRS. The document is attached as Appendix 3 to this report.
- The Joint Committee is asked to consider this annex and agree that it is incorporated into the overarching Compliance and Enforcement policy for the SRS as Annex 2 to the Policy.
- Health and Safety in Residential Care Homes is an agreed priority intervention for local authorities in Wales for 2016/17. This follows the outcome of a number of accident investigations, Health and Safety Executive statistics on improvement notices in the nursing home sector, and a previous Local Authority intervention in 2009/10.
- Members will recall that a number of care homes received a formal letter informing managers of contraventions and actions required to improve compliance. In addition 14 Improvement notices were served of which 10 (71%) related to inadequate Legionella controls. This most recent exercise highlighted that improvements attained following the 2009-2010 care home project had generally lapsed, principally due to key staff changes in local level management. This suggests that 'one-off' interventions can often achieve only short-term improvements.
- To assure a more sustained level of compliance the SRS intends to reinforce the initial project visits with a series of additional interventions over the forthcoming 12-18 months.
- As a starting point, the SRS recently hosted a Residential Care Home Forum following a series of inspections from officers within the service. The Forum was used as a practical workshop where speakers from SRS, Health and Safety Executive and Public Health Wales discussed the key areas of non-compliances and duty holders were encouraged to apply their knowledge to practical situations. The event was deemed as a huge success with positive feedback given from the attendees.
- Recently, SRS has entered into two new direct Primary Authority partnerships. The first of these is with Sloane Home Limited, a Vale of Glamorgan based producer of hampers and luxury gifts supplying to a number of high end outlets. The second new partnership is with Falcon Installations, a Bridgend based double glazing company. This brings the total number of Primary Authority partnerships managed by the Service to eleven. A number of other prospective partnerships are in the discussion phase, including one well respected national chain.
- SRS has been working closely with The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to develop a UK wide toolkit to enhance Primary Authority engagement with businesses. This pilot work has resulted in the development of a number of useful resources and culminated in SRS staging a breakfast event for food businesses at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, on 16th February.
- The event ran from 7.45 to 11.00 enabling businesses to fit the packed agenda into busy working days. The timing proved popular and attendance was good. Attendees were provided with business critical guidance in a number of key areas of food safety such as dealing with allergens, prevention of cross contamination and improving a Food Hygiene Rating Scheme score.
- The event also explored the benefits of working together through Primary Authority and the provision of Assured Advice; and networking opportunities were built into the agenda. Presentations were given by a number of SRS officers and were extremely well received. We are now following up on a number of expressions of interest from food businesses keen to work with us as Primary Authority partners.
- In the field of Environmental Health, our Housing Enforcement teams protect public health by working with private landlords and owners to provide warm, safe and healthy homes for tenants. Across the three Authorities we regulate nearly 25% of the private rented sector in Wales with a total of approximately 20 staff dedicated to what amounts to an extremely busy frontline service.
- Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are licensed through both Mandatory and Additional Licensing Schemes within the SRS and in Cardiff, due to the high density of students in certain inner city wards, we have also developed close partnership working with the Universities and Third Sector and established a Student Liaison Officer position to promote the work that we do.
- Since the formation of Rent Smart Wales and the introduction of the all Wales mandatory registration and licensing scheme for landlords and agents we have been working closely with the single Licensing Authority to publicise the scheme and moving forward into enforcement we will ensure we act proportionally and in accordance with our policies in using the legislation to improve Housing Standards across the SRS.
- Whilst we have targeted programmes within certain areas of the private rented sector such as HMOs, a large part of the work remains reactive in nature. We receive a wide range of complaints from tenants about their rented accommodation which can relate to dampness and mould, inadequate or dangerous heating appliances, general disrepair, nuisance, electrical safety and the security of their properties. Whilst we will always work with landlords to ensure compliance with standards of repair and safety we have a range of enforcement powers that we use to secure basic standards of accommodation for tenants, some of whom are often the most vulnerable members of our communities.
- Elected Members will receive a short presentation on the work of the Housing Enforcement teams at the Committee meeting and Officers will be available to answer any questions they may have.
- 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)
- 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
- There are no immediate sustainability or climate change implications associated with this report.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- The legal implications were contained in the relevant Cabinet and Council reports.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- The crime and disorder implications were contained in the relevant Cabinet and Council reports.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- The Equality implications were contained in the relevant Cabinet and Council reports.
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- The SRS is currently scrutinised through the arrangements in place at each partner Council.
Dave Holland - Head of Shared Regulatory Services
Corporate Director, Bridgend County Borough Council
Director of Environment, City of Cardiff Council
Legal Services, Vale of Glamorgan Council
Accountant, Vale of Glamorgan Council
Miles Punter - Director of Environment and Housing