Agenda Item No 7

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee: 27th February 2018

 

Report of the Director of Environment and Housing Services

 

Overview and Update on Shared Regulatory Services

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. This report provides an update on the work undertaken by the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS).

Recommendations

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

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. The report apprises the Committee of the work of the service and the progress toward completing the Business Plan.

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 December 2017 to January 2018. 

Relevant Issues and Options

Human Resources

  1. In the last quarter Members were provided an indication of attendance levels; attendance levels had been higher when mapped against the previous year. The table below shows a slight reduction on attendance in the current year when set against 2016/17. There are mitigating factors with a number of staff undergoing planned medical interventions. The attendance figures continue to compare favourably with attendance across all three Councils.  

Year

Average FTE

Days Absent

Days per FTE

April 2017 to December 2017

181.37

839

4.63

Last year same period -

April 2016 to December 2016

167.16

718

4.29

  1. The Shared Regulatory Services Employee Survey was undertaken between 15th-26th January 2018 to establish employee perceptions of various aspects of working for Shared Regulatory Services after three years of operation. The timing of the survey followed communications on proposed budget cuts to the service. The survey was distributed electronically to all staff and achieved an approximate response rate of 77%.
  2. The Employee Survey was divided into nine sections covering issues such as competency to undertake allocated tasks, management, communication, personal development and performance at work. The survey contained 44 questions and officers were asked to indicate how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement.  Five options were provided, namely 'Strongly agree', 'Agree', 'Neither agree or disagree', 'Disagree' or 'Disagree strongly'. These options then gave rise to scores categorised as excellent, very good, good, fair, poor or very poor. 
  3. Of these statements, 30 out of the 44 statements (68.18%) achieved very good to excellent results. 13 out of the 44 statements (29.54%) achieved good results with only one statement (2.27%) achieved a very poor result.  This related to opportunities to progress within the service.
  4. In addition to the above, officers were asked to provide further comments about the service.  These included the best and worst things about working for Shared Regulatory Services, and suggestions around efficiency and improvements.  The key themes that emerged from these questions are highlighted below.

Question

Key themes

What is the best thing about working for Shared Regulatory Services?

Agile working, flexibility, working across three areas, managers and colleagues

What is the worst thing about working for Shared Regulatory Services?

Workload, lack of progression, budget cuts professional disciplines v/v the SRS operating model. Terms and conditions.

Shared Regulatory Services could be more efficient if it…

Improved administration and ICT systems. A reconfiguration of teams, areas, and work.

Suggestions for improvement

Various, with no dominant theme. 

  1. The results gathered from the Employee Survey provide a positive response from officers. Some areas require further improvement, development, and managers will develop an action plan to address the key issues raised.  The survey will take place annually and reported to the Joint Committee each year.

Financial Position Quarter 3

  1. A financial monitoring report for the period 1st April to 31st December 2017 is attached at Appendix 1 and has been prepared from the consolidated figures gathered from each Authority for this period.  The service is projected to overspend by £19k against a gross revenue budget of £8,830m. 

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 3 of 2017/18 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

  1. The Auditor General for Wales has indicated that his 2018-19 work programme will include "issues, themes and learning"  identified in earlier Local Government Study reports and a determination of how those recommendations have been addressed.

The Auditor General is considering undertaking work looking at how the Councils have responded to the 2014 report "Delivering with Less - the impact on Environmental Health services and Citizens". There are also proposals to look at   Corporate Safeguarding Arrangements.  The SRS has a role to play in these assessments across all three partner Councils and discussions are underway with performance colleagues to prepare for any audit requirements.

  1. The previous audit of Environmental Health involved a review of literature, data and statistics; performance indicator returns, an analysis of local authority environmental health budgets and an assessment of best practice standards and the current levels of practice within each council. Auditors interviewed local authority staff: and elected members along with an online survey for Welsh citizens.
  2. The study concluded that:
  • 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.
  • There had been a significant reduction in council environmental health services resources in the three years, 2011-2014.
  • Councils were mostly meeting their statutory responsibilities for environmental health but some key areas of operation are under growing pressure.
  • Environmental health services were becoming unsustainable and councils needed 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 proposed creation of the SRS, identified at the time, was commented upon as follows:

"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."

  1. The report made a number of recommendations for the Welsh Government, the WLGA and the Councils to consider and address. They were:
  • To revise the best practice standards to:

Align the work of environmental health with national strategic priorities.

Identify the wider contribution of environmental health in delivering strategic priorities of the Welsh Government.

Identify the benefit and impact of environmental health services on protecting citizens.

Provide scrutiny chairs and members with the necessary skills and support to effectively scrutinise and challenge service performance, savings plans and the impact of budget reductions.

Improve engagement with local residents over planned budget cuts and changes in services by consulting with residents on planned changes in services and using the findings to shape decisions; outlining which services are to be cut and how these cuts will impact on residents; and setting out plans for increasing charges or changing standards of service.

  • To improve efficiency and value for money by:

Identifying the statutory and non-statutory duties of council environmental health services

Agreeing environmental health priorities for the future and the role of councils in delivering these

Determining an 'acceptable standard of performance' for environmental health services (upper and lower) and publicise these to citizens.

  • Improving efficiency and maintaining performance to the agreed level through:

Collaborating and/or integrating with others to reduce cost and/or improve quality

Outsourcing where services can be delivered more cost effectively to agreed standard.

Introducing and/or increasing charges and focusing on income-generation activity

Using grants strategically to maximise impact and return

Reducing activities to focus on core statutory and strategic priorities

  • To improve strategic planning by:

Identifying, collecting and analysing financial, performance and demand/ need data on environmental health services.

Analysing collected data to inform and understand the relationship between 'cost: benefit: impact' and use this intelligence to underpin decisions on the future of council environmental health services.

Agreeing how digital information can be used to plan and develop environmental health services in the future.

  1. Should the Auditor General decide to review progress against the report the SRS will be able to demonstrate a successful change programme and strong links to national and corporate priorities, despite challenging financial pressures. The SRS Business Plan is now constructed to show how the service contributes to the three corporate objectives of the partner Councils. It also recognizes the importance of the Future Generations Act, the Regulatory enforcement priorities for Wales and other national strategies. Section 6 of the SRS Business plan sets out the activities undertaken and demonstrates their linkages with these strategic initiatives.  The SRS now collects more data than the legacy authorities and seeks to use that information to determine the best allocation of resources. Much of this is set out in the SRS Business Plan and other statutory plans. Our investment in people is contained in our workforce plan which determines the use of training and development activities to ensure they are aligned fully with our operational a activities and strategic aspirations.

Amendment to Enforcement and Compliance Policy

  1. Elected Members are asked to consider a change to the current approach to the service of Fixed Penalty Notices in Appendix 1 of the Enforcement and Compliance policy. The reasons are to update it in relation to the promotion of ratings on publicity materials regulations and to be in line with the national approach to enforcement by removing the requirement to initially send a warning letter.  Currently Appendix 1 of the enforcement policy states:

FIXED PENALTY NOTICES

7.1       Section 8.4.2.2 of the overarching SRS Compliance and Enforcement Policy considers the use of fixed penalty notices.

7.2       With respect to food law enforcement, an authorised officer has the discretion to issue a fixed penalty notice for an offence under section 9 of the Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Act 2013 concerning the display, or failure to display, of the appropriate food hygiene rating scheme score.

They will only be given where there is continuing non-compliance despite help from Shared Regulatory Services and previous advice having been given. 

It is proposed to amend this statement as follows:

FIXED PENALTY NOTICES

7.1       Section 8.4.2.2 of the overarching SRS Compliance and Enforcement Policy considers the use of fixed penalty notices.

7.2       With respect to food law enforcement, an authorised officer has the discretion to issue a fixed penalty notice for an offence under section 9 of the Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Act 2013 concerning the display, or failure to display, of the appropriate food hygiene rating scheme score. In addition a fixed penalty notice can be served for an offence under Regulation 5 of the Food Hygiene Rating (Promotion of Food Hygiene Rating) (Wales) Regulations 2016 with regard to failure to comply with requirements for the promotion of ratings on publicity materials.

These may be given where there is no reasonable excuse for non-compliance.

Jewellery Survey

  1. Following the Brexit referendum, early uncertainties in financial markets prompted a surge of interest in investments in precious metals as an alternative to other, more volatile sectors. Experience has shown that rogue traders are never far behind the latest trend, and the possibility of jewellery scams being felt locally was identified by the Shared Service as a potential threat to local residents and reputable traders alike. In order to provide reassurance as to the quality and authenticity of jewellery available locally, survey work is being undertaken across the trade sector.  Officers from the Shared Service have been working closely with the Assay Office to conduct joint inspections of locally based jewellery outlets, including those selling on-line as well as those in the high street.
  2. With phase 1 of the survey now complete, a range of jewellery outlets has been visited, primarily in the Cardiff area. Among the premises included in the survey were those with a history of previous non-compliance and temporary market stalls. With regard to hallmarking requirements, the Hallmarking Act 1973 requires items of jewellery to bear the appropriate markings as well as the display of customer information notices at the point of sale.  More than 250 items of jewellery were checked for relevant hallmarks and also compliance with descriptions applied to precious metals and gemstones, and overall the survey results were pleasing. Problems were found in only three outlets and overall, less than 7% of the items examined and tested were non-compliant. These were removed from sale immediately.
  3. Officers found a quantity of jewellery that while properly hallmarked was found to be in breach of a number of registered trademarks. The offending items are estimated to be worth in the region of £25,000, and have been seized pending further investigation. Phase 2 of the jewellery survey is being planned for February and will focus this time on outlets in the Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan areas.  An update on this area of work will be provided to the Joint Committee at a future meeting.

Public Health Issues Associated with Solid Fuel Appliances and Wood Burners

  1. The Shared Regulatory Services investigate complaints concerning defective solid fuel appliances and wood burners, in relation to serious life threatening incidences of Carbon Monoxide poisoning and also nuisance from smoke and particulates.  The number of complaints received by the service has begun to increase with a rise in the popularity of wood burners, with statistics showing there were over 290,000 new installations across the UK in the last 12 months.
  2. A training day was organised and attended by staff from different disciplines within the Shared Regulatory Services. Representatives from the National Association of Chimney Engineers were able to share their expertise concerning the dangers associated with the incorrect installation and use of these appliances and also what paperwork should accompany the installations.
  3. The training will enable staff to identify any potential hazards when they are carrying out and investigation and to deal with smoke nuisance complaints more efficiently. A project will take place in the next financial year and focus upon the competency of installers, and look to raise awareness amongst consumers of the potential dangers associated with these appliances.

Safeguarding/Scams

  1. Building on the previous Safeguarding Roadshows previously reported to the Joint Committee, a further successful event took place in December.  This time the venue was alongside Trinity Church in Porthcawl town centre and once again the Vibe youth organisation bus proved to be an excellent way of gaining the attention of the public.    
  2. The team spoke with 107 people during the course of the day and gave advice on crime prevention and focused in particular, on how to avoid scams. Visitors to the event were provided with no cold calling stickers, Safeguarding 'grab' cards and contact details for future use.  By far the most common issue discussed during the day was nuisance telephone calls, including those received on mobile phones. Residents were advised on the use of the Telephone Preference Service and a number of existing BT customers were given assistance in using the BT free call protect service which offers a call blocking facility. In addition to the residents visiting the event itself, the opportunity was taken to speak to the Trinity Church luncheon club on the day, where a further fifteen residents were advised about scams and doorstep crime.
  3. A further Safeguarding event is due to take place in the Cardiff area and plans are well underway.

Contact Lenses

  1. Zero powered contact lenses (sometimes referred to as cosmetic lenses) are required by the Opticians Act to be sold under the supervision of a registered optometrist, registered dispensing optician or registered medical practitioner. The health problems associated with this product are well documented and include reports of people having serious eye injuries that require long term care.
  2. In 2016 Shared Regulatory Services issued two simple cautions to retailers in Cardiff who had sold zero powered contact lenses to consumers of which one suffered a serious eye injury.
  3. A survey carried out across SRS in September/ October 2017 just prior to Halloween to assess compliance with the General Product Safety Regulations 2005. Officers inspected 22 premises and issued advice to the retailers selling this product in collaboration with the General Optical Council. Officer then carried out a series of test purchases at the premises that had received advice. Three of the premises continue to sell and Requirement to mark notices were issued by the department. A presentation on this piece of work will be provided at the Joint Committee meeting.

Bridgend Employers Engagement Project

  1. Bridgend Employers Engagement Project (BEEP) was a partnership intervention led by Shared Regulatory Services, facilitated by the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health Wales and supported by experts from local businesses and organisations. The aim of the project was to support businesses effectively manage a safe, healthy and more prosperous workplace in line with HSE's strategy 'Helping Great Britain Work Well'.
  2. Businesses from the 24 industrial estates operating in Bridgend County Borough Council were selected as this group is known to have higher than average accident and ill-health rates. A pilot of businesses on Brackla and Bridgend Estates in 2016 indicated key weaknesses in health and safety management including reporting of accidents, managing risk assessments, fire safety and working at height.
  3. 609 businesses were identified for inclusion in this intervention (348, 57% HSE enforced and 261, 43% LA enforced). Advisory visits using standardised protocols were undertaken between May and July 2017. The Business Forum was promoted during the initial visit and followed up with e-mails, phone calls and local publicity.
  4. The most common industry sectors identified were manufacturing and engineering, retail and light industry. Micro businesses made up the greatest proportion of businesses followed by small businesses. Micro businesses were identified as requiring the most health and safety support particularly in relation to management of asbestos, risk assessment, accidents and ill-health, muscular disorders and working at height. Visits also confirmed a lack of business awareness in relation to substance misuse and tobacco use, it was evident that businesses did not fully appreciate the impact of poor health and health behaviours on business productivity and standards of health and safety.
  5. The content of the business forum was informed by the outcome of the site visits and both the format and content was reported as successful, 100% of businesses reported learning something and 91% reported that they would make changes to their workplace because of attending the Forum.

Cellar Safety

  1. Safety in cellars has been chosen as a national health and safety priority following a number of fatalities and serious injuries to both employees and members of the public in Wales and throughout the UK in recent years.  Incidents have included falls through unguarded cellar hatches and unlocked cellar doors, and exposure to low level oxygen atmospheres in cellars as a direct result of beverage gas cylinder leaks.
  2. Commitment has now been made to include 'Safety in Cellars' in the work plan of all local authorities in Wales for 2018-2019.
  3. Between October and November 2017 the Health and Safety Team undertook 71 inspections of pubs, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs which focussed on: Falls from height, specifically cellar hatches, doors and steps; compressed gas safety in confined spaces and lifting equipment safety where cellar lifts or hoists are used.
  4. 40 premises in Cardiff, 21 in the Vale and 10 in Bridgend were visited. All 71 (100%) businesses were found to be non-compliant, the most common non-compliances were identified as: 
  • Beverage gas safety in confined spaces.
  • Falls from height or down steps/stairs.
  1. Officers will continue their work with this sector of business to ensure full compliance with the legislation.  This project will now be extended for a further year, 80 inspections are programmed to take place from June 2018 over the 3 authorities and will focus on night clubs, sports and social clubs and independent public houses.

Enforcement Activity

  1. Details of recent cases investigated by the SRS that have resulted in prosecution are set out in Appendix 3 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 be 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

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, The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Accountant, The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Responsible Officer: 

Miles Punter - Director of Environment and Housing Services