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Election of Chairman
A nomination for Chairman was received in respect of Councillor H. Dyke, Wyre Forest District Council.
RESOLVED that Councillor H. Dyke, Wyre Forest District Council be elected as Chairman for the ensuing municipal year.
Election of Vice-Chairman
A nomination for Vice-Chairman was received in respect of Councillor J. Squires, Worcester City Council.
RESOLVED that Councillor J. Squires, Worcester City Council be elected as Vice-Chairman for the ensuing municipal year.
Apologies for absence and notification of substitutes
An apology for absence was received from Councillor W. King, Redditch Borough Council.
Declarations of Interest
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.
There were no declarations of interest.
The minutes of the meeting of the Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) Board held on 13th February 2020, were submitted.
Councillor A. Kent, Bromsgrove District Council, referred to pages 5 and 6 of the main agenda report, and in doing so, questioned if the timeframes for the new Finance IT system were known; as Members had not been informed as such. Members were also expecting that officers would provide an update on the ICT system at today’s Board meeting.
The Head of Regulatory Services highlighted that the recent flooding and Covid-19 response had made it difficult to move forward, WRS were looking at returning to more business activities, but officers were still currently heavily involved in the Covid-19 response. However, moving forward the Technical Services Manager and (acting) Licensing Manager would pick this up.
The Technical Services Manager, WRS, explained that the development of the new finance system and the integration of that with the WRS Uniform back office system had not progressed so far with the five other partner authorities. WRS would dovetail into Bromsgrove District Council’s (BDC) new finance system, which was scheduled to go online during October 2020. This would hopefully enable WRS to take payments for licences and other similar activities which WRS carried out on behalf of all Partner Authorities. WRS would then build this process into their website. Discussions were taking place with the BDC Project Manager.
Other ICT development was progressing and WRS continued to develop their website; with a scheduled date of 8th July 2020, to move onto the Umbraco 8 system
Officers agreed to provide a more detailed report on the new Finance IT system and ICT development at the next meeting of the Board on 1st October 2020.
Councillor H. Jones, Bromsgrove District Council, requested an amendment on page 8 of the main agenda report as follows:-
“The Head of WRS confirmed that WRS do as much as they can to ensure that events are well regulated and do not impact on residents or other temporary events that are taking place; and that safeguarding children at temporary events was paramount”.
a) subject to the amendment, as detailed in the preamble above, the minutes of the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board held on 13th February 2020, be approved as a correct record; and
b) Officers provide an update report on the new Finance IT system and ICT development at the next meeting of the Board.
The Community Environmental Health and Trading Standards Manager presented an information report that outlined officer’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Members were informed that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care had subsequently issued urgent regulations providing powers to limit onward transmission of the virus; this included the statutory closure of specified businesses, which included social venues such as pubs, clubs and theatres. The regulations identified those businesses that had to close, mainly those that attracted crowds or where there was likely to be close person to person contact. It also identified a range of businesses deemed essential that could remain open.
The first phase of response from the Community Environmental Health Team was to make proactive checks that businesses were closed. Officers were tasked to undertake proactive patrols at reasonable times to check that businesses were closed. Formal checks were not recorded for every property that was noted to be compliant and closed, but over 2,200 visits were made to businesses county wide.
The level of compliance was found to be generally excellent, with only 7 Prohibition Notices and 30 written warnings being required for non-compliant businesses across the County. These checks were supplemented with work of the Licensing Team who carried out spot checks on 550 pubs and clubs during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend to ensure that businesses were not still trading. Further proactive checks were made by the Community Environmental Health Team over the Spring Bank holiday.
Licensing Officers were in regular liaison with the taxi trade from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as detailed on page 10 of the main agenda report.
TENs submission had significantly reduced due to the restrictions on public gatherings.
The teams had also worked with Economic Development and Town Centre management teams, as detailed on page 11 of the main agenda report.
Things had continued to move at a pace, so WRS officers were regularly updating the WRS website and had also provided webinars for businesses. Officers were also providing advice visits and support for the re-opening phase, following government guidelines and regulations.
Moving forward, as the focus moved towards businesses re-opening, pro-active patrols were taking place in the various centres in order to assist businesses to re-open and to ensure they were safe and healthy places to visit.
Although it was still early days, officers were finding a high level of compliance and businesses had commented that it was nice to see a friendly face giving them advice and encouragement.
The next phase would be to contact pubs, the beauty sector and other business types, which currently remained closed.
As part of the management process, WRS officers were also engaged in Covid-19 outbreaks and various settings, plus local outbreaks with public health which seemed the key mechanism for controlling the virus going forward.
Resourcing the outbreak, management arrangements were likely to take four Environmental Health practitioners out of the service area for a long period of time and WRS were committing significant resources to supporting the ... view the full minutes text for item 6/20
The Board considered a report which detailed the Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) Annual Report 2019/2020. The report covered the performance from 1st April 2019 to 31st March 2020.
The Head of Regulatory Services informed the Board that under the Shared Services Partnership Service Level Agreement (SLA) the Board was required to receive the annual report at its annual meeting.
The Annual Report highlighted that most premises were well regulated, which enabled the service to focus their resources on those premises which were more problematic.
The Head of Regulatory Services further informed Members that the report covered the performance of the service for that period, both in terms of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and highlights of activity, with a short summary activity report, as detailed at Appendix 5 to the report. Appendix 5 to the report had been reduced since the Board now received a separate Activity and Performance Data report which provided more detail. Some detail of the performance indicators were also covered in the Activity and Performance Data report.
Generally performance had remained good. Food business compliance rates remained high. Taxi license renewals were dealt with in a reasonable time in the main. The taxi fleet appeared to be generally in good order, although the results from enforcement exercises suggested that some drivers / operators needed to improve in terms of maintaining vehicles.
Complaints against the service were significantly exceeded by compliments. It was understood that the main issue for complaints were related to either paying for the cost of stray dog recovery or the fact that WRS could not resolve an issue that was causing annoyance to a resident due to the law on nuisances.
The Head of Regulatory Services commented that he was pleased to report that non-business customer satisfaction had gone up from a low of 62% to just under 70%, WRS would continue to try and push this figure forward and improve.
The indicators for licensed premises and noise complaints had been in place long enough now in order to establish good base-lines.
The Annual Report also provided a summary of the financial position, the key achievements and covered issues with regard to human resources. There were also sections on risk management and equalities. .
In response to Members questions with regard to potential incentives in order to increase the number of electric vehicles on taxi fleets; the Head of Regulatory Services informed the Board that officers were currently looking at this with a number of partner authorities, in particular with Worcester City Council, National Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing. The Task and Finish Group were working with elected Members, looking at how to progress with changes in the taxi fleet.
Moving towards a free vehicle licence for electric vehicles might be a step too far for some authorities, who would need to consider their finances to see if this, was an option that could be taken forward. There were a number of other incentives that could be scoped ... view the full minutes text for item 7/20
The Financial Services Manager, Bromsgrove District Council (BDC), introduced the report and in doing so highlighted the Recommendations, as detailed on page 53 of the main agenda report; and drew Members’ attention to recommendation 1.2 – to approve £20k transfer to WRS reserves to purchase a dog warden van.
The Financial Services Manager, BDC further drew Members’ attention to the final outturn of £57k, which represented 1.9% of the actual budget, detailed on page 54 of the main agenda report.
WRS Managers had set themselves an income budget of £490k for 2019/2020, unfortunately due to the loss of one of the stray dog contracts, which had generated around £60k worth of income, there was an income shortfall of £48k against budget. But still a fantastic performance from WRS again this year, as WRS still managed to outturn a surplus at the year end.
Councillor A. Kent, BDC, queried the County – Exit Fee and Worcs Works Well, as detailed on page 65 of the main agenda report; and if the figure should still be shown in ‘Earmarked Reserves. .
In response the Head of Regulatory Services explained that when Worcestershire County Council departed from the partnership in 2016, they were required to pay an amount which covered the cost to partners in facilitating its exit and also a contribution to cover the costs of any redundancies or anything else it might incur looking forward. So the figure of £173k was agreed. The transfer out figure of £42,500 was in relation to the settlement of an employee tribunal for WRS. WRS had received advice from an external commercial solicitor, who had advised senior officers that the amount was a reasonable ending for the six partners.
Therefore it was agreed by the partner officers of the Board to use the reserves held by the service rather than asking partner authorities to pay the settlement costs.
The Head of Regulatory Services continued and further explained that it had been agreed at previous Board meetings that the funds would be held as a reserve for the service, should the income model be petered out and the service was in a position where it was not meeting its budget target. Members of the Board had previously agreed that this reserve would be used as a buffer against such an eventuality.
So if WRS hit a sudden year where there was a major downturn in income the six partner authorities would not be faced with having to find tens of thousands of pounds to cover the gap for the service.
It also created that thinking space potentially for officers to look at how these services might be delivered differently if it did get to the point where such decisions had to be made. So it was there in the event of emergencies and to give the six partner authorities that level of protection from anything going wrong with the service and its delivery.
At this point in time, that was why it is there, this had ... view the full minutes text for item 8/20
The Technical Services Manager, Worcestershire Regulatory Services presented an Update on Income Generation following provision of additional resource.
Members were reminded that in 2018 that, Members of the Board and partner officers had agreed to fund a part time post on the basis that WRS would cover the cost of that post and make a margin to reinvest back into the service primarily through Primary Authority working.
The post had helped to deliver a number on contracts, although Primary Authority work had not been as lucrative as it was thought to be. Costs had been covered and officers believed that they would be providing a margin to reinvest into the WRS budget. Officers were confident that they had at least £19k of achieved income in Quarter 1 and a number of leads that officers were currently chasing, as well as ongoing pieces of work that officers still continued to deliver.
Despite the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions for businesses, officers were confident that they could cover the cost of the post should it be extended and would hopefully provide some increased margin across the next two financial years.
In response to Councillor A. Kent, Bromsgrove District Council, the Technical Services Manager informed the Board that switching to the Zoom platform to deliver training was something that officers were in the midst of doing. Ii had been set up and once WRS had received the sign off from their client, officers would deliver the training in person, via Zoom, rather than on-line training sessions. If this proved successful, officers would certainly look at any lessons learnt and would look to Zoom to deliver future training wherever possible.
With regard to the current Ministry of Defence (MOD) contract, the Technical Services Manager explained that this was a one-off contract to deliver a specific piece of work. However, officers were discussing how they could assist the MOD with a wider roll out of some aspects of this work. Discussions were taking place to see if WRS could secure that contract.
a) the report be noted; and
b) the relevant Officer partners of the Board agree to the continuation of this fixed term post for a period of two years.
The (acting) Licensing Manager, Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) presented that Activity and Performance Data for Quarters 1, 2, 3 and 4 and in doing so highlighted some of the keys points in the report.
The (acting) Licensing Manager, WRS, reported that the report focused on Quarter 4 but the actual data allowed a comparison with previous quarters and years.
With the exception of August, the number of food requests received during this year had been largely in line with 2018/2019. Approximately 51% of cases were hygiene related; with three quarters of complaints relating to food products and a quarter to hygiene concerns at food businesses.
Based on the 1242 inspection interventions undertaken this year, approximately 6% led to a non-compliant rating (a rating of 0, 1 or 2) being issued. The majority of businesses however had since been brought into compliance. It was worth noting that, towards the end of the year, proactive inspections of food businesses were suspended by the Food Standards Agency due to Covid-19.
The number of stray or lost dogs reported continued to decline, with the total this year a reduction of 17% compared to the previous year.
The number of health and safety cases received during this year was broadly in line with the previous year. There was however, a continued decline in the number of complaints and enquiries.
It had been a quiet year for nuisance work and that was how it ended albeit following a very similar pattern for previous years.
The number of public health cases received by WRS during the year was a reduction of 25% compared to the previous year. Approximately 60% of cases related to pest control and a further 25% were complaints relating to the accumulation of waste at domestic properties.
Work to support planning officers across Worcestershire had kept the Technical Services team busy throughout the year, with the number recorded some 18% higher than the previous year. Approximately 89% of planning enquiries were consultations, whilst half related to contaminated land.
Newport City Council in Wales had now signed off their legal agreement with CEMEX and officers were pleased to confirm that they had now comprehensive primary authority arrangements in place for both England and Wales. WRS would now proceed to secure standardised inspections plans for all of CEMEX’s sites (around 360 nationally) through the BEIS approval system.
Officers had now completed the first draft of the Medium Sized Combustion Plant technical standard on behalf of the Defence Industry Organisation (DIO).
Work continued with Worcester City’s Air Quality Action Plan with source apportionment work taking place in 2 of the 5 survey areas and the incorporation of LTP4 actions into the plan. However accurate up to date traffic counts had not been secured for all areas due to the Covid-19 lockdown and there would be a need to glean this information before the report was completed.
Predictive air quality modelling work around Comberton Hill and Chester Road junction in Kidderminster was making progress, however, the project had ... view the full minutes text for item 10/20