Agenda for Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board on Thursday 19th November 2020, 4.30 p.m.

Agenda and minutes

Virtual Skype meeting, Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board - Thursday 19th November 2020 4.30 p.m.

Contact: Pauline Ross 

No. Item


Apologies for absence and notification of substitutes


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor T. Wells, Malvern Hills District Council and Councillor M. Johnson, Worcester City 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.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 360 KB


The minutes of the meeting of the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board held on 1st October 2020, were submitted.


RESOLVED that minutes of the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board meeting held on 1st October 2020, be approved as a correct record.




Information Report - The increase in charges by Wyre Forest District Council pdf icon PDF 277 KB


Members received an information report on the increase in charges by Wyre Forest District Council (WFDC). 


The Head of Regulatory Services reminded Members that at the Board meeting held on 1st October 2020, during the presentation of the Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) Budgets 2020/2021; Members had raised some concern with regard to the additional partner liabilities for 2020/2021 in respect of a £13k increase in accommodation charges and ICT hosting of WRS from Wyre Forest District Council.  


As requested by Members, the information report before Members provided some background information and the process that was followed leading to this increase.


In 2014/15, before the service moved to Wyre Forest House, a search for accommodation across the local government family in the county was undertaken, as Worcester City Council had decided to sell its accommodation that WRS occupied. 


WRS was offered space in Redditch Library, Wyre Forest House and the old Police Station in Pershore. A review concluded that the Wyre Forest offer was the most cost effective and, with office space that was ready to move into without any additional work, it was the easiest to adopt.  WRS moved into Wyre  Forest House in March 2015.


At the end of January 2020, as Head of Service, he was approached by the WFDC IT Manager and their Director of Finance as the original agreement for accommodation and IT support was coming to an end. The initial conversation covered only IT provision but, in the first week of February, it was confirmed that a similar uplift would be requested for the accommodation. The increases were based on the compounded impact of the rate of inflation over that period. The table below demonstrates how colleagues at WFDC arrived at their final figures:



RPI Annual %












Applying these figures on an annual basis looking backwards leads to a compound figure of £50,000 per annum for IT provision (up from £44,000,) and £61,000 per annum for accommodation (up from £54,000.) These figures are rounded, so the overall increase to the nearest £1,000 is £13,000.


As Head of Service, he did express his concerns that coming at this point in the year made it difficult to incorporate these increases into the WRS budget as it had been set for the year already. WFDC officers apologised for this issue but as the Head of Service he had had to agree.  This was not the first time that the need for the partnership to set a budget in November had caused an issue for one or other partner authorities in their own budget setting process.


The service provided by WFDC IT team is very good and, as part of the annual staff survey, staff still comment on how changing ICT host improved their experience of work based IT solutions. The office accommodation at Wyre Forest House is also of an excellent standard, better than many other public buildings in the County.


As Head of Service, he  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23/20


Information Report - Covid Activity Costings pdf icon PDF 107 KB


Members were provided with an information report on Covid Activity costings, as requested by Board Members at the last meeting of the Board on 1st October 2020.  During that meeting Board Members had thanked officers for all of the hard work they were doing on Covid related activities and had suggested that they would like to see additional funding being made available to support the service.


The Head of Service explained that the WRS Management Team were giving active consideration to bidding to the Chief Executives for additional resources but that a paper would be bought forward to outline current spending levels on Covid related activity.


When the first lockdown commenced at the end of March 2020, it quickly became clear that local authorities were going to incur significant additional costs for work related to controlling the pandemic. The Secretary of State made an announcement declaring that both Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers would be responsible for enforcement of the business closure and control provisions that required some businesses to close, others to operate by delivery only and moved many hospitality businesses towards takeaway only activities.


Bromsgrove District Council, the host authority immediately asked all of its services to record all Covid related activity so that estimates of cost could be given to central government, in order that support payments might match the actual costs. WRS officers were already required to record the time taken on the majority of their activities, so it was a relatively simple exercise to add some additional coding into our time recording system and to ask officers to use these to record how much time was spent on Covid related activities.


Because we have our fee earner model for charging out WRS officers for commercial activities it was a very straight forward exercise to convert the figures to a monetary amount that reflected the full cost of the officer undertaking the activities.


The Head of Service drew Members’ attention to the table at Appendix A to the report, which contained the monthly totals, starting in April 2020 for the cost of undertaking Covid related activities on behalf of the six councils and the cost of the team embedded in the Local Outbreak Response Team.


Given the nature of the pandemic, WRS had not sought to allocate these costs geographically to individual partners. This would go against the “One Worcestershire” approach that all seven councils in the County had taken towards tackling the pandemic.


Members will note that these amounts are not insubstantial. The service has been fortunate that the Food Standards Agency opted to put a moratorium on routine food hygiene inspection at the beginning of the pandemic. This allowed for the vast majority of staff resource that would otherwise have been dedicated to food related work to be put into the pandemic response.


As the economy re-opened, with the service being in essence an economic regulator, the pressures the service and its staff had grown.  Balancing business as usual activity has  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24/20


Worcestershire Regulatory Services - Revenue Monitoring April - Sept 2020 pdf icon PDF 247 KB

Additional documents:


Members were asked to consider the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Revenue Monitoring for April to September 2020.


The Head of Finance & Customer Services, Bromsgrove District Council, introduced the report and in doing so drew Members’ attention to the Recommendations as detailed on pages 25 and 26 of the main agenda report.


Members were asked to note that the revised budget 2020/2021 was based on the recommended budget funding as stated in agenda item number 4, with regards to the increase in ICT and Rent at Wyre Forest House.  


Members were further informed that the report showed a projected outturn 2020/2021 of £17k deficit.  This was an estimation to the year-end based on the following assumptions:-


·       There were two vacant posts within the service, we have assumed no recruitment to the Business & Relationship Manager for the current year to assist in reducing the projected outturn deficit.  This will need to be reviewed at the end of quarter 3.  The other vacant post was a Regulatory Apprentice which we hoped to recruit to in the near future.


  • If April to Sept spend on pest control continued on the same trend for the rest of year, there would be an overspend on this service of £16k.  WRS officers would continue to monitor and analyse this spend and advise of final recharges for 2020/21 as soon as possible.  The projected outturn figure to be funded by partners was:-


                           Redditch Borough Council     £9k

                           Wychavon  District Council    £7k  


Members’ attention was drawn to the figures detailed in Appendix 1 to the report:


·       Savings due to employees working on Local Outbreak Response Team.

·       Essential calibration on noise monitoring.

·       Reduction in dogs straying and the dog warden had been taken in house.

·       Bereavement / Works in Default to be charged to relevant partners.


The Head of Regulatory Services further explained that with regard to the local Covid outbreak team, WRS had started with an estimate of £162k, for the year.  The figures quoted in the table were up to the end of October, so there were four more months to go.  Staff involved in local outbreak contact tracing work and look to follow up work would have to be included.  Therefore, this could go above £181k, back filling of a certain amount of normal WRS business activities would also have to be factored in.


The Environmental Health and Trading Standards Manager clarified that officers were not seeing a significant increase or trend in bereavement costs due to the current pandemic. 


With regard to Pest Control, the Technical Services Manager stated that there were 3 partner authorities that currently provided a subsidised pest control service.




a)     the final financial position for the period April to September 2020, be noted;


b)     partner authorities be informed of their liabilities for 2020/2021 in relation to Bereavements as follows:-



Apr–Sept 20 Actual for Bereavements


Redditch Borough Council


Malvern Hills District Council


Worcester City Council


Bromsgrove District Council






c)     partner authorities are informed of their  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25/20


Worcestershire Regulatory Services Budget 2021/22 - 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 259 KB

Additional documents:


The Head of Finance & Customer Services, Bromsgrove District Council, introduced the report and in doing so highlighted that the recommendations were caveated as starting point assuming that the base budget figure for 2020/2021 had been updated to include all of the increases mentioned at the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board meeting in October 2020, including the additional funding for Wyre Forest District Council for accommodation and ICT costs.


The Head of Finance & Customer Services further drew Members’ attention to the Recommendations as detailed on pages 33 and 34 of the main agenda report.


Members were further informed that following assumptions had been made in relation to the projections:


·       2% pay award across all staff for 2021/22 – 20223/24. This will be subject to the National Pay Negotiations that are ongoing and therefore the final position will reflect any formally agreed increases, the budget also includes any employee entitled to an incremental increase.

·       No inflationary increases in supplies and services, premises or transport.

·       Pension back-funding will be paid by all partners.


The unavoidable salary pressures were not able to be met currently by WRS making additional income, in the main due to the pressures created by the pandemic and the response to it. The normal sources of income (local authorities,) were not currently focused on the areas of work that WRS delivered for income generation purposes and WRS officers were at the heart of the response locally. Therefore, an increase to partner funding would be  required, as detailed on page 35 of the main agenda report.


Clearly, should the situation with the pandemic improve in the second half of 2021/2022, WRS Officers would be looking to move forward with the programme of income generation and the benefits of this may be seen in an underspend that could be returned to partners at year end. Hence, an upfront investment this year would give certainty to the service and the partners in terms of cost, with the potential for a return on investment if the pandemic situation eased.


In addition to the base budget there were three additional technical officers working on income generation, animal activity and gull control.  Officers were unable to include these officers into the base budget as the income generation officer was a temporary agreement agreed by partner councils and the animal activity and gull control officer recharge percentage basis was different to the agreed partner recharge allocations.


RECOMMENDED that partner authorities approve the following for 2020/2021:


1.1 the 2021/22 gross expenditure budget of £3,739k as shown in Appendix 1.


1.2 the 2021/22 income budget of £529k as shown in Appendix 1.


1.3 the revenue budget and partner percentage allocations for 2021/2022 onwards:




Revised %

Bromsgrove District Council



Malvern Hills District Council



Redditch  Borough Council



Worcester City Council



Wychavon District



Wyre Forest  District Council








1.4 the additional partner liabilities for 2021/2022 in relation to unavoidable salary pressure.


Bromsgrove District Council


Malvern Hills District  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26/20


Activity & Performance Data - Quarters 1 and 2 pdf icon PDF 132 KB

Additional documents:


The Environmental Health and Trading Standards Manager, WRS, presented that Activity and Performance Data for Quarters 1 and 2, 2020/2021; and in doing so highlighted that the first half of the year had seen extraordinary circumstances with officers helping to control the pandemic.  


Members’ attention was drawn to the following:-


Activity Data

The Food Standards Agency suspended the Food Hygiene inspection programme at the beginning of lockdown in March and this continued throughout the second quarter. This explained the low number of inspections, reflecting that the service was engaging mainly with new entrants to the sector or those wanting re-rating. Clearly any allegations of serious misconduct were also followed up and food service requests did show an increase through the quarter. 

Numbers of licensing complaints and enquires began to grow during quarter 2, in line with the re-opening of licensed premises and the growth in wider licensed activities. Applications also began to rise to the kind of levels one might expect. 

Planning application numbers rose during quarter 2, going back towards their normal trajectory as the economy re-opened. Environmental Information Requests, often associated with the planning and development process were also returning to more normal levels during this period.

As we always see during the summer months, nuisance/ pollution complaints showed their characteristic peak. Noise complaint numbers exceeded the number for the same period in the previous two years, this time by a significant proportion, 12% or more above the previous two year’s equivalent periods.


Quarter 2 saw a broader report of performance measures than the starting quarter. The year continued reasonably well from a customer satisfaction perspective with the non-business customer measure at 74.4% and business customers at 97.7%. Given the pressures on the service during the first six months of the year, this was seen as good.  At the same point last year, customer satisfaction was at 73.8% and business satisfaction at 98.3%. People who felt better equipped to deal with issues was at 72.3% compared with 63% this time last year.

Processing of taxi driver license renewals remained good with a county-wide average of 97.4% done within 5 working days.

Compliments outnumber complaints by 3:1 (24:78) and staff sickness was looking reasonably good at 0.95 days per FTE. This was better than the previous year’s figure at Q1 (2.91 days per FTE.)

Income as a proportion of budget was at 4.37%. This was as expected down on previous years due to the pandemic and our usual customer based of local authorities not requiring our services at the same level. At the same point last year, just over £160,000 had come in compared with just over £130,000 this year. To maintain comparability, we have not included income for measures to combat the pandemic in the calculation.

The Chairman took the opportunity to thank officers for a comprehensive report.

RESOLVED that the Activity and Performance Data Quarters 1 and 2, 2020/2021, be noted and that Members use the contents of the report in their own reporting back to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27/20


Information Report - IT Update pdf icon PDF 619 KB


The Technical Services Manager, WRS, presented the Board with an Information Report that provided an update on IT, following a request from the Board at the meeting held in October 2020.


The Technical Services Manager referred Members to the Gantt chart as detailed at Appendix 1 to the report. 


The first phase of replacement laptops had been completed.  Officers continued to work on improving the look of the WRS website on Umbraco 8.  Discussions were taking place with the host authority, Bromsgrove District Council (BDC) on whether WRS would be able to take payments on behalf of the other partner authorities.


Councillor A. D. Kent, BDC, thanked officers for the brilliant update and Gantt chart, as this detailed what had been delivered.  Councillor Kent also took the opportunity to thank the Head of Regulatory Services for taking the time to have further discussions with him, regards the concerns he had raised at the last meeting of the Board.


RESOLVED that the Information Report – IT Update, be noted.


The new Statutory Standards for Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles pdf icon PDF 292 KB


The Acting Licensing and support Services Manager, WRS, provided the Board with a report that detailed the new statutory standards for Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles. 

Members were informed that in July 2020, following a number of high profile enquiries into criminal offences involving taxi drivers, the Secretary of State for Transport had issued the long awaited, new ‘Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards’ to licensing authorities aimed at safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

The standards set out a range of measures to protect passengers and the Department for Transport would require an update from each licensing authority by January 2021.


The recommendations in the Standards were detailed on page 84 of the main agenda report. 

WRS officers believed that, in light of the recommendations set out in the Standards, that all of the district councils’ current hackney carriage and private hire licensing policies would need to be reviewed carefully with a view to implementing the changes. This review would ultimately lead to the drafting of a new cohesive policy document that brought together each district council’s procedures on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing.  This would include, but not be limited to, policies on convictions, a “fit and proper” person test, licence conditions and vehicle standards.


RESOLVED that the new statutory standards for Taxis and Private Hire vehicles and the guidance as referred to in the report, be noted.


To consider any other business, details of which have been notified to the Head of Legal, Equalities and Democratic Services prior to the commencement of the meeting and which the Chairman considers to be of so urgent a nature that it cannot wait until the next meeting.