Contact: Pauline Ross
There were no apologies for absence.
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 Board held on 19th November 2020, were submitted.
RESOLVED that minutes of the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board meeting held on 19th November 2020, be approved as a correct record.
The Senior Business Support Accounting Technician, Bromsgrove District Council (BDC), introduced the report and in doing so drew Members’ attention to the Recommendations as detailed on pages 17 and 18 of the main agenda report.
The Senior Business Support Accounting Technician, BDC further drew Members’ attention to page 19 of the main agenda report. Whereby it was noted that, following further discussions with the Chief Executive, Wyre Forest District Council, the host for Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS), IT and accommodation providers; the Chief Executive had withdrawn their proposed £13k increase in charges for 2020/2021 and 2021/2022. Therefore, Members were being asked to approve the reduced revised budget.
The Senior Business Support Accounting Technician, BDC highlighted that the remainder of the budgets, as agreed by the Board at the meeting held on 19th November 2020, remained the same.
Appendix 1 to the report detailed the 2021/2022 – 2023/2024 budget breakdown for the district council’s partners and the revised budget for 2020/2021.
Appendix 2 to the report detailed the partner contributions breakdown for 2021/2022 to 2023/2024.
The Head of Regulatory Services responded to a question with regard to Redditch Borough Council’s (RBC) partner contributions, and in doing so explained that partner contributions were based on the original amount of funding that partners put into the partnership in 2010, when the partnership was first formed.
A small exercise was carried out in 2013/2014 to look at revising the partner percentages against the workload created by each of the partner councils.
The only change was that RBC had spent slightly more on its Environmental Health and Licensing services. So, this was reflective of the historical contribution that RBC had always made.
The Head of Regulatory Services responded to a question with regards to Wyre Forest District Council removing the additional £13k increase in hosting WRS. Members were informed that further discussions had taken place with the Chief Executives of each of the partner authorities and that following those discussions the Chief Executive, Wyre Forest District Council had agreed to withdraw the additional £13k charges. However, this was on the assumption that the officer partners of the Board would meet during the summer to further discuss the cost of hosting all aspects of the service going forward.
The Head of Regulatory Services and the Technical Services Manager, Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS), responded to Members in respect of income generation, namely the three additional technical officers working on income generation and the Business and Relationship Manager vacant post.
The Technical Officer, WRS commented that the current Business and Relationship Manager’s post had been kept vacant because of the ongoing situation with Covid-19. Some of those funds had been used for agency staff. Income generation had largely stayed the same, ongoing contracts had continued and there had been some surprising opportunities to bid for additional work outside of WRS’s existing business relationships and significant contracts could be awarded this year. There were some opportunities that officers would be going for.
The Head of Regulatory Services further ... view the full minutes text for item 34/20
The Senior Business Support Accounting Technician, Bromsgrove District Council (BDC), introduced the report and in doing so drew Members’ attention to the Recommendations as detailed on pages 29 and 30 of the main agenda report.
The Senior Business Support Accounting Technician, BDC explained that the report covered the period April to December 2020, Quarter 3.
The detailed revenue report was attached at Appendix 1 to the report. The revised budget for 2020/2021 excluded the increase in ICT and rent at Wyre Forest District Council, as discussed during Agenda Item 4. There was a projected outturn for 2020/2021 of £44k surplus.
It was appreciated that 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 either the Business & Relationship Manager and the Regulatory Apprentice for the current year.
· If April to December 2020 spend on pest control continued on the same trend for the rest of the year , there would be an overspend on this service of £14k.
Appendix 1 to the report detailed the WRS – Profit & Loss Report 2020/2021 showing an overall projected outturn of £88k surplus reducing to a £44k surplus by the year end.
The following variances were highlighted: -
· Savings due to employees working on the Local Outbreak Response Team.
· Reduction in car allowances, due to a change in working patterns with the current pandemic.
· Savings due to a reduction in dogs straying.
Appendix 2 to the report detailed the WRS Income for 2020/2021, Income from Partners, an additional income of £290k.
Councillor J. Squires, Worcester City Council queried the funding received from Public Health. Councillor Squires had noted that the report stated that, any grant funded expenditure was shown separate to the core service costs as this was not funded by the partnership. Where was the accountability for this funding?
The Head of Regulatory Services clarified that effectively Worcestershire County Council (WCC) had commissioned WRS to do a number of pieces of work, so from a financial probity situation, the responsibility for ensuring that the funds were spent well and obtained best value for money would sit with WCC and the Director of Public Health.
The governance of the expenditure fell with WCC.
Members agreed that they were happy with the explanation provided and would ask the Head of Regulatory Services to only provide the Board with further information should there be any future variances to his statement.
a) the final financial position for the period April to December 2020, be noted,
b) partner authorities be informed of their liabilities for 2020/2021 in relation to Bereavements as follows:-
c) partner authorities are informed of their liabilities for 2020/2021 in relation to Pest Control as follows:-
The Community Environmental Health Manager, WRS, presented the Activity and Performance Data for Quarters 1, 2 and 3 for 2020/2021; and in doing so highlighted that, as Members would appreciate the year had continued to be a most extraordinary year in officer’s professional careers; with significant resources increased in quarter 3 with officers either being fully or partly engaged in the Covid-19 response.
As highlighted by the Head of Regulatory Services during the previous agenda item, the suspension of the Food Hygiene inspection programme at the beginning of lockdown would see a significant backlog having to be addressed once lockdown restrictions were lifted. However, he would reassure Members that where intelligence indicated that a premises presented a problem, officers would continue to respond.
There had been an unexpected flurry of statutory nuisance work during November.
On the Health and Safety at Work front, there was a reversal of from the last quarter with accident numbers up and a fall in complaints and enquires. However, two lengthy and complex investigations had concluded in quarter 3, which related to serious injuries being sustained at a workplace and a fatality in connection with leisure activities.
Although numbers increased into quarter 3, the number of licensing cases received in the year to date represented a reduction of approximately 31% and 24% compared to previous years. This was hardly surprising with the hospitality sector and night time economy significantly affected by COVID-19 restrictions and overall officers had seen a significant reduction in the volume of alcohol licensing applications, particularly for temporary event notices.
In quarter 3 planning application numbers continued to rise, following the trajectory predicted by our historical data. Information Requests, often associated with the planning and development process also continued on an upward trajectory during this period, supplemented by requests for information about the Covid-19 response.
Quarter 3 was a period in the year where reporting against the suite of indicators was more limited. The year continued reasonably well from a customer satisfaction perspective with the non-business customer measure at 73.6% and business customers at 98.1%. Given the demands and pressures on the service this year, this was seen as impressive.
People who felt better equipped to deal with issues had fallen slightly from 72.3% to 67.5%, however it was still above the 62% that it was this time last year.
Compliments outnumber complaints by around 4:1 (31:120). Staff sickness was up but still looking good at 1.65 days per Full Time Equivalent (FTE) This included additional staff taken on for the pandemic response. This was better than last year’s figure at Q3 (3.82 days per FTE.)
Members were further informed that, engagement with licensed premises featured heavily in Covid-19 related activity. Officers reported each year on the proportion of premises subject to allegations of failing to uphold the 4 licensing objectives.
The table below showed the levels of allegations that our normal indicator would yield up until 31st December 2020 and alongside these, the same figure if Covid-19 ... view the full minutes text for item 37/20
The Chairman took the opportunity to thank the Technical Services Officer, Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) for the weekly COVID-19 activity updates distributed to Board Members. It was useful to know where there were issues and what those specific issues were and how they were being dealt with.
The Technical Services Officer, WRS then provided the Board with an information report on Covid Advisors.
Members were informed that the Worcestershire district councils had received a grant allocation to fund compliance and enforcement work, therefore Covid advisors were largely funded by the district councils. However, there were now seven posts funded by Worcestershire County Council, following a request from the Incident Management Teams, 3 advisors for Redditch Borough Council and Bromsgrove District Council and 4 advisors for Worcester City Council.
There were 24 Covid Advisors in post, but unfortunately some had recently been lost due to illness. Advisors focused on assisting with business compliance and engaging with the public, ensuring that they were maintaining Covid secure activities. When the infection rates started to increase last year, advisors also engaged with local schools and recreational areas.
During Lockdown 2 preparations were made for reopening of the Night time Economy by attempts to recruit Security trained personal. As well as being more expensive, the supply and quality was generally not good.
Members’ attention was drawn to the Tables as detailed on pages 114 and 115 of the main agenda report.
Some Members further reiterated that the weekly Covid updates from Technical Services Officer, WRS were greatly appreciated and had proved very useful.
At this stage in the meeting, the Vice-Chairman took over the meeting, as the Chairman had had to leave the meeting due to technical issues.
In response to Member’s questions the Technical Services Officer, WRS stated that no real issues had been identified, most issues were minor. Sensible conversations were had with members of the public and the Covid Advisors. People and businesses generally engaged with the Covid Advisors whether the outcome was positive or negative.
The Incident Management Teams had indicated that raised an issue with regards to issues being raised in communities where English was the second language. There had been a particular business that had involved a large outbreak and Public Health were involved, whereby a large number of the workforce were foreign nationals. WRS were able to access both Romanian and Bengali speakers and also had the back up of a translation service.
Councillor Kent took the opportunity to thank the Head of Regulatory Services and his teams for their valued response to Member engagement.
The Vice-Chairman took the opportunity to express further thanks and appreciation to officers for the work they continued to do under very difficult circumstances.
RESOLVED that the Information Report – Covid Advisors be noted.