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Apologies for absence were received from Councillor J. Riaz, Worcester City Council and Councillor K. Taylor, Bromsgrove District 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 Board held on 5th October were submitted.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Board meeting held on 5th October 2023, be approved as a correct record.
The Acting Director of Finances, Bromsgrove District Council (BDC) and Redditch Borough Council (RBC), introduced the report and in doing so drew Members’ attention to the Recommendations as detailed on pages 15 to 16 of the main agenda report.
The report covered the period April to September 2023.
Members were informed that the detailed revenue monitoring report, as attached at Appendix 1 to the report; showed a projected outturn 2023/24 surplus of £24lk. It was appreciated that this was an estimation to the year-end based of the following assumptions: -
· A 2% pay award had been added to the projected outturn figures, as per the original budget. There was a reserved £120k from last year surplus to accommodate an enhanced pay award in 2023/24.
· Agency staff costs were being incurred due to backfilling of staff working on other contractual work e.g., food recovery programme, contaminated land and work for other local authorities, these costs were covered by vacant posts and income generation.
· If April to September 2023 spend on pest control continued on the same trend for the rest of year, there would be an overspend on this service of £14k. WRS officers would continue to monitor and analyse this spend and advise of any changes in the projected outturn figure at quarter 3. The projected outturn figure to be funded by partners was: -
Redditch Borough Council£6k
Wychavon District Council£8k
This income was included in the income projected outturn.
· The following was the actual bereavements costs April to September 2023 to be funded by partners. These costs were charged on an as and when basis. Due to the nature of the charge, it was not possible to project a final outturn figure: -
Bromsgrove District Council £3k
Redditch Borough Council £14k
Worcester City Council £5k
· Appendix 2 to the report, detailed the income achieved by WRS for April to September 2023.
· Any grant funded expenditure was shown separate to the core service costs as this was not funded by the participating Councils.
The Head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services responded to a question from Members with regard to any surpluses / deficits, and in doing so explained that the Service Legal Agreement (SLA) required partners to make up any deficit, and that partners would benefit from any surplus. There was currently £137k in General Reserves and this would be the first port of call for any overspends. Following such an occurrence, if the level of overspend was significant, the ability to use the reserve would allow time for The Board to review the operation of WRS services and whether the model of operations needed to be revised ahead of a new budget being set for the following year.
The income brought in during the first half of 2023/24 was £204k, which was slightly below the previous year. This equated to 6.8% for 2023/24 and 7.7% for 2022/23.
Members were reassured that the Technical Services Manager, WRS, continued to source new business.
RESOLVED that the Board notes the final ... view the full minutes text for item 23/23
The Head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) presented the Activity and Performance Data for Quarter 2 – 2023/2024; and in doing so drew Members’ attention to the recommendation, as detailed on page 23 of the main agenda report. The following key points were highlighted: -
The second quarter of 2023/4 was a relatively damp affair, which had impacted on at least one or two of the measures. Worcestershire continued to be a draw for activities with a range of events and festivals continuing to feature and now that we were beyond the pandemic, crowds appeared to be returning, but this was not to everyone’s liking.
Although there was a rise in the number of complaints and enquiries between Q1 and Q2, the overall number of food safety cases recorded by WRS during the year to date was a reduction of 37% compared to 2021-22, and a reduction of 11% compared to 2022-23. In general terms, a higher proportion of food safety cases were enquiries such as requests for business advice or requests for export health certificates.
Q2 saw the rise in numbers of accidents reported slowing and the number of complaints and enquiries still increasing. Despite this, the number of health and safety at work cases recorded by WRS during the year to date was still 32% lower compared to 2021-22.
Although applications were running more or less on trend, and complaints and enquiries were on the up, the overall number of licensing cases recorded by WRS during the year to date was an increase of 10% compared to 2021-22, but a reduction of 1% compared to 2022-23. This probably reflected the new post-pandemic normal and may be true for a number of our trends. Approximately 68% of cases were applications and registrations; with 29% of these cases relating to private hire or hackney carriage vehicle licences and 27% relating to temporary events.
Numbers of planning enquiries fell during Q2 following an increase in Q1, however, for the year to date the total still represented a reduction of 30% compared to 2021-22, but an increase of 8% compared to 2022-23. Approximately 93% of enquiries had been consultations, whilst 45% related to contaminated land. Around 16% of enquiries were completed, on a contractual basis, on behalf of other local authorities.
Interestingly, the number of information requests, which were often linked to the planning system, grew during Q2, so we may see an increase in planning work to follow this. Having said that, officers continued to report feeling that the number of general FOI requests had been higher than previously experienced.
Although the number of dog control (strays, lost dogs, etc) cases recorded by WRS fell from Q1 to Q2, overall, the figure during the year to date was an increase of 35% compared to 2021-22, but an increase of 9% compared to 2022-23. Approximately 90% of cases were related to stray or lost dogs, with 74% of these cases relating to "contained strays" (meaning dogs were found and held ... view the full minutes text for item 24/23
The Acting Director, Finances, Bromsgrove District Council (BDC) and Redditch Borough Council (RBC), introduced the report and in doing drew Members’ attention to the recommendations, as detailed on pages 63 to 65 of the main agenda report.
Members were informed that, as detailed in the report, that there was a gross expenditure budget of £4,572k and a total income budget of £961k.
The revenue budget and partner percentage allocations for 2024/25 onwards, was detailed in the table at recommendation 1.3, page 63 of the main agenda report.
Members attention was drawn to the WRS Budgets 2024/25 information, as detailed on page 66 of the main agenda report and the following assumptions made in relation to the projections, as follows:-
· The enhanced pay award for 2023/24 was reserved from 2022/23 surplus. WRS were not able to fund this increase year on year, therefore an increase in partner funding would be required.
· 3% pay award across all staff for 2024/25, 2% for 2025/26 & 2026/27.
· Increase in Rent of £4.6k in 2024/25, a further 4% in 2025/2026 and 2026/2027
· Increase in ICT Hosting of £4.4k, a further 4% in 2025/26 and 2026/27
· Increase in Support Hosting of £4.9k in 2024-25, a further 3% in 2025/26 and 2026-27
· Total partner contribution as included in Appendix 2
· Income projections as included at Appendix 3.
· No inflationary increases in supplies and services or transport.
· Pension back-funding to be paid by all partners.
Members were asked to note that, 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 an additional post on the establishment to bring in additional income agreed by partner councils and the animal activity and gull control officer recharge percentage basis was different to the agreed partner recharge allocations
The Acting Director, Finances, (BDC) and (RBC) further highlighted to the Board that, following discussions, Partner Officers of the Board had agreed to support Worcester City Council to achieve its budgetary requirements for 2024/5; and that the starting point for their contribution before the additions for salary pressures, etc, would be £30K less than the previous year. Officers had identified several areas where work might be varied and the detail of this would be dealt with at officer level in the coming months, ahead of the new financial year.
Following on from this, Councillor T. Onslow, Wyre Forest District Council asked for a further explanation on the reduction of £30k for Worcester City Council; and further highlighted that Wyre Forest District Council had a budget deficit to address and that they would be looking across all service areas for savings.
The Acting Director, Finances, (BDC) and (RBC) explained that Worcester City Council had approached Chief Officers 3 / 4 months previously looking for reductions. Therefore, the Head of WRS had looked at services to see what WRS could deliver without affecting other partner authorities.
The Licensing and Support Services Manager, Worcestershire Regulatory Services, briefly reminded Members that an update had recently been provided at the meeting of the Board on 5th October 2023.
Due to the short time since the last report to the Board, the amount of change that could be reported was limited. Officers continued to quality check additional forms whilst testing on the financial system took place; and planning for the second phase continued.
Now officers had the merchant ID, the team had been liaising with Adelante (the financial payment platform) who were now assessing how to attach the ID to the appropriate items in the online store. This would allow the appropriate monies to be transferred to Bromsgrove District Council (BDC) and then redistributed to the relevant partner authority.
Sample files had already been exchanged to ensure monies received into Tech-One, the BDC finance system, related to the item details that were on the interface file. The final version could then be loaded onto the Tech One system.
Meetings had been set up with the Communications Team to discuss the soft launch strategy of the plan, so that this could be discussed with stakeholder groups in testing phase two. It was important that all of the information that customers required to complete the forms was available at this stage. This would include: -
· Website Update
· FAQ’s – Frequently asked questions
· Guidance Documents
Some of these may require changing or editing throughout the testing stages.
Sadly, several obstacles had arisen that the team continued to address by working with our external providers. Firstly, the address base gazetteer had required a software update to ensure the most current correct addresses were being used in the system. This would be normal for most address-based systems that, from time to time the associated gazetteer needed to be updated. This should ensure that newer addresses were easy for applicants to put into the system.
Secondly, there had been a delay in implementing the licensing connector from IDOX, our long-standing database supplier, which was required to ensure the correct district was paid once an applicant had selected the district from a drop-down list. Officers had been informed that this would be available as part of a IDOX upgrade in January 2024. Clearly, officers wanted to ensure that the process was seamless and would not consider moving to live until they knew that the right monies would be identifiable and portable to the correct partner authority.
In parallel to the wider automation project, officers continued to assess the roll out of electronic ID Cards in the taxi trade for both safeguarding and enforcement measures and this had progressed. IT colleagues at Wyre Forest continued to work on the dashboard implementation and were now starting to trial this. Once officers understand the timeframes of this in more detail, a plan would be executed for implementation across the County.
The Technical Services Manager. WRS, responded to questions from the Board and in doing so explained that, with ... view the full minutes text for item 26/23