The Board considered a report which detailed the Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) Annual Report 2021/2022.
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 Head of Regulatory Services highlighted that the report covered the performance of the service from 1st April 2021 to 31st March 2022, both in terms of KPIs and highlights of activity, with a short summary activity report, as detailed at Appendix 5 to the report.
Last year continued to be dominated by the global Covid 19 pandemic, which required a significant resource input from WRS. The service took on several new work-streams to support pandemic response and delivered these well. This had however, meant that some areas of work were more limited during 2021/22, one example being the Food Standards Agency’s work programme, which recommenced in September 2021 via their road-map back to a “new normal” scheduled for 1st April 2023.
Despite these additional commitments, performance remained good in most areas. Food business compliance rates remained high. Taxi license renewals were dealt with within a reasonable time. The taxi fleet appeared to be generally in good order, although the number of vehicles that failed either when submitted to a garage for interim test or, to a lesser extent, whilst in-service had increased, with one partner area standing out.
As with previous years, complaints against the service were significantly exceeded by compliments. The main issues for complainants related to people:
· Unhappy with our response to their complaint about nuisance,
· Having pest controller issues
· Unhappy with Covid Advisor advice
Last year, many people were suffering from “Covid fatigue,” so it was not surprising that being reminded about some of the covid controls were not always welcomed.
However, with non-business customer satisfaction at only 66.5%, managers had realised they needed to move forward on improving speed of response, speed of resolution and keeping people updated on progress. The nature of the service was such that officers would never be able to make everyone happy because a significant proportion of nuisance complaints would not amount to a statutory nuisance, but officers were aware that they could improve performance in this area. Some positions could not be back-filled so teams had been incredibly pressured.
Members were further informed that the Annual Report provided a summary of the financial position, the key achievements and covered issues relating to human resources. There were also sections on risk management and equalities. The Report would be published on the WRS website and would be shared with other all partner authorities.
The Head of Regulatory Services responded to questions from Members with regard to staffing and explained that to a greater extent this had now been resolved, but it had put demand on the service with the covid grant funding ending at the end of March 2022. Officers still had to continue to carry out some work with businesses, so some staff contracts were extended. Members were reassured that there would be no further cost implications for partners with regard to staffing levels.
The Head of Regulatory Services further responded to questions from Members with regard to non-business customer satisfaction being low. Officers would ensure that they complied with the systems in place and with regard to noise complaints, they would keep people informed about any outcomes and timescales.
Members were further informed that with regard to the increase in noise complaints, that a lot of pubs had looked to diversify in order to raise additional income. Residents nearby had been used to having no noise during the pandemic, whilst premises were closed. The complaints were very low level, very minor, so not likely to see an increase in premises being called in for review at Licensing Sub-Committee meetings. People living by premises that were not meeting the licensing objectives, needed to be more proactive and willing to report any businesses in breach of the licensing objectives, and to call them in for review.
The Community Environmental Health Managerresponded to questions with regard to food hygiene inspections and in doing so informed the Board that displaying the ‘Scores on the Doors’ food hygiene rating was not a legal requirement.
With regards to further questions of the percentage of defective vehicles, the Head of Regulatory Services explained that vehicles capable of carrying 9 or more passengers were classed as Public Service Vehicles (PSV) and along with buses were regulated under different legislation to that of hackney carriage and private hire vehicles.
Officers responded to further questions on the Annual Report, which included:-
· Air quality / planning guidance
· Standardisation of taxi standards across partner authorities.
The Chairman thanked the Head of Regulatory Services and officers for a detailed report.
RESOLVED: that the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Annual Report 2020/2021, be noted; and
(a) that a copy of the Worcestershire Regulatory Services Annual Report 2021/2022 be forwarded to the Chief Executive, Managing Director and Members of the six partner authorities.