Select Committee on Regulatory Reform Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by LACORS


  1.  The Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) along with the local Government Association (LGA) and Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) have oral evidence to the committee on 20 May 2008.

  2.  LACORS is an established local government body working with and on behalf of local authority associations across the UK. We aim to facilitate best practice and consistency in the enforcement of regulatory services provided by local councils. LACORS is committed to the improvement agenda in this area. LACORS also works to influence legislation to ensure that the requirements of local councils are understood, and Government policy can be practically enforced.

  3.  LACORS works with all councils across the UK in a number of key regulatory areas, including environmental protection, animal health and welfare, trading standards, food, health and safety, licensing, gambling and private sector housing.

  4.  At that hearing we were asked to provide supplementary detail about our concerns about new legislation coming through the system and the RES Bill. This document outlines that additional evidence.


  5.  Despite the focus on better regulation and simplification of regulation we do continue to be asked to participate in discussions about new legislation or regulatory initiatives where we seriously question the need and enforceability and thus the additional burdens to both business and local councils in having to enforce the legislation.

  6.  As requested by the Committee I have outlined in paragraphs 7-12 below some recent examples. These specific examples relate to legislation that applies in England and Wales.

  7.  There is a proposal from Defra/BERR for a suggested retail ban on products made from illegally sourced wood. This was also proposed in a recent Private Members Bill which I understand was unsuccessful but the government are now looking at proposed regulation. LACORS is clear that the only realistic way to control this is at point of import where it is possible to trace documentation showing the source of the wood. We also feel it is questionable as to what actual impact this type of regulation would have on the very real problem of illegal logging which it would seem needs regulating and controlling at the point of the logging activity not so much further down the supply chain where enforceability becomes almost impossible.

  8.  There are similar proposals from BERR regarding the ban of the sale of products that include cat and dog fur. Again it is our position that the only logical way to regulate this market is at point of slaughter and at point of product import. Nevertheless we have been advised by BERR that the Government has already given a commitment in Europe to take forward the ban and will be putting the enforcement responsibility on local councils trading standards authorities to carry out the work.

  9.  The Violent Crime and Reduction Act will bring into force, on 5/6/08, Alcohol Disorder Zones. The licensed trade, police and local councils are all against the introduction of these zones as the processes are in our view very bureaucratic and it adds additional burdens to both enforcers and businesses. Businesses can be levied additional charges if these zones are deemed necessary in their area. Indeed the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee also raised serious concerns. They rejected the first draft of the regulations and the second version elicited the following comments:

    "We are still left without a clear idea ADZs offer benefits additional to the other methods for combating alcohol-fuelled disorder that are already available to the local authorities. The RIA is that provided for the Bill in 2005, and we question how robust the Home Office's estimates of the anticipated benefits can be if extrapolated from these figures."

    "The Home Office estimate in the RIA that 30 areas will commence the ADZ process in the first year, but only six will move to the charging regime. The Home Office have not supplied projections for subsequent years, which they say will be reviewed after the first year of implementation. The Local Government Association (LGA), which wrote to us about the original draft of the Regulations expressed `serious misgivings about this policy', questioning in particular how they are to recover set-up costs in the anticipated 80% of cases where the issues are resolved before the charging regime can be initiated, and whether they will be liable for the costs incurred by other agencies if the income from ADZ charges is inadequate. The Explanatory Memorandum shows that other significant consultees hold the same view".

    "We are left with the impression that the system will be unduly bureaucratic and without a clear idea of how ADZs will fit in with the other items in the local authorities' toolkit for combating alcohol-fuelled disorder. We were not clear why this policy was required in addition to voluntary measures such as Business Improvement Districts, or enforcement action such as suspending the licences of delinquent bars, or charging delinquent individuals under existing legislation".

    "Our concern is about the transparency and practicality of this proposal: we suspect that, if implemented as set out, this charging structure could result in a large number of individual premises contesting the level of their charge in comparison with that of their competitors, which would result in a significant diversion of local authority resources from addressing the alcohol disorder problem".

    "We wonder how many local authorities will make use of this policy given its complexity, and we draw the Regulations to the special attention of the House on the ground that they may imperfectly achieve their policy objectives".

  10.  We are also aware that the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport announced on 4/3/08 that there was going to be a new regulatory regime for businesses selling alcohol to children involving a yellow card/red card system. Local councils had not been consulted on this and to our knowledge neither had the police or industry. We are unclear as to how this regime is anticipated to work. Further discussions are now taking place but this is after the Ministerial commitment to implementing the proposal.

  11.  The Animal Welfare Act came into force last year. This was a much welcomed modernisation of very old animal welfare laws. However there is a raft of secondary legislation due under the act some of which we have serious questions about. The government however is proposing regulating a range of new businesses (such as bringing in licensing requirements for livery yards) which local councils have never been convinced of the need for but would add new burdens and costs to the businesses involved and to the councils who would have to administer licensing.


  12.  I attach as Annex 1, the recent briefing we provided for MPs on the RES Bill for its second reading in the House of Commons on 21/5/08.1 hope this will provide Committee members with the detail of our position on the Bill and LBRO.

Annex 1


House of Commons Second Reading, 21 May 2008

LACORS/LGA/WLGA Key Messages on the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill

    —  LACORS, the LGA and the WLGA want to ensure that the bill facilitates efficient, less burdensome regulation for councils and businesses, and are supportive of the role of the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) in delivering this.

    —  We are very concerned about proposals to introduce a statutory role for Primary Authorities. Businesses operating in the area of more than one council would have a "light" to a primary authority partnership arrangement with one of those councils.

    —  We strongly believe that the proposed power for LBRO to "nominate" a council to act as a Primary Authority interferes with a council's right to decide on its own service provision.

    —  We support powers which would allow councils to use a broader range of sanctions, but these should be simple and cost effective to use. There must also be provision to allow councils to retain their existing civil and criminal sanctions, which are necessary for public safety and protection.

    —  We strongly oppose any further measures to allow the LBRO to impose prescriptive controls on councils as to how they deliver their local regulatory services.

  Your contacts at LACORS: For further information on this briefing, please contact Abigail Mahony, Policy Officer on 020 7665 3865 or email or Charles Loft, Policy Officer on 020 7665 3874 or email


Part 1—The local better regulation office

    —  Clause 5 sets out the objectives of the LBRO which are to ensure that local authorities exercise their regulatory functions (namely trading standards, environmental health and alcohol licensing) effectively, in a manner which does not give rise to unnecessary burdens, adheres to the principles of transparency, accountability, proportionality and consistency and is targeted only at cases where action is needed.

    —  Clauses 6 and 7 allow LBRO to produce guidance for councils as to how to exercise their regulatory service functions, and give LBRO the power to direct councils to comply with this and other guidance.

    —  The bill gives LBRO the power to prepare and publish a list of priorities which councils should have regard to when allocating resources to various functions.

    —  The bill requires that the Secretary of State must carry out a review of the effectiveness and efficiency of LBRO's function after three years.


    —  Whilst accepting that improvements can always be made, it is felt that in general councils already deliver their regulatory services in a targeted, transparent, accountable and proportionate way.

    —  In England the National Improvement and Efficiency Strategy, which was published in December 2007, commits central and local government to developing a new, joint approach to supporting improvement that is owned and driven forward by local authorities and their partners. It includes the strong message that the arrangements for offering improvement and efficiency support from both central and local government need to be effective, simplified and rationalised. Local government and partners recognise that they must take increasing responsibility for eliminating poor performance where it remains. It is therefore felt that the power for LBRO to direct that a council comply with guidance is an unnecessary addition to centralised powers, and it is at odds with the Government's commitment to devolution and local choice.

    —  We welcome the commitment to review the function of the LBRO. However, we would like clarification that the Secretary of State will consult LACORS and councils when conducting the review.

Part 2—Co-ordination of regulatory enforcement

    —  Clauses 25 and 26 allow for the nomination of Primary Authorities. Clause 26(1 )(b) allows LBRO to nominate a council as a Primary Authority if a business ("regulated person") has requested such a partnership. A business can ask for a Primary Authority partnership if it carries on an activity in the area of more than one council and each of these councils is responsible for enforcing the same type of legislation.

    —  A Primary Authority will give a business advice and guidance in relation to trading standards and/or environmental health matters. This function is set out in Clause 27.

    —  By virtue of Clause 28(1) a council wishing to take enforcement action against a business must notify the Primary Authority. Clause 28(2) states that if the Primary Authority determines that the proposed enforcement action is inconsistent with advice or guidance issued by it then it may direct the enforcing authority not to take the enforcement action. The Primary Authority has five working days to determine if it wishes to direct an enforcing authority not to take action (Clause 28(9)(a)).

    —  Schedule 4 allows the enforcing authority to refer the matter to LBRO if the Primary Authority directs that it cannot take the action, or the business to refer the matter to LBRO if the Primary Authority has not directed that enforcing authority cannot take the proposed action. The Primary Authority may refer the matter to LBRO instead of making the determination itself. This gives LBRO the power to direct a council not to take enforcement action.


    —  LACORS, LGA and WLGA have serious concerns about creating statutory Primary Authorities. We do not agree with the power for LBRO to nominate a council as a Primary Authority without its agreement, we do not see how such a forced relationship could work or deliver positive outcomes for either party or for consumers. It is also felt that this interferes with a council's right to decide on the service it wishes to provide for its own electorate.

    —  We have significant concerns that the regime set out in Clause 28 and Schedule 4 for taking enforcement action would amount to a fettering of a council's right to take any action it feels is appropriate against someone it believes has committed an offence in its area. For one council, or LBRO, to direct another council not to take enforcement action is undemocratic, and an interference in the principles of the judicial system. In the case of LBRO directing a council not to take action this also amounts to a centralisation of power.

    —  In relation to the five working days time limit for a Primary Authority to determine whether it wishes to direct an enforcing authority not to take action, we believe this is wholly unrealistic. LBRO has 28 days to make a decision in cases referred to it, and we propose that Primary Authorities are also allowed 28 days.

    —  LACORS has supported and facilitated the existing voluntary Home and Lead Authority arrangements for many years and believes that they assist in delivering more effective regulation. There are currently in excess of 9,000 entries listed on the LACORS Home Authority Principle database. In a survey[14] of the business perception of the Home Authority Principle, 69% of all respondents were in agreement with a range of positive statements made about Home Authority relationships. It is not felt that the imposition of a statutory regime is necessary.

Part 3—Civil Sanctions

    —  Clauses 40 and 43 set out bureaucratic and lengthy procedures for administering fixed monetary penalties and discretionary requirements, namely variable monetary penalties, stop notices and enforcement undertakings.

    —  Clause 65 requires regulators to publish details of civil sanctions imposed.


    —  We are concerned about the overly bureaucratic procedures for fixed penalty notices and discretionary requirements. These require a notice of intent to be served in advance of the final notice, and will make the whole process time consuming and bureaucratic.

    —  We also feel that regulators should be able to recover their enforcement costs for fixed monetary penalties and enforcement undertakings in the same way that the bill allows them to for discretionary requirements.

    —  We have no objection in principle for the requirement to publish details of civil sanctions imposed, however we would like to clarify that this requirement will be simple, and will not impose undue burdens on councils.

Part 4—Regulatory burdens

  Clause 72 places a duty on the regulator not to impose unnecessary burdens, or to maintain burdens which have become unnecessary. The regulator must also publish a statement setting out what it is going to do in relation to not imposing unnecessary burdens. Clause 73 allows Ministers/Welsh Ministers to make an Order imposing this duty on specific regulatory functions.


  It is felt that the provisions in Part 4 are unnecessary in relation to local council regulatory services. Most councils already adhere well to the principles of good regulation, carrying out their regulatory functions in a manner that is transparent, accountable, proportionate and consistent. In addition, m England the National Improvement and Efficiency Strategy commits central and local government to a joint approach to supporting improvement that is owned and driven forward by local authorities and their partners.

  Councils are already subject to an extensive regime of control, overview and scrutiny of their conduct, and we do not feel that there should be any additional performance monitoring and reporting burdens. Councils also now have to comply with the Regulators Compliance Code which states that regulators, including local authorities should review their regulatory activities and interventions with a view to considering removing or reducing the regulatory burdens they impose. Further, councils do not produce new legislative burdens on businesses. We are of the view that the provisions in Part 4 should apply to the national regulators only.

May 2008

14   Business Perception Survey on the Home Authority Principle. LACORS/DTI, June 2005. Back

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