Memorandum submitted by Local Authorities
Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS)
1. The Local Authorities Co-ordinators of
Regulatory Services (LACORS) is an established local government
central 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 authorities
(LAs). LACORS is committed to the improvement agenda in this area.
LACORS also works to influence legislation to ensure that the
requirements of local authorities are understood, and Government
policy can be practically enforced.
2. LACORS works with local authorities in
a number of key policy areas, including health and safety. We
utilise robust communication systems to facilitate work with councils,
including policy discussion groups, the LACORS website and specialist
3. Since 2004 LACORS has worked with LAs,
HSC and HSE to improve partnership working on the ground between
HSE and LA health and safety enforcement services. This has involved
a significant transformation in ways of working for both LAs and
HSE and is delivering a more efficient and effective regulatory
service to business and the public. The comments in this submission
need to be seen in this context.
Proposed merger of HSE and HSC
4. The evidence section sets out information
supporting LACORS' view that the board of the proposed new body
to be created by merging HSE and HSC should include a minimum
of two members appointed following consultation with organisations
representing local government, rather than one as is currently
proposed. Ideally these members should have experience of local
government with at least one having active political experience
What influence does HSE have as a statutory consultee
in local authority planning?
5. LACORS is concerned that HSE appears
to have been slow to engage with Local Area Agreements and fully
embrace this important opportunity to raise the profile of the
contribution of health and safety services to wider community
priorities, and that this may lead to a reduction in the resources
available to LA health and safety services in the future [paras
6. LACORS is concerned that a lack of HSE's
resources, the decision to move policy staff to Bootle and the
potential waste of resources through the gold-plating of the Impact
Assessment policy may threaten effectiveness of the future relationship
between HSE and LAs [paras 32-7].
How effectively do HSE and local authorities interact
in their inspection roles?
7. Partnership is becoming the way LAs and
HSE do business but that process is not yet fully embedded and,
as we have indicated elsewhere in this document, is potentially
threatened by issues of HSC/E resourcing and reorganisation [paras
8. As mentioned, LACORS works with local
authorities in a number of key policy areas, including health
and safety. We utilise robust communication systems to facilitate
work with councils, including policy discussion groups, the LACORS
website and specialist emails.
9. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act
(HSAW) 1974 local authorities and HSE are accountable to the HSC
for matters relating to their enforcement of the Act. The HSC
also issues guidance to local authorities in relation to their
powers under the Act. HSE and local authorities act as partners
in delivering HSC's objectives.
10. Local authorities are responsible for
the enforcement of health and safety law in over 1.1 million workplaces
employing some 12 million people. Changes in the economy mean
that the LA enforced sector (including the service and retail
industries) is expanding as a proportion of the total relative
to the HSE-enforced sector.
11. Changes in HSC's priorities mean that
there is also an expanding focus on health and safety in the LA-enforced
sector relative to the HSE-enforced sector.
12. Since 2004 the HSE has made significant
progress in building an effective partnership with LAs. HSE regional
partnership teams have made a significant contribution in making
HSE training and delivery resources available to local authorities;
Health and Safety Laboratory resources have been made available
to research projects commissioned by LAs; joint conferences have
been organised. The most significant achievement of the partnership
has been the effective harnessing of LA resources to deliver HSC
priorities in programmed activity supported by HSE materials and
expertise. LACORS sees the development of this partnership as
a major asset to local authority regulatory services and believes
it has led to the delivery of better co-ordinated and targeted
health and safety services to business and local communities.
13. LACORS sees the partnership with HSE
as ready to enter a new phase in which we hope to see LA views
embedded in the development of health and safety initiatives and
to see HSE making a contribution in the development of local priorities.
We are currently involved in discussions with HSE on the development
of LAAs and of HSE's next communications plan. These developments
will, we hope, be supported by the HSC's agreement in 2007 that
local government (LACORS and its Local Government Panel) could
submit papers to its meetings, a development we see as both very
welcome and potentially very significant.
Proposed merger of HSE and HSC
14. LACORS' chief concern regarding the
merger of HSC and HSE is the danger that the new arrangements
will create a body less able to reflect local priorities in its
development of health and safety policy. This view was expressed
in our response to both the HSE and DWP consultations on the merger
proposal (the latter is appended to this document).
15. It is commonly acknowledged that the
days when the HSE, as the body responsible for factories, could
claim to oversee the key areas of the economy are gone. Local
authorities' responsibility for much of the service sector means
their health and safety functions are now central to maintaining
Britain's economic success.
16. It is also commonly accepted that LAs'
role as delivery partners has not historically been reflected
in their relationship with HSC and HSE. As the HSC has acknowledged,
"even after 30 years in existence very few members of the
public are able to distinguish between [HSC and HSE]".
The HSC's own consultation on the merger proposal, drafted by
HSE, ignores local authorities' role in delivering health and
safety services at key points in its argument and in LACORS' experience,
despite recent improvements, the historical tendency of HSE at
the centre to act as if local authorities have no health and safety
role has been slow to alter.
17. A key factor here is that, while HSE
has a long-established policy resource and there are clear routes
by which its views feed into HSC's policy, the LA sector (managers
and health and safety practitioners as well as councillors) lacks
an established and equitable path through which to feed its views
to HSC; meanwhile the HSC has no policy support independent of
HSE. This has resulted in a tendency for HSE to advise HSC with
insufficient regard to the role and requirements of local government
and to ignore the experience and advice available from the local
government sector. The position has improved over recent years
but there remains room for further improvement. LACORS still finds
itself consulted on HSE policy documents impacting on local authorities
at too late a stage and sometimes such papers are submitted to
HSC while omitting to mention local authorities at all. LACORS
wishes to see the early inclusion of LAs in policy development
to become the norm, not the exception.
18. LACORS has played a significant role
in building partnership working between local authorities and
HSE's Field Operations Directorate (FOD) in recent years and welcomes
the progress HSE has made in recognising the need to treat LAs
as partners. In pursuing this objective LACORS has argued that
the organisation of health and safety needs to change in order
to effectively and equitably support its two main delivery arms.
19. Since May 2007 the need for a greater
local government voice in any new body overseeing health and safety
has become even clearer as plans for the new generation of Local
Area Agreements have taken shape in England. LAAs have been established
as what the Government is calling the "only game in town"
for managing LA performance and as a means by which local communities
can pursue national objectives through targets that have local
significance, signalling a move a way from bureaucratically-driven
central targets. A strong local government voice at the heart
of whatever body replaces HSC and effective local government input
into the early stages of health and safety policy-making are essential,
if the post-merger body is not to be left struggling to cope with
the new relationship the Government wants to build between the
centre and local authorities. This view is developed in the following
20. In addition, LACORS' response to the
initial HSE consultation also raised questions about the wisdom
of combining the roles of overseeing the operation of the HSE
and overseeing health and safety policy in one body. These concerns
do not appear to us to have been addressed.
21. By creating a body that, while overseeing
itself, is both the operational partner of local authorities and
their statutory master, the proposal to merge the HSE and HSC
risks unbalancing a system that has a proven track record of success
as the best in Europe. A better working relationship between HSC
and HSE is to be welcomed and provides an opportunity to improve
an already excellent system; not however, if it carries with it
a negative impact on the relationship between local government
and HSC. In particular the new arrangements risk unbalancing the
existing structure by skewing the new body's policies towards
those areas enforced by the HSE at the expense of the equally
significant local authority sector.
22. LACORS feels strongly that one of the
most effective ways to avoid such negative outcomes will be to
ensure that the new body includes a greater representation from
the local authority sector. We welcome the fact that a member
of the new body is now to be specifically appointed following
consultation with bodies representing LAs. However, while this
is not currently a requirement, it is current practice to have
a local government representative, although there is no formal
consultation process for their appointment. This element of the
proposal therefore has only a symbolic significance.
23. Given the vital role of local authorities
in delivering the HSC's objectives and their responsibility for
health and safety in approximately half the workplaces in Britain,
LACORS hopes that the Select Committee will recommend that the
board of the proposed new body to be created by merging HSE and
HSC should include a minimum of two members to be appointed following
consultation with organisations representing local government,
rather than one as is currently proposed. Ideally these members
should have experience of local government with at least one having
active political experience.
What influence does HSE have as a statutory consultee
in local authority planning?
24. This is a key question now that local
authority planningat a strategic levelincreasingly
revolves around Local Area Agreements. As a named partner in devising
these plans HSE ought to have an important role to play in promoting
the contribution health and safety can make towards the national
indicators on which LAAs will be founded.
25. This need is recognised within HSE and
LACORS is working with HSE to promote this contribution. The regional
partnership events at the end of 2007, organised by LACORS and
the Local Authority Unit (LAU) at HSE, provided opportunities
to share experience of LAAs, learn lessons and disseminate information.
26. However, until the passing of the Local
Government and Public Involvement in Health Act in November 2007
there appears to have been little work done within HSE to prepare
to engage with LAAs at a departmental level and as a result the
work that is being done now has been begun rather late in the
27. Individual programmes within HSE have
made efforts to engage with LAAs. Some worthwhile work has been
conducted in the Stress programme and in relation to targets relevant
to issues affecting migrant workers. However, these efforts have
28. Some Partnership Managers
have tried to engage with LAAs but this seems to have been done
on their own initiative.
29. There has also been uncertainty within
HSE as to who should lead on engaging with LAAs.
30. One consequence is that HSE does not
appear to appreciate the centrality of the new national indicators
set and is only now beginning to appreciate the potential conflict
between the Government's desire to concentrate its management
of LA performance on LAAs and the HSC's reliance on LAs to deliver
its priorities. "What happens if an HSC priority does not
contribute to the National Indicators?" is a question the
HSE is only starting to address.
31. HSE's slow start in engaging with LAAs
may impact on the resources devoted to health and safety by LAs
by diminishing the chances of health and safety initiatives being
included in LAAs. It has also created uncertainty over the extent
to which local resources will be devoted to meeting HSC's objectives
Does the HSE have sufficient resources to fulfill
its objectives as the health and safety regulator and meet its
32. LACORS is concerned that the success
of the HSE/LA partnership so far could be undermined by resources
issues in three ways.
33. The appointment of Partnership Liaison
Officers (PLOs) in 2005 played a very significant role in improving
the working relationship between LAs and HSE on the ground. PLOs
were LA officers seconded to HSE, but as the first round of secondments
began to come to an end in late 2006 HSE's financial difficulties
led to a hiatus before new secondments were made. The second round
of secondments has suffered from a cut in funding and some of
the appointments have been part time or for less than a year.
In our view PLOs have proved excellent value for money but need
to be full time appointments for a minimum of 12 months to be
34. At the same time LAU and Partnership
teams have suffered cuts in resources which has seen Partnership
Managers combining their role with that of External Relations
Managers. Taking on this additional workload could hamper Partnership
Managers' core responsibility of managing the delivery partnership
between local authorities and HSE.
35. HSE's decision to move the vast majority
of its London staff to Bootle appears, from anecdotal evidence
we have received, to have had a significant effect on the organisation's
morale. We are concerned that the move to Bootle could lead to
a large turnover of staff and a significant loss of experience.
It is essential that in managing the move to Bootle there are
strategies in place to prevent any undermining of the important
partnership between local government and HSE.
36. Based on the evidence presented in this
section and in recognition of the role of local authorities in
delivering health and safety priorities, LACORS hopes the Select
Committee will recommend that the merged organisation devotes
greater resource to maintaining its operational partnership with
Does HSE allocate its budget efficiently?
37. HSE has recently adopted a new Impact
Assessment procedure, described in HSC's paper HSC/07/55, paragraphs
11-13. LACORS understands that the detailed bedding-down of this
policy is still an ongoing process. LACORS supports the use of
Impact Assessments in evaluating significant new burdens and relevant
policy choices but we are concerned to ensure that the new approach
is not adopted in a way which leads to resources being used to
assess the impact of routine procedures, which as a consequence
may either be delayed at a risk to workers and the public or abandoned
with similar consequences.
How effectively do HSE and local authorities interact
in their inspection roles?
38. In 2004 local government, HSC and HSE
signed a Joint Vision and Statement of Intent of the principles
underlying the LA/HSE partnership.
Partnership work aims to make the best use of respective strengths
to tackle national and local priorities. This programme is intended
to raise the public and political profile of health and safety
among both workers and the public with the aim of emphasising
and increasing its contribution to community health and well-being.
Partnership working between LAs and HSE in enforcing health and
safety since 2004 has served to reduce boundaries between the
activities that LAs enforce versus those that HSE enforces. Initiatives
such as flexible warranting between LA health and safety enforcement
officers and HSE inspectorscurrently being piloted around
the countryallow a more customer-focussed, responsive approach
Current joint working has led to improvements in meeting current
health and safety targets and LAs have committed over 300 staff
years to HSE's key priorities.
39. The various arrangements governing this
partnershippartnership teams, the Local Government Panel,
the policy forum and HELA are proving effective but are only now
becoming embedded. Partnership is becoming the way LAs and HSE
do business but that process is not yet complete and, as we have
indicated elsewhere in this document, is potentially threatened
by issues of resourcing and reorganisation.
22 In drafting these responses LACORS consulted its
officer advisory policy forum (which consists of representatives
of Head of Service and county health and safety practitioner groups
from each English region, Wales and Scotland) and LACORS' Local
Government Panel (LGP). The LGP consists of LACORS' Chairman and
six senior councillors, nominated by the local government associations
of England, Scotland and Wales and drawn from the membership of
those bodies' relevant policy boards. At a meeting with HSC on
15 May 2007, the LGP called for stronger local government representation
on the new body and stressed the need to reflect the partnership
between HSE and LAs on the ground at strategic level, by involving
local government in the early stages of policy-making. Back
HSC A stronger voice for health and safety-A Consultative
Document on merging the Health and Safety Commission and Health
and Safety Executive 2006, paragraph 47. Back
Ibid, paragraphs 14, 20, and 22. Back
In their joint response of September 2003 to the HSE's Review
of the relationship between the Health and Safety Executive and
local authorities, LACORS and the LGA recommended that "the
HSC role should be expanded and the HSE's powers for monitoring
and ensuring LAs" compliance with guidance etc be transferred
to the HSC. The resulting structure would see the inspectorates
of the HSE and of LAs reporting to the same independent auditor.
This would mean that the HSE and LAs would be treated as equals
and would make the enforcement activity of all LAs and the HSE
equally transparent and accountable' on the grounds that it would
engender a "consistent, equal treatment of both LA and HSE
health and safety enforcement services". In their joint response
of December 2003 to the HSE's A Strategy for Workplace Health
and Safety in Great Britain to 2010 and Beyond, LACORS and
LGA reiterated the need for "equity in the partnership between
LAs and the HSE at a strategic and an operational level".
In particular the response called for the performance of both
FOD inspectors and LA inspectors to be analysed and published
by the HSC independently of the HSE and for FOD results to be
made public on the same basis as LAs performance, to allow better
scrutiny of the effectiveness of the deployment of the overall
inspection resource. The response argued that "at present
the HSC relies on HSE staff for secretariat functions and, in
our view, this is not sufficiently independent to instil confidence
in the HSC's role of overseeing the health and safety network.
We urge the HSC to address this". Back
Partnership Managers oversee the enforcement partnership between
HSE and LAs at regional level. Although officially working for
the Field Operations Directorate they appear to be managed by
the HSE's Local Authority Unit. Back
The Statement of Intent was signed in September 2004 by HSC, HSE,
LACORS, LGA, WLGA and COSLA http://www.hse.gov.uk/lau/lacorshealth.pdf Back
Flexible Warrants issued under s19 HSWA 1974 allow one Enforcing
Authority (EA) to appoint another EA's suitably qualified inspectors
to act within its field of responsibility. In other words HSE
and LA inspectors can be appointed to exercise their powers in
each other's premises or spheres of activity. Flexible Warrants
provide a practical tool for dealing with some allocation issues,
but also help to make better use of joint resources (by removing
barriers to action), to increase the speed of response to issues
of significant risk (because of LA inspectors' local presence)
and generally to enhance partnership working (by recognising the
equivalence of powers and skills between HSE and LA staff). Back
The HSE/LA enforcement liaison committee (HELA) was established
in 2006 with senior representation from HSE officials and LA officers-representatives
from England, Scotland and Wales drawn from LACORS' Health and
Safety Policy Forum. The remaining bodies referred to are described
in footnote 1 above. Back