- Matthew Cridland (Regulatory Services Manager – Commercial Standards)
The Regulatory Services Manager presented a brief overview to the Committee and highlighted they key areas for consideration. This included the Department’s Summary of Outputs, which noted numbers of inspections, notices issued and total number of fixed penalty notices issued.
The Regulatory Services Manager reported that since the end of March 2020, Trading Standards and Licencing had provided businesses with advice on over 2,000 occasions, completed 3,000 inspections and assessed compliance on 4,000 occasions. 74 % of these inspections were compliant and 16 % became compliant whilst officers were at the premises, following advice.10 % required further investigation. 45 premises improvement notices had been issued together with 7 closure notices and 3 licence reviews requested.
The Regulatory Services Manager explained the work carried out during the initial lockdown when many businesses were ordered to close and only essential businesses remained open to customers. Those allowed to stay open had to ensure everything was safe by controlling queues and numbers, ensuring social distancing and installing hygiene signs etc. The relevant teams contacted every single business on their database, making sure they knew what was required of them and a duty line was rapidly set up to provide advice. Patrols were also carried out to ensure compliance with the regulations. The sorts of issues that arose were premises such as pubs where open beer gardens were being used, which the proprietor thought were safe, but which was, infact, in breach of the current regulations. Also hairdressers and barbers operating in people’s homes.
Whilst carrying out these checks, there was also an increase in scams and trading standard issues to deal with such as price hiking for goods and services, refunds for cancelled holidays being refused and unsafe personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser.
With the infection rate lessening in the Spring, staff carried out supermarket checks to ensure the signage, movement directions around the shops etc were adequate. All shop Managers were contacted and provided with advice so they knew what was expected of them in these respects. The Service area worked closely with the Police during the pandemic and also City Services Highways in order to organise outside dining areas in the City Centre to enable customers to access services in safety and in compliance with Covid restrictions and regulations. Blatent disregard or non compliance of the regulations by 2 licensed premises in the City Centre were rigorously investigated and licenses suspended.
The Regulatory Services Manager explained that they utilised the four E's approach towards enforcement, which were ‘Engage, Explain, Encourage’, and as a final resort, ‘Enforce’. The figures quoted in the report showed that by engaging and encouraging, the compliance levels were high and the need for enforcement were then very low.
All staff had worked incredibly hard under these difficult circumstances. Legislation was changing on a weekly basis and the need to relay this information to businesses and individuals in a timely manner was paramount and the Regulatory Services Manager praised his staff, saying he believed their effort and dedication had made Newport a safer place to live and work during the pandemic.
The Chair thanked the Regulatory Services Manager for his informative report and on behalf of the Committee, requested that their appreciation be forwarded to all staff for their dedication and hard work during the pandemic.
Members asked the following:
· What was the likelihood of any fines being paid and how would this be enforced?
The Regulatory Services Manager reported that all fines would have to be paid but that they also tried to be responsible and fair. Payment was due within 28 days or it escalated to prosecution for non-payment. Some businesses that had struggled to pay the fines had made representations and these were taken into account and for example, a payment plan set up. As an Authority we would stand firm regarding fine payment, but aim to avoid prosecution for non- payment wherever possible.
· A member asked what type of businesses constituted the non-compliance figures?
The Regulatory Services Manager responded that there was a link to actual breakdowns included in the report. During the Autumn in particular, pubs and clubs were having issues with compliance and so receiving Improvement Notices. The Manager had attended site inspections with officers and acknowledged that it was difficult for Licensees. For example if people lied about numbers in their households, household bubbles etc. it was hard to challenge and contradict people. Similarly, the issues of mask wearing in supermarkets was challenging as staff were concerned they would be policing this requirement themselves. Following meetings with the Supermarket Managers, it was agreed that the staff would just remind somebody of the policy rather than challenge them for non-compliance. Legislation was now in place as part of safe systems of work and masks were mandatory unless exempt on medical grounds.
· A member asked what the situation was whilst in the current lockdown
The Regulatory Services Manager reported that evaluation was ongoing and assistance and advice being given ready for reopening, The Compliance Officers would remain in post until June and possibly extended until September. Lockdown had allowed the opportunity to tackle other high-risk work such as illegal tobacco investigations and of course the normal day to day work had continued alongside.