FSA Enforcement Letter (ENF/E/07/009), 1 February 2007
This letter advises you of the outcome of the 2006 consultation exercise on proposed changes to the monitoring system used by Local Authorities (LAs) to report food law enforcement activities to the FSA. The consultation ran from 31 July to 20 October 2006.
There are two key messages which LAs will wish to note, because they will directly affect their business planning and reporting for the approaching financial year 2007/08:
The Agency now plans to have the new enforcement policy and the new monitoring system completed, and final versions delivered to LAs, by end December 2007. The companies providing IT software services should also have their new applications developed and tested by that date. The reason for only asking for nine months' monitoring data is to create a three month window in which LA colleagues can learn about and receive training on the new arrangements, and to allow LAs time to install software upgrades from their suppliers. The Agency will be developing plans for the delivery of training during this period, to cover both the principles of the new enforcement policy and the specific methodology of the new monitoring system.
LEVEL OF RESPONSE
A total of 124 responses were received to the consultation, including 81 from individual LAs and 32 from regional groups (Food Liaison Committees in England , and composite replies from the LAs in each of Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland). In total, these replies represented 330 out of 468 LA across the UK . The Agency is very grateful for such a high level of response, and wants to thank every LA which was involved.
Details of the specific comments offered on each of the questions and issues in the monitoring consultation are to be placed on the Agency's website. A summary of the responses to the key questions in the consultation is attached (See Annex Below).
As was reported in the FSA Board paper PRO 06/10/02, from October 2006, the monitoring review is now part of the Agency's work to develop its “New Vision” for food law enforcement, adapting to the new government approach to regulation in general. That work encompasses four reviews, of the enforcement policy, the monitoring system, the audit arrangements and the Framework Agreement. The Agency is taking the comments made on this consultation into account as the details of the proposed new monitoring system, and the planned new enforcement policy, are developed. Further letters will be sent to all LAs to keep them informed of developments.
For the monitoring review, work is now continuing on the draft data requirement for the planned system of data transfer. The aim is to issue the data requirement to the IT software companies, and to LAs (for those which operate “in house” systems”) by the end of this month. Additionally, an overview of the new system should be made available to all LAs within the next month.
Although the implementation date has been put back to 1 April 2008, food safety colleagues (on both food hygiene and food standards) within each LA are strongly urged to note that implementation of the new software upgrades from their IT application providers, due by December 2007, needs to be included in their LA's IT plans for 2007/08, and to work in co-operation with their colleagues on the LA's IT systems to ensure that this planning is done.
For the review of enforcement policy, to introduce the suite of interventions and to adapt the Code of Practice accordingly, further work is now under way, and proposals will be issued for consultation later this year. Further information will be given as soon as possible.
For related news item, see:
ANNEX : 2006 CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE LA MONITORING SYSTEM - MAIN ASPECTS OF THE RESPONSES
This annex provides a summary overview. Where percentages are given, these are percentages of those LAs represented in the replies to a specific question, including via composite replies.
Policy of interventions
This was widely supported: 96% of LAs represented agreed. Some concerns were raised, such as on consistency of application, and the danger of cuts in resources. Many questioned why the Code of Practice had not been amended first. We accept that the relative timings are not the best, but they arise from the fact that the monitoring review had already begun when the government's new approach to regulation emerged. Full harmony will be restored by adopting a common implementation date for both the new enforcement policy and the new monitoring system.
There was broad support for the proposed list of categories of intervention for monitoring purposes. However, many replies questioned the concept of “earned autonomy”, and several were strongly opposed.
Timing of implementation of changes
On the question of whether LAs would be able to introduce the planned changes part way through the 2007/08 financial year, 87% of LAs represented said that they could not. In view of this clear message, the Agency has decided to put back the planned implementation date to 1 April 2008.
Proposed outcome measure of “broadly compliant”
59% of LAs supported the proposal. Specific questions were raised about whether the model could be used for food standards work by LAs which follow the LACORS risk rating model, and about how it could relate to the DTI's overall outcome measure for all trading standards work. Several replies asked how this measure would fit with ideas being developed for Scores on the Doors schemes, and about how it might take account of particular local circumstances. Many replies also commented on the proposed scoring for “broadly compliant”, which had 53% support.
A majority of replies argued that assessments of “broadly compliant” should only be made or changed after active interventions, not passive ones.
Scoring of the matrix
Opinions were fairly evenly divided between support, opposition and no comments on the proposed 70:30 ratio for scoring the overall matrix assessment of the LA's work. 36% of LAs supported.
This is the proposed split between 70% for the outcome measure (the percentage of premises considered to be broadly compliant with the law) and 30% for the performance indicator on interventions (the percentage of interventions due which were achieved).
Opinions were fairly evenly divided on whether the outcome measure of “broadly compliant” should cover all premises, or be restricted to the higher risk ones.
There were many calls for specific and detailed guidance and training, for both the new monitoring system and the planned new enforcement policy. These will be taken into account in the training to be developed for delivery to LAs in early 2008.