To consider the report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration & Community Services.
The Service Manager Public Protection advised that the report had been presented following a request made for information related to the end of the collaboration with Torfaen and the implications for the Licensing Service. The Service Manager provided an overview of the report which detailed the reason for the creation of collaboration along with current and future budget implications as well as temporary changes to the Licensing Team since the joint working arrangement ended for Licensing in the summer.
The Service Manager referred Members to the current cost pressure as a result of the end of the collaboration which was approximately £35,000 and advised that this had been met by reduced hours in a Trading Standards post that became vacant and which worked across both teams in Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen.
The Service Manager further referred to the cost pressure for 2020/2021 of £106,000 and advised that although the reduced hours post achieved £18,000 there was a need for the service area to find the remainder of the cost pressure. Before addressing the cost pressure, the Service Manager has been tasked with a review of Front Line Enforcement Services, which was ongoing. The outcome of this review would help to inform the necessary service change and staff restructure in Public Protection. If staff numbers were to be reduce, this would be dealt with in full consultation with staff, OD and trade unions. The Service Manager continued that although there are budget pressures, the Public Protection Service would still be asked for service growth.
The Service Manager further confirmed that although interim changes had been made in the management of the Licensing Team there had been no changes in the number of operational staff in the Licensing Service as a result of the termination of the collaboration with Torfaen.
A Member referred to the review of front line staff and raised concerns around the possibility of staff reductions in Public Protection. The Member felt that a reduction in staff would have a detrimental impact on the service provided. The Public Protection Team on the ground was critical and would not be as robust if staff were reduced. The Member referred to recent convictions for counterfeit goods and reiterated his concerns as staff had done an excellent job and he would not want to see financial pressure reduce the exceptional service provided by the Authority.
The Service Manager Public Protection concurred with the concerns raised and had hoped that the review would minimise the impact on the frontline service. However, the Service Manager stated that the joint working/shared management arrangements with Torfaen had served to protect the frontline services of the last 3-4 years. If the collaboration had not taken place, the front line services would have significantly reduced during that 3-4 year period.
Another Member stated that from an elected representative’s point of view it was far more advantageous to have the expertise of a Licensing Team in house. The Service Manager Public Protection noted the concerns and advised that a number of aspects of Public Protection had been outsourced due to budgetary cost pressures over the last few years (e.g. Animal Health & Pest Control) and therefore if budgetary pressures continued then collaboration in relation to Licensing may have to be considered in the future.
RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the information contained therein be noted.