Local regulatory services across England and Wales are spending around £6 million a year dealing with central Government requests for data – roughly half the salary of an extra environmental health or trading standards officer for every council – according to a new report.
The administrative burden placed on local authority environmental health services, licensing and trading standards has been identified by The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, CIPFA, commissioned by the Local Better Regulation Office, LBRO, to review data collections in regulatory services.
Now the findings are being highlighted by LBRO, on behalf of a coalition of national and local regulators, as part of its mandate to enhance the local regulatory system.
LBRO is working with its coalition partners to find ways to reduce the data burden on local councils. This includes establishing how the data is used and how critical it is to future decision making, cutting the number of forms and questions asked, removing duplicate requests, encouraging use of common terminology and developing common data sharing protocols. It is part of the wider effort, led by the Better Regulation Executive, to reduce the burdens on frontline public sector workers.
The CIPFA report, Data Collections from Local Authority Regulatory Services, found councils had to return 139 forms – sometimes the same form more than once - asking for more than 15,000 pieces of mostly activity related information, to a total of 22 central bodies.
Nearly half of the information requests identified in the report are compulsory and in turn longer and more complex. CIPFA also found a considerable amount of duplication in the questions asked.
CIPFA’s research found the heaviest burden fell on local authority environmental health services, who handle 63% of these requests. Trading standards services handle the remaining 37%. CIPFA said the cost of data returns was six times higher for environmental health services than for trading standards. In two-tier areas in England, district councils were found to have a higher reporting burden than county councils, as environmental health services are delivered by district councils and trading standards by county councils.
LBRO Chair Clive Grace said: “In order to enhance the way regulatory services are delivered across the UK, we need to identify the barriers to continuous improvement as well as the opportunities.
“We cannot ignore the finding that inefficiency in the system is taking resources away from the front line. In the current economic climate, reducing waste and inefficiency within the public sector is more important than ever and our coalition of national and local regulators will be working closely to reduce these burdens.
Alison Scott, CIPFA’s Assistant Director, Local Government, said analysis of the data burden revealed a very varied landscape: “Now we have a good picture of requests and the detail within the requests, it is essential to look at what the central bodies actually do with the information they are requesting from local authorities.”
The LBRO coalition for better regulation includes representatives from central government regulatory departments, the national regulators, local government and professional bodies, supported by a reference panel of local authority regulatory services officers from across the UK.
Established to promote consensus and build common approaches and frameworks that simplify the regulatory system, the coalition aims to support local authority regulatory services, promote the better regulation principles and deliver better outcomes for business, consumers and communities.
The LBRO coalition supports a common approach to excellence and best practice in regulatory services and shares the vision to promote and support excellence by working together to affect innovation and change.
Notes to editors
1. The executive summary and full CIPFA report Data Collections from Local Authority Regulatory Services: Data mapping and costing the administrative burden can be found at www.lbro.org.uk
2. The LBRO coalition partners are:
* Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO)
* Better Regulation Executive (BRE)
* Environment Agency
* Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
* Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
* Food Standards Agency (FSA)
* Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
* Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)
* Trading Standards Institute (TSI)
* National Measurement Office (NMO)
* Gambling Commission
* Communities and local Government (CLG)
* Animal Health Agency
* Welsh Assembly Government
* Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACoRS)
* Audit Commission
* Chief Fire Officers Association
* Institute of Licensing (IoL)
3. The Better Regulation Executive, as part of its programme of simplifying and reducing the administrative burdens on businesses, charities and public sector workers, has made significant progress towards the target to cut the number of data requests on public sector frontline workers by 30 per cent by May 2010. See the report at: http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file45149.pdf
4. The Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) helps local authorities improve their environmental health, trading standards, fire safety and licensing services – reducing burdens on businesses that comply with the law while targeting those who flout it. It was incorporated as a government-owned limited company in May 2007. Following the commencement of the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 on 1 October 2008, it now operates as an executive non-departmental public body, accountable to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills through the Better Regulation Executive. LBRO is governed by an independent Board, has a staff of around 25 and is based in central Birmingham. Our remit covers the whole of the UK and we liaise closely with the devolved administrations to ensure our work in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is appropriate. For further information please visit www.lbro.org.uk
5. CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, is the professional body for people in public finance. Our 14,000 members work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, in major accountancy firms, and in other bodies where public money needs to be effectively and efficiently managed. As the world’s only professional accountancy body to specialise in public services, CIPFA’s portfolio of qualifications are the foundation for a career in public finance. They include the benchmark professional qualification for public sector accountants as well as a postgraduate diploma for people already working in leadership positions.
They are taught by our in-house CIPFA Education and Training Centre as well as other places of learning around the world. We also champion high performance in public services, translating our experience and insight into clear advice and practical services. They include information and guidance, courses and conferences, property and asset management solutions, consultancy and interim people for a range of public sector clients. Globally, CIPFA shows the way in public finance by standing up for sound public financial management and good governance. We work with donors, partner governments, accountancy bodies and the public sector around the world to advance public finance and support better public services.
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