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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 04/09/2007
SCHEME OF OFFICER DELEGATION – ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH FUNCTIONS



Summary & Purpose
This report sets out proposed revisions to the scheme of delegation to officers for carrying out the Council’s powers and duties in relation to environmental health functions.

APPENDIX F
Waverley Borough Council

EXECUTIVE – 4TH SEPTEMBER 2007

Title:
SCHEME OF OFFICER DELEGATION – ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH FUNCTIONS
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and purpose:

This report sets out proposed revisions to the scheme of delegation to officers for carrying out the Council’s powers and duties in relation to environmental health functions.

Environmental implications:

By enabling officers to properly implement the Council’s functions under the appropriate Acts under delegated authority, matters of environmental concern will be remedied.

Social / community implications:

There are positive implications by enabling officers to remedy matters of community concern.

E-Government implications:

There are no e-government implications arising from this report.

Resource and legal implications:

Adoption of the recommendations of this report will allow officers to carry out environmental health functions of the Council under delegated authority. The legal implications are that certain environmental health functions will be secured under delegated authority to officers.

Introduction

1. This report identifies new legislation for which delegated authority is recommended as well as identifying existing gaps in delegation that hinder the effective operation of the Environmental Health Service. These are outlined in the report.

2. Section 101 of the 1972 Local Government Act provides that a local authority may arrange for the discharge of any of their functions by (inter alia) a Committee, a Sub-Committee or an officer of the authority. Failure to arrange for the discharge of functions by delegation does not generally give rise to an implied delegation at law: specific delegation to officers is required. Any officer purporting to exercise functions that, although conferred by statute upon local authorities, have not been specifically delegated by Members to officers, may be acting ultra vires and any such officer’s actions may be void at law. Once a function is delegated to an officer, however, there is a generally implied discretion conferred upon that officer to decide upon further delegation (but with such decisions being open to challenge for abuse of discretion).



Food Safety Legislation

3. The work of the officers in the Food, Health & Safety Team (Environmental Health Section) covers a wide range of food related issues. The officers carry out inspections of businesses preparing, manufacturing, catering, or retailing of food. Certain food manufacturers can be approved to trade under specific legislation, which allows them to supply food to other retail outlets and to trade. If problems are identified during an inspection, officers can take action to protect the public. This can include:

Taking samples and photographs and inspecting business records
Writing to the food business operator informally, asking them to rectify problems
Serving a ‘Hygiene Improvement Notice’, which clearly states what the problem/offence is, what must be done to put it right and the time period for compliance. Failure to comply with the notice is an offence and normally results in prosecution.
Serving an ‘Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice’ which forbids the use of premises or equipment
Detain or seize suspect foods
Recommending a prosecution in serious cases.

4. The implementation of European-led food hygiene legislation in January last year required the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to provide information and guidance to Local Authorities on the authorisation of officers for food legislation.

5. The new food legislation opened up concerns whether a general or specific approach to authorisation under each relevant food and feed statutory instrument of the European Communities Act 1972 was required. Previously food hygiene regulations and delegation arrangements and officer authorisations had been based upon the Food Safety Act 1990, which all but disappeared for food hygiene purposes with the advent of the European-based regulations.

6. The Food Standards Agency funded the Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services organisation (LACORS) to undertake an independent review of legislation relating to delegation of powers and food law enforcement. The review, “LACORS Advice on Local Authority Delegated Powers and the Authorisation of Officers for Food and Feed Law Enforcement” included:

Research on current local authority practice.
Research on all relevant legislation and guidance.
Widespread consultation with local authorities and the LACORS law and evidence focus group.
Independent legal opinion on the robustness of the advice.

7. The results of the review were made available in January this year for local authorities to consider. These published findings have informed Officers in the preparation of this report.

8. The difficulties posed to Local Authorities by using a specific approach would require each change of legislation to require Member approval and cause delays in authorisation with implications for enforcement and open up the prospect of successful challenges against enforcement action taken. The review concluded that authorities should adopt a general approach to the authorisation of Officers using a carefully worded delegation scheme and authorisation template was provided in the review.




Implications For Waverley

9. The findings of the LACORS review mean that changes are needed to the delegation arrangements and authorisation of officers undertaking food work at this Authority to keep arrangements properly in line with current requirements. A proposed suitable scheme of delegation is set out in Annexe 1 to this report.

Requisition for Information Re Interest in Land or Premises

10. Section 16 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 allows the Council to require an individual to state in writing the nature of their interest in a piece of land or premises. This is a useful provision that is used by the Environmental Health Section to establish whom may be a responsible person(s) when undertaking their duties. The signing of the document was formerly delegated to the Chief Executive but now a greater volume of notices are being issued it is more practical for them to be signed by Officers in Environmental Health who are familiar with the cases. In order to improve the efficiency of this action, it is requested that the Council’s Officer Scheme of Delegation be revised as detailed in Annexe 1. This improvement in efficiency would also allow an improved service to members of the public.

Securing Empty Properties

11. Section 29 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 allows the Council to ensure that action is taken so that empty buildings are not open to unauthorised access or present a danger to public health. The signing of the document was formerly delegated to the Chief Executive. Cases that require such action are often urgent matters and it would be more practical for Officers in Environmental Health who are familiar with the cases to sign them. In order to improve the efficiency of this action, it is requested that the Council’s Officer Scheme of Delegation be revised as detailed in Annexe 1. This improvement in efficiency would also allow an improved service to members of the public.

Conclusion

12. Recent changes in legislation have provided an opportunity to review the Council’s Scheme of Officer Delegation in relation to food safety responsibilities. Other revisions identified in this report will assist in improving the efficiency of the Council’s Environmental health functions.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Scheme of Officer Delegation be amended as set out in Annexe 1 to this report and referred to the Council for adoption.

Background Papers (CEx)

Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) “Advice on Local Authority Delegated Powers and the Authorisation of Officers for Food and Feed Law Enforcement.” January 2007

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Victoria Buckroyd Telephone: 01483 523436
E-mail: vbuckroyd@waverley.gov.uk

ANNEXE 1
AMENDMENTS TO SCHEME OF OFFICER DELEGATION –
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH FUNCTIONS

Matters Delegated to OfficersResponsible Officers
1
    (a) The Food Safety Act 1990; and
          (b) any Orders, or Regulations or other instruments: -
                (i) made there under, or
                (ii) relating thereto, or
                (ii) having effect by virtue of the European Communities Act 1972 and relating to food safety or animal feedstuffs; and
(c) any modification or re-enactment of the foregoing
Director of Environment & Leisure

Head of Environmental Services

Environmental Health Manager

Team Leader (Food, Health & Safety)
2Authority to appoint named and suitably qualified Officers to exercise the powers of an Inspector under The Food Safety Act 1990; and any Orders, or Regulations or other instruments made there under or having effect by virtue of the European Communities Act 1972 and relating to food safety or animal feedstuffs, and any modification or re-enactment of the foregoing.Director of Environment & Leisure

Head of Environmental Services

Environmental Health Manager

Team Leader (Food, Health & Safety)
3Authority to sign documents in relation to Environmental Health functions (Section 16 Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.)Director of Environment & Leisure

Head of Environmental Services

Environmental Health Manager

Team Leader (Housing)

Team Leader (Pollution)

Team Leader (Food, Health & Safety)




4Authority to sign documents (Section 29 Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982). Director of Environment & Leisure

Head of Environmental Services

Environmental Health Manager

Team Leader (Housing)

Team Leader (Pollution)

Team Leader (Food, Health & Safety)

Comms/exec/2007-08/066