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ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSUMER PROTECTION

MINUTE of MEETING of the ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSUMER PROTECTION COMMITTEE held in the Town and County Hall, Forfar on Tuesday 8 January 2002 at 4.00pm.

Present: Councillors SHEENA WELSH, IAN ANGUS, BILL CROWE, FRANK ELLIS, ALISTAIR GRAY, JOHN HENDERSON, IAN MACKINTOSH, JOY MOWATT, PETER MURPHY, ROBERT MYLES, PETER NIELD and BILL ROBERTON.

Apology: An apology for absence was intimated on behalf of Councillor STEWART McGLYNN.

Councillor WELSH, Convener, in the Chair.

1. EXCLUSION OF PUBLIC AND PRESS

The Committee resolved, in terms of Standing Order 27(2), that the public and press be excluded from the meeting during consideration of item 2 below, so as to avoid the disclosure of information which was exempt in terms of Part 1 of Schedule 7A of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, paragraphs 6, 8, 9 and 10.

2. VEHICLE TENDERS

With reference to Article 2 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 6 November 2001, there was submitted Report No 9/02 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection detailing tenders received for the supply of a Mechanical Sweeper.

The Committee agreed to note the tenders received in respect of a vehicle valued up to £30,000 for which the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection had delegated authority to act in terms of Financial Regulation 16 and his acceptance of the tender for the purchase of one Hako City Master 300 Sweeper from Alpha Plus (Scotland) Ltd, Uphall, West Lothian at a cost of £24,940.

3. MINUTES

(a) Previous Meeting

The minute of meeting of this Committee of 6 November 2001 was approved as a correct record and signed by the Convener.

(b) Executive Sub-Committee

The minute of meeting of the Executive Sub-Committee of 20 December 2001, a copy of which is appended hereto, was submitted and noted (APPENDIX 1).

4. LANDFILL TAX CREDIT SCHEME

With reference to Article 5 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 25 September 2001, there was submitted letter dated 8 November 2001 from the Recycling and Waste Team at the Scottish Executive Environment Group, a copy of which had been circulated with the agenda.

Following discussion, the Committee agreed to instruct the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection to write to HM Treasury and HM Customs and Excise requesting further information on the proposals being developed for replacement arrangements for the land tax credit scheme.

5. FOOT AND MOUTH

With reference to Article 10 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 25 September 2001, there were submitted letters which had been received from the Foot and Mouth Policy Team in the Agriculture Group of the Scottish Executive Environmental and Rural Affairs Department, and the Foot and Mouth Communications Branch of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, copies of which had been circulated with the agenda.

Following a full discussion, the Committee agreed that Councillor Mowatt, in her capacity as Angus Council's representative, ask COSLA's Rural Affairs Committee to press the Scottish Executive for:-

(a) a public inquiry to be held into the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease; and

(b) the introduction of a stronger import control policy.

6. FIRST FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY AUDIT

With reference to Article 6 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 6 November 2001, there was submitted the final version of the Audit Report which had been agreed between the Director of the Environmental and Consumer Protection and the Food Standards Agency.

The Committee agreed to note the position.

7. FOOD HYGIENE CAMPAIGN 2002

There was submitted Report No 10/02 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection advising the Committee that the Food Standards Agency UK intended to implement a Food Hygiene Campaign in the first quarter of 2002. The objective of the campaign would be to reduce the incidence of foodborne disease caused by poor food hygiene practices.

The Report indicated that a target of 20% reduction in incidence of foodborne disease by April 2006 had been set in July 2000 and the Foods Standards Agency UK had devised a strategy to attain this target. The strategy, which had been devised after consultation with various stakeholders, was based on the following elements:-

· The continued implementation in food business of the Hazard Analysis Critical Points Scheme

· The education and training of food handlers

· Hygiene in the Kitchen Campaign

The Food Hygiene Campaign would be aimed at both commercial premises and food handlers in the home and would be implemented in the first quarter of 2002 in two phases. Phase 1 would be aimed at commercial premises, which it was hoped would commence in January 2002, and phase 2, which would be clearly aimed at the domestic consumer, would be launched during April 2002. The hygiene message used would be similar in both phases of the campaign with the key messages being to inform the proprietor, employee and consumer of the ease of spread of bacteria in the kitchen and how to stop the spread; the need for food handlers to effectively wash their hands; the separation of raw meat from other foods; and the need to thoroughly cook and reheat food.

The Food Standards Agency intended to provide every food authority in Great Britain with written material to be used in the campaign prior to the launch in 2002. Provision of this material would enable food authority staff to deal with enquiries and use the material in their local safety promotional work throughout the year. The Report concluded that this was a very ambitious campaign and the 20% reduction in foodborne disease would be a difficult target to meet by 2006. However, this was a fresh approach to a national problem and should be supported by Angus Council in its various food safety initiatives during 2002.

The Committee agreed:-

  1. to note the contents of the Report;
  2. to endorse the overall objectives of the campaign; and
  3. to support local initiatives by the staff of the Environmental and Consumer Protection Department as they endeavoured to attain the campaign objectives in Angus.

8. TRADING STANDARDS MOTOR VEHICLE TEST UNIT

With reference to Article 15 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 7 November 2000, there was submitted Report No 11/02 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection advising the Committee on the results of the first year's operation of a mobile motor vehicle test unit in Angus to check on the safety standard of vehicles offered for sale, and for standards of servicing and MOT testing.

The Report indicated that two Trading Standards staff had undergone training to use the vehicle sales and servicing checking unit effectively to assist with consumer protection enforcement work. During the occasions that the unit had been operating in Angus, some 82 vehicles had been examined, 10 of which were issued with Suspension Notices under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. In addition, staff of the Vehicle Inspectorate had issued nine Vehicle Prohibition Notices and six Advisory Notices under Road Traffic Legislation. Also, the work of the unit had resulted in at least one vehicle being reported to the Police on suspicion of it being stolen and had enabled the Vehicle Inspectorate to do follow up MOT checks where suspicions had been raised as to the adequacy of MOT Tests on submitted vehicles.

The reaction of traders to the work of the unit had generally been favourable, despite initial objections to the need for such checks. Those local authorities who were members of the scheme also saw the unit as a great success and had benefited from cross boundary co-operation. Efforts were now being made to persuade the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to continue some form of financial support beyond the initial period which ended in January 2002. The Report concluded that it would be disappointing if the DTI did not continue to support this project. It was one of the successes of their cross boundary collaboration strategy which could fail if they did not show commitment to continuing to support this worthwhile enforcement initiative in a trading sector which still generated many consumer complaints.

Following discussion, the Committee agreed:-

  1. to note the contents of the Report; and
  2. to instruct the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection to write to the Department of Trade and Industry stressing the usefulness of the scheme which had been well received by the residents of Angus.

9. ABANDONED CARS ­ A CONSULTATION DOCUMENT

There was submitted Report No 12/02 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection advising the Committee on a consultation document received from the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) seeking views on how the problem of abandoned cars could be better regulated. It was the Government's expressed intention to act swiftly upon the proposals contained therein.

The Report indicated that it had been the duty of local authorities to remove and dispose of abandoned cars since legislation on the issue had first been enacted in the 1970s. Due to the sharp fall in scrap metal prices, dumped cars had become an increasing eyesore on streets and a real danger to children who were attracted to them. Although this was not an acute problem in Angus, it was increasing. More than 350,000 cars were estimated to have been dumped in the UK in the past year, with the total in Angus being 56.

Currently, in Angus, vehicles that were abandoned and reported to the ECP Department were checked out with the Police to establish if an owner could be traced. Normally, the last owner on the DVLA record would claim they had previously sold the vehicle to another party and that they were no longer the owner. A notice of either 15 or 7 day removal was placed on the vehicle and, at the expiry of the notice period, the vehicle was removed by a contractor engaged for this purpose. During the period of notice, the vehicle was often vandalised or stripped for spare parts and became a hazard, particularly to children who were attracted to the wreck. Currently each disposal of a vehicle paid for by Angus Council averaged £45 and the cost for the last full year 2000/2001 (at the current prices) was £2,520, with the cost trends rising.

Although changes to the Regulations in Scotland were a matter for the Scottish Parliament, the Government believed that local authorities were best placed to deal with local concerns and to respond to local circumstances in dealing with abandoned cars. In the short term, the Government's approach was to enhance the tools available to local authorities to deal with abandoned cars to enable them to do so more quickly and more efficiently. It proposed to do this by reducing the notice period after which it was possible for local authorities to remove vehicles, enabling local authorities to access information from the DVLA database more quickly and easily and promoting best practice. In the longer term, the Government believed that stringent measures were needed to ensure that all vehicles could be associated with a registered keeper who had clear responsibility for ensuring that the vehicle was operated legally and who remained responsible for civil and criminal penalties arising from misuse of that vehicle while it was in their possession. Angus Council's response to both the short term and longer term proposals detailed in the consultation document were outlined in the Report.

Following discussion, the Committee agreed that Report No 12/02 be sent to the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions and COSLA as Angus Council's input to the consultation process.

10. THE CONTROL OF ROOF NESTING SEAGULLS

There was submitted Report No 13/02 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection advising the Committee of concerns which had been expressed and complaints which had been received on the issue of roof nesting gulls in Arbroath, Montrose and Monifieth during summer/autumn 2001. The Report examined the control methods and legal protection of these birds.

The Report indicated that, for several years up to 1995, Angus District Council had operated a scheme for the removal of gull nests and eggs from the roofs of buildings in Arbroath. The scheme applied only to certain areas of Arbroath and did not extend to any of the other Burghs. A contractor had been appointed to carry out the work which had been paid for by the Council and offered as a free service. The scheme appeared to have been successful with a reduction in the number of gulls nesting on high buildings and roofs in Arbroath.

The protection of wild birds was regulated by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which empowered the killing of wild birds and removal of nests and eggs in certain circumstances providing it was carried out in accordance with the terms of a licence granted by the Scottish Ministers. Essentially, under the Act (as amended), general licences issued by the Scottish Ministers allowed action only for the purpose of preserving public health or air safety, preventing the spread of disease or preventing serious damage to livestock or crops.

The Director considered that Angus Council could not justify, in terms of the licences, wholesale culling of eggs and nests as had been undertaken during the 1980s and early 1990s as there was no evidence that the presence of gulls was affecting public health. The total number of complaints had been 28 over two gull breading seasons (2000/2001) with 10 incidents of gull attack being reported. However, the Director was aware that other incidents might have taken place that had not been reported.

All owner/occupiers of buildings which had roof nesting gulls were strongly urged to provide the building with deterrent measures suitable to the individual building and advice would be provided by Angus Council on deterrence. Detailed advice on proofing measures would be made available to customers seeking this advice through a copy of a booklet entitled "The Control of Roof Nesting Gulls" a draft copy of which was attached as an Appendix to the Report. There was also evidence that feeding of gulls did take place in Angus towns and this encouraged gulls to live on the roofs of the towns and was a contributor to the problem. It would therefore also be helpful if members of the public refrained from this practice.

Following discussion, the Committee agreed:-

  1. to instruct the Director to produce a booklet on the control of roof nesting gulls which outlined the legal position, Angus Council's responsibilities, control measures available and methods of gull proofing and to make this available through Council outlets;
  2. to consider, where appropriate, the erection of signs requesting the public to refrain from feeding gulls in areas identified as causing particular problems;
  3. to consider, with the Director of Property Services, the feasibility of proofing all Council owned property where gulls were nesting or roosting; and
  4. to offer an advice service to customers on request.

11. LOO OF THE YEAR AWARD

The Committee was advised of Angus Council's success in achieving a number of awards in the National "Loo of the Year" Award sponsored by the Tourist Boards of England, Wales and Scotland.

Angus had received the following awards:-

The Baltic Street loos had also achieved the Scottish National Award for accessibility, meeting all the requirements for people with special needs while, in the roll of honour of authorities achieving five star awards, Angus had been placed sixth in UK terms and second in Scotland.

The Committee agreed to note that all five of the Council's "Super Loo" Teams had received awards, maintaining the Council's position as an authority providing consistently high standards of public toilets and to congratulate the staff involved.

12. PERFORMANCE NETWORKS

With reference to Article 13 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 9 January 2001, there was submitted Joint Report No 40/02 by the Contract Services Manager, the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection and the Director of Recreation Services advising the Committee on the outcome of the Association for Public Service Excellence (formerly Association of Direct Labour Organisations) performance networks which were used for Best Value Benchmarking of Sport and Leisure Management, Parks and Open Spaces and Building Cleaning. Due to operational difficulties at the time of submission, the information relating to transport services had not been submitted this year. A full copy of all the performance indicators for the three services had been placed in the Members' Lounge.

The Report indicated that, as in all analytical information, care had to be taken in the interpretation of the results, but generally Angus Council had done well in Sport and Leisure Management, Building Cleaning Services and Parks, Open Spaces and Horticultural Services, in comparison with other authorities. This year's results very closely reflected the findings of last year.

The Committee, for its interest, agreed:-

  1. to note the contents of the Report;
  2. to ask each relevant Chief Officer to ensure that the benchmarking and information provided be utilised to improve the Angus performance, where necessary; and
  3. to record its appreciation of the efforts made by the staff in preparing the submissions in an extremely tight timescale.
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