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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 20 February 2001 at 4.00 pm.

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

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 items 2, 3 and 4 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 and 9.

2. VEHICLE AND PLANT TENDERS

With reference to Article 2 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 9 January 2001, there was submitted Report No 222/01 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection detailing tenders received for various vehicles and plant.

The Committee agreed to note the tenders received in respect of vehicles and plant individually valued up to £30,000 for which the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection had delegated authority to act in terms of Section 16 and Appendix 1 of Financial Regulations, and his acceptance of the following tenders, namely:-

  1. the purchase of two Pedestrian Sweepers from Applied Sweepers, amounting to £9,768 each; and
  2. the purchase of one Ford Transit dual fuel LPG/Petrol vehicle with small truck body conversion from A M Phillip, Muiryfaulds amounting to £25,220.

3. G & B CONTRACTORS LIMITED - INSOLVENCY

With reference to Article 12 of the minute of meeting of the Personnel and Property Services Committee of 30 January 2001, there was submitted Report No 126/01 by the Director of Property Services reporting on the recent insolvency of G & B Contractors Limited, the effect on current Council building projects and the action being taken by the Property Services Department.

The Committee, for its interest, agreed to note the terms of the Report.

4. STAFFING IN ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSUMER PROTECTION DEPARTMENT - ADDRESSING NEW BURDENS

There was submitted Joint Report No 224/01 by the Director of Personnel and the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection recommending the establishment of new posts and adjustments to existing posts within the Environmental and Consumer Protection Department to meet new burdens in terms of service provision and enforcement responsibilities.

The Committee agreed to note and approve the terms of the Report.

5. MINUTES

(a) Previous Meeting

The minute of meeting of this Committee of 9 January 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 23 January 2001, a copy of which is appended hereto, was submitted and noted (Appendix 1).

6. THE INJUNCTIONS DIRECTIVE "STOP NOW" ORDERS

There was submitted Report No 225/01 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection advising the Committee of new Consumer Protection measures, originating in the European Union, which would shortly be introduced into UK legislation.

The Report indicated that the new regulations would provide a change of focus for trading standards authorities, away from criminal law enforcement to civil law, under which the authority could apply to the Courts for "Stop Now Orders" to prevent traders from continuing to infringe legislation where their actions could harm consumer interests.

The Report concluded that the additional powers were to be welcomed but expressed concern regarding the serious impact on the work of the Department, particularly if no new funding was forthcoming.

The Committee agreed, for its interest, to note the contents of the Report.

Councillors Crowe and Gray declared an interest in the following item, and took no part in the consideration thereof.

7. CONSUMER SUPPORT NETWORKS

There was submitted Report No 226/01 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection advising the Committee of a Government initiative to try to network, and thereby improve, the various consumer advice services being delivered locally. Both local government and independent advice agencies, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux, were being encouraged to register their consumer advice services with the Consumer Support Network (CSN) Scheme.

The Report indicated that it was the intention of the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection to prepare, in the first instance, the feasibility of a CSN Scheme in Angus and beyond. No decision could be taken until consultations had been held, although in the short term, the Department might register its interest in the Scheme with the National Support Team.

The Committee agreed, for its interest, to note the contents of the Report.

8. REVIEW OF FEES AND CHARGES - WEIGHING AND MEASURING EQUIPMENT ETC.

With reference to Article 5 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 22 February 2000, there was submitted Report No 227/01 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection giving details of proposed increased fees and charges for the testing, calibration etc., of weighing and measuring equipment for 2001/2002.

The increases which were detailed in the Schedule and Appendix to the Report were mainly based on LACOTS (Local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards) recommendations and incorporated the suggested 2.6% increase for inflation. Provision had also been built into the fees structure to ensure that additional travel costs associated with European Community verification work were charged so that visits, which might be carried out in neighbouring authorities, were cost effective.

Fees for petroleum storage licences were controlled by statute and had last increased in October 2000. It was likely that an increase in these fees would be reported in due course. Petroleum licensing had been due to be phased out and replaced in 2001, but the relevant legislation had been delayed until 2002.

The Committee agreed:-

  1. to adopt the fees and charges detailed in the Schedule and Appendix to the Report for the year 2001/2002; and
  2. to otherwise note the contents of the Report.

9. EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVE TRAINING PROVISION FOR LOCAL AUTHORITY HEALTH AND SAFETY ENFORCEMENT

There was submitted Report No 228/01 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection advising that the University of Salford had carried out research into the training of local authority health and safety enforcement officers on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and that the results of the research had recently been published. The research had established that computer based packages had a role to play in providing training to enforcement officers but that this was not the complete answer, and should be used in a training mix which also included traditional training.

The Committee agreed, for its interest, to note the terms of the Report.

10. HEALTH AND SAFETY COMMISSION STRATEGY FOR SMALL FIRMS

There was submitted Report No 229/01 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection describing the Strategy to be implemented by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) to assist small firms to comply with health and safety legislation and setting out the targets to be achieved in terms of support for small firms.

The Report concluded that the success of the Small Firms' Strategy would rest with the commitment that the Health and Safety Executive and Local Authorities were prepared to make in providing sufficient resources to attain the targets defined within the Strategy. However, it was unclear whether additional resources would be made available to enforcement organisations for the work required.

The Committee agreed:-

  1. to note the contents of the Report; and
  2. to support the HSC in the implementation of the Strategy within the limits of the Department's resources dedicated to Health and Safety enforcement.

11. REFUSE COLLECTION - AUDIT OF SERVICE

The Committee was advised that the Accounts Commission for Scotland (now Audit Scotland) National Audit of DSO/Client Monitoring of Refuse Collection had recommended that the client service had a duty to report the volume, source and nature of complaints so that service failures could be monitored effectively. It had also recommended that this information should be reported to Committee members on an annual basis with summary detail of action taken to resolve consumer concerns.

The Committee agreed to note the statistical analysis of complaints which had been placed in the Members' Lounge.

12. MARKET PLACE, 'SUPERLOO' - ARBROATH

With reference to Article 12 of the minute of meeting of this Committee of 9 January 2001, there was submitted Report No 230/01 by the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection outlining proposals to upgrade the existing 'superloo' public convenience in Arbroath.

The Report indicated that Angus Council was one of the leading authorities in Scotland in the provision of traditional build high amenity town centre conveniences ('superloos'). The oldest of these, at Market Place, Arbroath had not benefited from a full upgrade and the Report proposed that it be closed in order for upgrading works to be carried out. In the meantime, an alternative temporary facility would be provided within the Hamilton Green premises.

The Committee agreed:-

  1. to approve the proposals outlined for the upgrading of the town centre public convenience at Market Place, Arbroath; and
  2. to instruct the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection to put in place the necessary measures to have the works undertaken.

The following matter was, on the determination of the Convener, dealt as a matter of urgency in view of the need to make timeous representations.

13. EUROPEAN ANNOUNCEMENT ON EUROPEAN WIDE BEEF MARKETS

The Committee considered concerns regarding a recent announcement by European Ministers on proposals for European beef markets following the BSE crisis.

Councillors Myles and Mackintosh declared an interest in the matter.

After discussion, the Committee agreed to express its concerns that the recent proposals on beef for consideration by the EU Council of Ministers, would lead to an increase in imported beef which did not match the UK's stringent standards, and therefore instructed the Director of Environmental and Consumer Protection:-

  1. to write to the EU Commissioners and all Scottish MEPs expressing its fears that consumer confidence in beef in the UK may be affected;
  2. to put pressure on the Scottish Executive (either through COSLA or directly) to make resources available to the Food Standards Agency/Meat Hygiene Service to increase inspections on all imported meat, and to ensure all meat is clearly labelled with its Country of Origin; and
  3. to write as a matter of urgency, to the UK Agriculture Minister, the Scottish Executive Agriculture Spokesperson and the appropriate EU Commissioner to take up the concerns of consumer safety and the industry.
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