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October 20, 2009

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Toolkit to help councils plan regulatory activity

Local authorities will now be better able to plan regulatory budgets

and priorities thanks to a new toolkit to help them identify, manage

and measure their actions.

Realising that there has, historically, been very little research into the wider impacts and outcomes of local regulatory activity and thus little understanding by officers of the difference they make, the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) commissioned a study to show that regulators’ actions do have demonstrable effects on the quality of life in the communities they serve.

The resulting report, called Impacts and outcomes, and delivered for the LBRO by RAND Europe, looks at potential benefits to business and communities in general from local-authority regulatory action in five fields: health and safety, fair trading, fly-tipping, smoking cessation, and reducing alcohol-induced harm.

The report reveals that, overall, the annual amount spent by local authorities on regulatory services across Great Britain is about £1.24 billion, which represents just under 1 per cent of total local-authority expenditure. Meanwhile, the administrative costs to business of complying with health and safety regulation (HSE and Local Authority-enforced) is cited as £2.9 billion a year.

Says the report: “Businesses appear to carry most of the direct and short-term economic burden of local-authority regulatory activity through administrative and compliance costs, while the longer-term benefits appear to accrue to the wiser society and the public. Nevertheless, local businesses also stand to benefit economically, through, for instance, increased productivity related to reduced work-related ill health, or less unfair competition.”

According to the LBRO, local authorities have only an indirect influence on these costs, via their choice of enforcement style. Areas where they have a more direct influence include work-related ill health, where their enforcement of relevant health and safety legislation can contribute to reducing the associated costs to both employers and the NHS, and their inspection of workplaces can reduce risks to employees of contracting an illness, or becoming injured.

To demonstrate how local authorities can measure the impact of these interventions, a case study of how the London Borough of Islington implemented health and safety regulation in 2006/07 is included in the report. By organising the impacts and outcomes of the work of the Borough’s commercial environmental health team under two main headings — removal of potential health and safety hazards in the workplace (inspection) and provision of guidance and advice (information) — a ‘pathway and intervention logic’ was drawn up, on the basis of which indicators were identified that can be used to develop an ‘impact and outcome dashboard’.

This toolkit should, according to the LBRO, ensure local authorities are better informed about the impact and outcomes of their regulatory work at the local level, and thus choose priorities that are most meaningful, and allocate resources accordingly.

Chair of the organisation, Clive Grace, said: “Local regulatory services can directly improve our quality of life and this report shows how to prove it. It is a significant step forward in LBRO’s drive to improve services and enhance the system.”

 LBRO is making the toolkit available to local-authority regulatory services across the country and will be working with LACoRS to support its use and share best practice and information generated as a result.

To view the report and the toolkit, click here.

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