Trading Standards Business Plan 2019-20
Our Purpose and Aims
The purpose of Dorset Council Trading Standards (TS) is “to provide a fair and safe trading environment for the consumers and businesses of Dorset, through education, advice, enforcement, and partnership working."
The service aims, which reflect our current key challenges, are to:
- support economic growth by providing the best advice to businesses, including farmers, to ensure they trade fairly and safely
- identify and tackle problem traders
- protect vulnerable consumers to help safeguard their independence, health and well-being
- ensure the food chain is safe and animal livestock disease spread minimised
The Trading Standards team works as part of the new unitary Dorset Council and will be part of a new Regulatory Services grouping that will be formed, in the Directorate for Place, during the early months following local government reorganisation in April 2019. Despite the transition our focus is very much on ‘business as usual’ to ensure we continue to support business and protect consumers by our intervention and activity.
Corporate plans and a new vision and aims for Dorset will take shape after the local government elections in May, with a new governance structure in place. Trading Standards will have to continue with a flexible, intelligence led approach. We will take account of any new direction that is set during the year but recognise the contribution that we can make towards the current aspirations and ambitions of Dorset Council to be ‘a place where people want to live, visit, learn and work’, with ‘an economy that works for local people’. The maintenance of fair and safe trading standards is a key part of ensuring that local economy works. Our links to adult social care have brought us an ongoing commitment to helping residents be safe, healthy and independent.
We are committed to developing our service within the context of the new Regulatory Services grouping, maintaining and enhancing all valued links across the One Team that Dorset Council aspires to be.
We are committed to embracing the Council values of Responsibility, Respect and Recognition within our team of competent and trained officers that deliver the service.
What do we do?
Trading Standards promotes and ensures compliance with consumer law – around 700 pieces of legislation – to help support business, consumers and the local community. The role, governed by particular statutory enforcement duties, includes these key areas:
- maintaining fair trading by considering, descriptions, claims and labelling associated with goods and services supplied by businesses of any size
- consumer fraud
- counterfeit goods
- food standards and labelling
- animal feed standards and labelling
- animal health and welfare controls
- weights and measures
- product safety
- sales of alcohol and other age restricted substances
- petroleum and explosive storage safety
The methods used by the service to achieve the outcomes sought include:
- complaint handling
- business advice, including a dedicated Business Advice Line and web based guidance
- risk based visits to businesses
- test purchasing, sampling and testing
- investigation and on occasions formal enforcement action
- consumer advice to vulnerable consumers or where unfair trade practice persists
- targeted talks and supporting business and community events
- signposting of material to educate consumers and businesses
- promotion and maintenance of the ‘Buy with Confidence’ approved trader scheme
- use of the media to highlight key issues
Businesses seeking support and assistance or wanting action taken can contact Trading Standards Business Advice line (01305 224702). Providing advice to businesses to help enable and support economic growth is a key objective of the Service. We will explore ways we can improve a co-ordinated approach to supporting local businesses, with new Regulatory Services and Dorset Council colleagues.
Our experience is that the majority of Dorset businesses seek to trade fairly and ensure they maintain necessary standards, be that in their dealings with consumers or in areas such as farming and animal welfare. We are committed to providing business with the trading standards advice they need. In a continuously challenging economic climate Dorset businesses and consumers should also be able to be confident that Trading Standards will identify and tackle any rogue traders effectively and promptly.
We welcome ‘Primary Authority’ contractual cost recovery arrangements with any appropriate larger national or international business that has its administrative or production base in Dorset and where it creates a significant demand for guidance on trading standards compliance advice.
The Animal Health line (01305 224475) is used by farmers and livestock keepers seeking information, guidance and assistance from officers and is also used by the public to report animal or other on-farm issues to Trading Standards. The success of rural business is key to the local economy.
We recognise that Brexit may bring new challenges for business and regulators which we may have to adapt to during the year. Risks have been assessed and steps have been taken to minimise potential problems, especially in relation to product and food safety, animal health and welfare and business compliance with any changing requirements.
We are committed to the prevention and impact reduction of consumer problems, through consumer education, complaint investigation and tackling rogue traders.
The first point of contact for all consumers to use to get consumer advice or report a problem to Trading Standards is the nationally provided Citizen Advice Consumer Service (03454 04 05 06 with web and email access also). Consumers cannot make an initial contact to TS direct by telephone but consumers get the best advice and can report issues via the national Citizens Advice Consumer Service. All complaints and enquiries involving Dorset residents or Dorset traders are notified to TS, with criminal matters and complaints requiring action by TS being specifically identified and appropriate follow up action taken.
We will ensure scam victims get support and advice, working with Dorset Council’s Community Development Workers.
We will assist vulnerable consumers with particularly burdensome consumer problems that they do not have the ability to resolve themselves.
We will support the Buy With Confidence approved trader scheme. The approved trader scheme provides some reassurance in making a consumer choice when dealing with unfamiliar trades.
We recognise that the impact of serious consumer problems can be a trigger to the need for more demanding adult care support. By protecting vulnerable consumers we recognise we can help support people to live independently for as long as possible, to reduce demand for health and adult social care and to promote health and wellbeing.
Intelligence led approach: we continue to develop the principles of intelligence led working which allows local services, regional groups of services and trading standards activities nationally to focus on what matters and where consumer detriment is greatest.
Consumer complaint data is an important part of that intelligence. Security of data is a priority. We continue to evaluate intelligence we receive from consumer complaints and other sources throughout the year at regular intervals so we can place resources where they can be most effective.
With enforcement resources diminishing over several years, response to all complaints and the use of routine visits, sampling and testing has been increasingly replaced by mechanisms to focus on genuine problem areas where consumer detriment or harm is most evident and the risk is greatest.
Collaboration locally, regionally and locally: We actively support Trading Standards South West, a partnership of 14 local authority trading standards services, including Dorset, that collaborate to enable each partner to be more effective in the delivery of locally responsive services. The common purpose is to promote a fair and safe trading environment to protect the interests of consumers and reputable businesses in the South West of England. A Community Interest Company, supported by heads of trading standards services, manages this regional work.
Trading Standards South West coordinates regionally funded projects; is a key driver of the Buy With Confidence trader approval scheme; oversees a regional enforcement team and intelligence function; and provides widely used on-line guidance materials aimed at tackling age restricted sales, advising on product safety in the home and maintains a local authority enforcement and legal process manual. It is key to the facilitation of professional training and specialist liaison and various collaborative approaches that save individual authorities money.
We will collaborate with other regulatory services across Dorset. We will engage as appropriate with national and local organisations to maximise the effectiveness of our service, including government departments and agencies, Citizens Advice, Dorset Police and our professional bodies: CTSI (Chartered Trading Standards Institute) and ACTSO (Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers).
We will identify and apply appropriate sources of external government funding and any other external revenue streams where there is evidence that this funding will meet the needs of Dorset consumers or businesses. We will continue to offer services or facilities to other local authorities, where we have that opportunity, as a way of gaining greater efficiencies or generating income.
Specific target areas
The intelligence led approach, combined with well-trained competent staff, allows the service to respond flexibly to emerging threats and demands, including legislative change, consumer complaints and business enquiries and compliance difficulties.
However there are some key areas of work that the Service will specifically target, and commit to. Some of these areas, food, animal feed and underage sales of controlled goods, have specific annual plans which are legally required to ensure delivery in these areas is particularly transparent.
Rogue traders and scam victims
Our Special Projects Team placed a renewed focus during the last year on rogue traders, particularly those operating in the home maintenance market, while also developing the role of Community Development Workers within the Council to help victims and potential victims of mass marketing scams. This will continue to be a key focus.
A Food Service Plan is specifically required by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Framework Agreement for local authorities and this outlines our approach to food standards and composition monitoring and enforcement (details in Appendix 1: Food Service Plan).
We are committed to inspection visits to all high risk suppliers and those upper medium risk that are due a visit. We will be reviewing our risk rating system to ensure we effectively monitor those food businesses where risks of failure are greatest.
We will participate in any monitoring projects led regionally or nationally that are relevant to Dorset and respond to consumer complaints. Projects proposed will include focus on peanuts and other unwanted allergens in takeaway meals; honey; local origin claims on fish and shellfish and traceability checks at catering establishments .
A Feed Service Plan is also required by the FSA and outlines our approach to animal feed and food hygiene at farms work (full details in Appendix 2: Feed Service Plan). This work contributes to ensuring the food we eat is safe.
We plan to undertake 89 inspections this year, at the full range of businesses that affect animal feed supplies, subject to final agreed FSA funding, and are committing to 35 samples in relation to feed safety, as part of that program.
Priorities for feed work will be:
- identification and appropriate registration and/or approval of feed businesses
- presence and accuracy of feed labelling which have the potential to compromise human and/or animal health
- monitoring of feed originating from outside EU (unless Brexit changes demand otherwise)
- risk based feed sampling
- feed safety management systems with a focus on businesses supplying former foodstuffs or co-products
Outbreaks of Avian Flu in the UK, including in wild birds in Dorset, in both 2017 and 2018 have underlined the ongoing need for ensuring any controls are followed to help stop the disease. We have disease plans in place in case of an outbreak any notifiable animal disease such as foot and mouth, rabies or avian influenza. These plans are reviewed annually and disease exercises are undertaken with other agencies such as the Animal and Plant Health Agency to ensure we can respond appropriately.
Complaints about animal welfare will be investigated as a priority. Regard will be given to the National Risk Assessment Scheme when dealing with welfare complaints but all complaints will receive a response.
Nationally, following some high profile incidents involving unsafe consumer goods, the new Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has brought renewed leadership in this field of local authority responsibility. We will work within guidance given and support product safety enforcement initiatives that are relevant to Dorset. Brexit may also bring a need to review approaches in relation to imports from the EU to ensure consumers are not exposed to unacceptable risks to their safety.
Age restricted products
A specific Enforcement Programme is produced to address the sale of age restricted products. This seeks to control the supply of various potentially damaging products to young people; including alcohol and tobacco (See Appendix 3: Age Restricted Products Enforcement Programme). Work will include delivery of at least four underage sales exercises, led by intelligence and taking account of demands of partners. A priority will be alcohol sales in retail premises but tobacco and e-cigarette supplies will also be tested. Any legislative change or trends in knife crime locally will be responded to.
The total net budget for the Trading Standards Service for 2019-20 is £897,600k. The staff resource is 19.8 full time equivalent (FTE) staff having reduced in recent years as a result of budget savings and restructuring. The approach set out in our plans can be delivered effectively with these reduced resources.
The TS Management Team will review activity and performance by reference to the monthly ‘Tactical Assessment’. This includes the monitoring of levels of complaints allocated for investigation and requests for advice or other service from businesses.
Key Performance indicators will also be considered and reported as required to Directorate Management Teams. The current key indicators which are reported quarterly are:
- the satisfaction results from businesses in contact with Trading Standards
- the proportion of businesses back into compliance of those where major non-compliance is identified
- scam victim complaints outstanding and completed
Having participated in the ACTSO Inputs and Outcomes Framework pilot in 2019 we will use this new Framework to report resource input, key activity and outcomes from that, and monitor outcomes through the TS Management Team quarterly.
Contact Dorset Trading Standards.