Members are advised of the following changes to service provision within the Regulatory Service that have been brought about as a result of the Coronavirus emergency:
Business and Corporate Team: responsibility for food safety, health and safety and public health
Routine food safety and health and safety inspections have been put on hold as the Team now concentrate on ensuring that businesses comply with the new Coronavirus Regulations, that require the closure of premises and businesses and restrictions on movement and gatherings. Environmental Health officers, Licensing Team and Police are working closely to share information and support each other. An Essex-wide protocol has been developed between the Police and Local Authorities to ensure good communication and a consistent enforcement approach.
The Team are communicating with businesses by telephone and email, answering enquiries that arise and carrying out proactive and reactionary checks to ensure compliance.
The Council has powers to serve prohibition notices, issue fixed penalty notices (FPN) and prosecute if necessary and procedures and notices are prepared for use. However, in accordance with Government guidelines, a proportionate and graduated approach to enforcement is being adopted and officers will be encouraging and persuading businesses to comply in the first instance. If a business continues to breach enforcement action will be taken. At the time of drafting this article, it has not been necessary to issue any prohibition notices or FPN.
As a result of the Covid-19 outbreak and the escalated requirements to avoid personal contact wherever possible, the Licensing Team continue to take enquiries and deal with all Licensing Act applications, but no inspections to premises are being carried out.
The Team are working closely with the Police and Environmental Health Officers to ensure that the Licensed trade comply with the requirements imposed by covid-19.
The licensed trade has been contacted by email to reinforce the rules and expectations during this emergency. This is followed by further communication and liaison with the police and EHOs where information is received or allegations made, about breaches of the Regulations, including the prohibition of sale of alcohol as part of a takeaway service where there is no off-sale licence.
Licensing Officers are not directly involved in the enforcement of the Coronavirus Regulations, but officers are making it clear to businesses that failure to comply with the Regulations could potentially lead to revocation of their licence.
The following service for the Taxi trade has been suspended until further notice:
· Thursday taxi plate and badge pickup
· Processing of new Taxi Licence Applications
· The Taxi Knowledge Test
· Temporary and Permanent Vehicle Transfers, except Emergency Transfers
· All other taxi appointments that involve face to face contact.
The Taxi Renewal service is suspended for the time being. However, in order that drivers can continue to trade, after their existing licence has expired, Temporary Paper Licences are being issued and posted out as required. These must be displayed in the vehicle; they must be visible to passengers, and available as proof of legitimacy if challenged by police or others.
The driver will not be charged for this period but will be required to carry out a basic on- line DBS check at their own cost, which will be followed up by an enhanced DBS check when the normal service resumes. The Council’s MOT and vehicle check service continues to be available to the Taxi trade as part of the renewal process.
Emergency Temporary Vehicle Transfers will continue to be processed
A letter has been sent out to all licenced drivers and operators advising of the revised service, which also included information around hygiene measures to protect personal safety and prevent spread of infection.
Animal Welfare Licensing
New applications will not be processed for the time being as no on-site inspections are being carried out by officers.
Licence renewals will be processed but new licences will not be issued until an on-site inspection can be carried out. In the meantime, no fee will be charged, and a confirmation letter will be sent to relevant businesses advising that the existing licence remains valid until further notice.
In light of the current situation with Covid 19 and the fact that most of our residents using the Grants Service are in the high-risk category, no visits relating to Disabled Facilities Grants, Decent Homes and Small Works Repayable assistance are being undertaken. Stannah, our preferred contractor for stairlifts are suspending operations for the time being as are most other contactors.
Changes in procedures have been put in place so that grant works that have finished or are due to finish on site, can be processed and the contractor paid.
New clients are being informed that we are not able to visit for the time being, however, application forms can be completed over the telephone and posted to them for signature and return with any supporting evidence that is needed. These applications will be considered as soon as business can resume to normality.
Private Sector Housing Enforcement
The Private Sector Housing Team continue to take enquiries from landlords and tenants in the private sector concerning property and tenancy related matters.
Generally, EHOs are not carrying out property inspections, and where possible, they are making judgements and decisions based on video and photographic evidence. However, their approach to inspection and subsequent action will be considered in accordance with new guidance issued by the MHCLG, and taking account of the severity of the issues and hazards; the risk to the tenant and their vulnerability; whether the tenant is self-isolating; and the enforcement options available.
(Further information: Sally Devine )