Policy Regulatory Enforcement and Prosecution Policy

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2. Principles of Enforcement - Policy

Key Principle

The Council’s aim is to;

  1. protect individuals, businesses and the community at large,
  2. protect the environment in which people live and work,
  3. allow and encourage economic progress provided this does not conflict with 1) and 2) above

 The Council will achieve this through education, by providing advice and by regulating activities.  Provision of clear advice and guidance will be our main approach to secure compliance but securing compliance through legal process, by using all or any enforcement powers available to the Council, is an important part of achieving this.

The Council regards prevention better than cure. Our general approach is to engage with individuals, business or the community to educate and enable compliance. We offer information and advice to those the Council regulates and seek to avoid bureaucracy or excessive cost. The Council encourages individuals, business and the community to adhere to the legal requirements of any regulated activity.

If an individual, business or the community is not complying the Council will provide advice and guidance to help them do so. Where appropriate the Council will agree solutions and timescales for making improvements to secure necessary compliance. The use of formal enforcement powers or sanctions may well be necessary in the event of failure to comply with any regulated activity. In this regard the Council will make a proportionate response to the circumstances.

The Council will seek to secure the principles set out above by way of the provisions set out in the rest of this section below, namely;

Supporting Economic Progress through Compliance

The effectiveness of legislation in protecting individuals, businesses and the community depends crucially on the compliance of those regulated. The Council recognises that on the whole most people and most businesses want to comply with the law. Accordingly the Council will wherever practicable;

  • take care to help businesses and others meet their legal obligations without causing unnecessary expense.
  • will strive to ensure that when information is needed from businesses that it is assessed to avoid duplication of requests and amended where necessary [1].
  • we will promote positive incentives for businesses that comply, such as, for example, ‘Scores on the Doors’ (a food hygiene initiative).

Openness through Clear Accessible Advice and Guidance

It is important that those affected by regulation are aware that they are regulated, how they will be regulated and also what is expected of them. Accordingly, the Council will;

  • provide information and advice in plain language on the legislation that we enforce and disseminate this as widely as possible, through information leaflets, newsletters, training schemes and on the Council website at www.eastdevon.gov.uk. Translations may be provided to non English speakers where resources permit.
  • Within the limits imposed by law, be open about how we carry out our work, including any charges that we make for services.
  • We will make a point of seeking appropriate consultation with business, voluntary organisations, charities, landlords, tenants, consumers and workforce representatives about the services that we provide and about our enforcement policies and procedures.
  • We will discuss general issues, specific compliance failures or problems with those experiencing difficulties.

Helpfulness through Clear Accessible Advice and Guidance

We believe that it is in the interests both of regulated businesses and the wider public to get things ‘right first time’, and that therefore our enforcement role should involve actively working with all those subject to regulation, especially small and medium sized businesses, to guide and assist with compliance. In that regard the Council will;

  • provide a courteous and efficient service and our staff will identify themselves by name and carry proof of their identity
  • provide a contact point and telephone number for further dealings with us and we will encourage businesses and others to seek guidance, advice or information from us.
  • Ensure all requests for service will be dealt with efficiently and promptly within the resources available.
  • Ensure that, wherever practicable, our enforcement services are effectively co-ordinated to minimise unnecessary overlaps and time delays. This reflects our approach to delivering services in an efficient way.

Targeted, Proportionate and Risk-based Enforcement

It is important that the Council’s resources are appropriately utilised and that enforcement action is generally targeted at the more significant or damaging cases. The degree of enforcement action required should be commensurate to the risks involved. Accordingly the Council will;

  • Minimise the costs of compliance by ensuring that any action we require is proportionate to the risks involved and to the seriousness of any breach of the law.
  • In line with the codes referred to above, we will take account of the circumstances of the case and the response of those subject to regulation when considering action.
  • Take particular care to work with small businesses and with voluntary and community organisations, to help them meet their legal obligations without causing unnecessary expense.
  • At the same time we will use intelligence and direct resources to identify those who flout the law or act irresponsibly and take firm enforcement action against them, including prosecution where appropriate.

Consistent Enforcement

  Fundamental to the principle of enforcement action is that is administered fairly and consistently. Accordingly the Council will;

  • Carry out our duties in a fair, equitable and consistent manner.
  • Ensure that while officers are expected to exercise judgement in individual cases and to treat each case on its own merits, there will be arrangements in place to promote consistency.
  • Support and promote arrangements for effective liaison with other authorities and enforcement bodies through schemes such as the Home Authority principle, the Lead Authority principle and the Primary Authority principle.

Working with other departments and Enforcement Agencies

The Council may well hold information that is relevant to consideration of regulatory enforcement, but not within the enforcing department. Where permissible and appropriate, departments will share information with the view to improving regulatory compliance and enforcement.

Some regulatory activity involves consultation with other agencies before deciding on the most appropriate course of action. Sometimes there is more than one agency that can act in response to a problem. If there is a shared enforcement role with other agencies, whenever possible our enforcement activities will be co-ordinated with these agencies in order to minimise unnecessary duplication or delays and to increase the overall effectiveness of the system. For example, joint working may be carried out with the Police, Fire Service, Health and Safety Executive, Office of Fair Trading, Environment Agency, Revenue and Customs, Gambling Commission, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency other local authorities and government departments. Persistent offenders may also be reported, for example, to Revenue and Customs for further action. Equally, there are instances when more than one part of the Authority may have enforcement options in respect of the same issue. We will ensure that appropriate liaison occurs and that the ‘best option’ for enforcement is taken.

  • Wherever we have a statutory duty to report regulatory matters to another body or agency, we will have procedures in place to ensure that this happens.
  • If we become aware of an enforcement issue that would be of legitimate interest to, or more properly be dealt with by, another enforcement agency, we will ensure that the information is passed to that agency in good time.
  • Occasionally an offence can be dealt with under more than one statute. In these cases a decision will be made between officers as to which is the most effective course of action.

Adopting Good Enforcement Procedures

Guidance from an officer will be put clearly and simply. It will explain why any remedial work or action is considered to be necessary and over what time-scale it is expected to be carried out. It will make sure that legal requirements are clearly distinguished from best practice advice. Such guidance will be confirmed in writing as well as a clear indication of the consequences of non-compliance.

Complaints about service

 We provide a dedicated Customer Service Centre to help with any complaint about the Council’s services. This team can be contacted by telephone on 01395 516551 or visit our contact us page.

 Use of information

 Any information provided to the Council in connection with its regulatory functions, by those being regulated or those complaining to the Council, will have their information kept confidential, except where the Council has a legal duty to disclose it.

 Complainants will be made aware that they may be asked to release in to the public domain information they have provided with a view to further enforcement objectives. This could also include acting as a witness for the Council in any proceedings. Complainants will be made aware that refusal to agree to this may hamper the Council’s attempts to secure compliance.

[1] The Council aims to seek feedback on the forms we use to collect information from business