‘Open for business' – a vision for local regulation
Economic growth is a key priority for every council in the country and every single day councils are working with businesses in their area to provide practical support and cut through barriers to growth.
At the LGA annual conference this year, the LGA launched a ‘Vision for local regulation' which aims to firmly recognise and build on the contribution that local trading standards, environmental health and licensing teams can make to economic growth and job creation. These services are often the first interface between a council and businesses, so we really need to get them right.
In order to deliver the vision, the LGA believes that local regulators must not only be championed for their work tackling rogue businesses and keeping communities safe, but become a trusted and knowledgeable partner with businesses. Every business should feel as comfortable contacting their councils about regulation as our residents do if they want to discuss bin collection, parking or council tax.
The message is that councils are ‘open for business' and we want to support local services to rise to this challenge. With the legislation providing a foundation for consistency for businesses and consumers, along with other tools such as Primary Authority, the LGA is proposing that councils should be given the freedom to shape their regulatory services to reward responsible businesses, respond to the concerns of residents, and focus their increasingly stretched resources on targeting higher risk activities and those breaking the rules.
The LGA recognises that one person's regulation or red tape is another's protection and councils will need to strike a balance. But councils and councillors are best placed to gauge the needs of their area and respond appropriately.
There is also hope that the new ‘Vision for local regulation' will help nurture a stronger relationship between councils and business leaders, nationally and locally, from which communities and residents will reap the benefits.
There is still great deal of work to be done to break down the mistrust and cynicism felt by some business owners and shatter a negative image of over-zealous inspectors. The Vision includes practical tips that councils of all sizes can choose from to improve their relationships with businesses, depending on resources and what approach they are already taking.
Sara Higham, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:
"It's important that local authorities reach out to small businesses to make them fully aware of the services that they offer. Small businesses also need to know where to go for advice on regulatory issues and to know how to complain about the way that they were inspected should a problem have arisen. Hopefully this document will help to improve the relationship between local small businesses and their Councils."
Top tips include:
- Inspecting at appropriate times and notifying business – where it does not undermine the ability to protect residents.
- Making sure information on what to expect from a visit and why it is taking place is easily accessible.
- Improving online support – including applications, payments and contact details.
- Introducing business mentoring schemes and improving officer training.
- Committing to a transparent service that businesses are not afraid to complain about.
- Encouraging businesses to share good practice with each other.
The LGA is in the process of compiling case studies of environmental health, trading standards and licensing services taking new approaches to supporting local businesses. If you have examples of how your service has made simple changes or fundamental differences to embed this principle, please send them to email@example.com.
The LGA has produced a template leaflet for councils to adapt to inform businesses of services and support on offer locally. Download this template, and accompany guidance, from the publication page.
19 November 2013