Issued By
North Yorkshire County Council

North Yorkshire County Council - Trading Standards Service

The trading standards service provided by North Yorkshire County Council is good and will probably improve, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The best value inspection team gave the service two stars* because it has clear aims and objectives that are well understood by staff and a pro-active and robust approach in tackling consumer and business fraud.

Pat Thynne, Lead Inspector, said: "The Council's best value review identified ways in which the service can become more cost effective and responsive to customer needs. The service is well managed and there is clear commitment from members and officers to make improvements. The Council's action plan will make a real difference for local people by responding to the seven day/24 hour trading environment; increasing the number of inspections; identifying problem traders; and providing consumer education."

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths: 

·        The service responded well to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in February 2001. A call centre was set up, offering the latest information and advice to farmers, landowners, the media and other interested parties. Over 190,000 calls were handled and 21,000 movement licences issued in five months.

·        The service offers business advice and support to promote fair trading and ensure that dishonest traders do not gain an unfair commercial advantage.

·        It takes a flexible approach to ensure priority issues are dealt with as appropriate, and has set up partnerships with other authorities and agencies to make the most of available resources.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

·        The service needs to improve the recruitment and retention of professional staff, and respond to the demands of seven day/24 hour trading.

·        A range of consumer information is available from the service, but the opportunity to use other outlets such as county council libraries and district council offices to disseminate this information has not been fully used.

·        Unlike most trading standards services there is only a limited mediation role and no consumer support for court action. However, the Council is seeking to address this gap in service provision.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

·        Make the most of other county council and district council outlets to provide information to the public about trading standards issues.

·        Set specific targets and actions to reduce malpractice by individual traders and within trade sectors.

·        Make sure systems are in place to track service improvements, and to effectively prioritise and allocate resources.

The Council's Trading Standards service deals with issues such as food and product safety, false descriptions of goods, under age sales, loan sharks, counterfeit goods and misleading pricing. Advice is provided to consumers and traders. The cost of the service for 2000/2001 was £1,656,890, set against an income of £153,500 from, for example, testing weighing and measuring equipment and licence fees. There are 53 full time equivalent staff.

Copies of the report are available from North Yorkshire County Council or on the best value website at www.bestvalueinspections.gov.uk.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1.      The service was inspected as part of the Government’s best value initiative, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible.

2.      The inspection involved interviews with council staff and members, and members of the public using the service.

3.      The Best Value Inspection Service was established to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council. Inspection reports judge how well a service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.

4.      The Government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to improve local services over the next five years. Councils must report annually on their performance (best value performance plans) and review all of their services over the next five years in order to identify and achieve continual improvements in local services.

5.      Further details about the role of the Audit Commission can be obtained from -  https://www.audit-commission.gov.uk

 

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