Corporate enforcement policy
3.1 Immediate enforcement actions
The Council will generally welcome pre-enforcement dialogue with regulated entities or individuals to ensure requirements and enforcement matters are understood and that action is proportionate and consistent. However, where immediate action is required to prevent or respond to a serious breach or where providing an opportunity for enforcement dialogue would be likely to defeat the purpose of enforcement, the Council may take relevant action without necessarily discussing it in advance.
3.2 Decisions will be made on the basis of risk
In undertaking enforcement functions the Council will ensure that enforcement action is undertaken on the basis of risk. We will take an evidence based approach to determining priority risks and will allocate resources to where they would be most effective in addressing priority risks. Risks will be considered at every stage of the enforcement decision making process, including when choosing the most appropriate type of intervention or enforcement action. Risk assessment may include an evaluation of hazards, risks, compliance history and other relevant data. The Council will generally use risk assessment methodologies provided by central government but may on occasion design in house systems and where practical these will be subject to consultation.
3.3 Objectivity and Equality:
We will ensure that enforcement decisions are not influenced by a person's age, disability, race (including nationality), religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity status. The Council will consider its Equality and Diversity Policy when determining what enforcement action we are considering and how we communicate the message.We believe in the dignity of all people and their right to respect and equality of opportunity. We value the strength that comes with difference and the positive contribution that diversity brings to Welwyn Hatfield. Proportionate enforcement actions will be considered having regard to business size and capacity.
The Council will consider the desirability of using formal enforcement in the case of a person who is elderly or is, or was at the relevant time, suffering from significant mental or physical ill health. It will balance this with the need to safeguard others, taking into account the public interest. The Council will consider its Safeguarding policies when determining what enforcement action we are considering. We are committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults. We take our responsibilities seriously and expect all of our staff to share this commitment Safeguarding policies.
3.5 Regulators Compliance Code
This enforcement policy has been made having regard to the Regulators' Code issued by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
3.6 Clarity on what is required
In undertaking enforcement activities enforcement officers will clearly differentiate between what is required and what is recommended. This means that when providing advice and guidance, legal requirements will be distinguished from suggested good practice and the impact of the advice or guidance will be considered so that is does not impose unnecessary burdens in itself. Regulated entities are welcome to discuss and seek clarity on what is required if it is not clear.
3.7 Shared Enforcement
The range of enforcement matters dealt with by the Council is such that there may well be occasions when there is a need to work with other departments and agencies to maximise effective enforcement. For example the work related death protocol facilitates joint working in case of fatalities, other examples would include working with the Police, Fire Service, Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency, Gambling Commission, immigration and county Council services. Where necessary, appropriate information sharing agreements will be put in place to share data in a timely and appropriate way having due regard to the requirements of the Data Protection Act. This will include trying to use the "collect once, use many" principle of data capture.
3.8 Access to enforcement services
The Council is committed to ensuring fair, timely and effective enforcement and access to services. In relation to enforcement the following arrangements are in place:
- All enforcement related documents will be produced in appropriate plain English; we may however need to use specific legal words or phrases where their meaning is important. The onus is on the recipient of any document to ensure they understand its meaning and any implications for them.
- Where necessary, attempts will be made for the use of interpreters or translations. This may include during sub-committee hearings, or during interviews. Any person wishing to use an interpreter is expected to make this clear early on in any investigation so arrangements can be made.
- Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council provides a limited range of services outside of office hours. Arrangements are in place to respond to genuine emergencies through a duty officer system on a 24-7 basis.
- Where necessary, appropriate and possible in order to support investigation and enforcement, visits may be made outside normal office hours.
- The Council will consider the impact their regulatory interventions may have on economic progress; including thorough consideration of the costs, effectiveness and perceptions of fairness of regulation.
3.9 Customer expectation and service standards
The Council has a customer service charter which sets out general standards applicable to customer service. Additionally the Council has published a clear set of service standards applicable to enforcement activity which is available on the Council website.
Each service area covered by this policy is responsible for producing a set of service standards appropriate for their regulatory activities. The standards will set out what those they regulate should expect from them and:
- how the service communicates with those they regulate and how the service can be contacted
- the service's approaches to providing information, guidance and advice
- the service's approach to checks on compliance, including details of any risk assessment framework(s) used, and protocols for staff conduct
- reference to this enforcement policy in dealing with matters of regulatory non compliance
- how to comment or complain about the service provided and routes to any appeal that may be available
- The service standards and a copy of this enforcement policy will be placed on the Council website.
The council is at risk if it undertakes enforcement action outside of an agreed policy framework. A further risk arises from inconsistency if various services within the council are enforcing against the same organisation/individual and are applying different standards. Implementing an agreed common enforcement policy will help mitigate these risks.