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Agenda item

Environmental Health Partnership and Proposed Disengagement by Sevenoaks District Council

Summary:

 

This report informs Members of the decision of Sevenoaks District Council to disengage from the Environmental Health Partnership, the implications for the [Borough] Council and the steps to be taken to safeguard services to the Borough’s residents and businesses.

 

Recommendations:

 

1.    That the proposal by Sevenoaks District Council to disengage from the Environmental Health Partnership, be noted; and

 

2.    That the actions proposed by Dartford Council, as set out in paras. 3.6 and 3.7 of the report, to mitigate the impact of the disengagement, be noted.

Minutes:

The Strategic Director (External Services) presented a report which informed Members of the decision of Sevenoaks District Council to disengage from the Environmental Health Partnership which had been jointly operated since 2012. The service had been, and remained extremely effective, delivering responsive, high quality services to residents and businesses across both districts. It had benefited both authorities by providing access to a wider pool of expertise and to greater resilience while delivering savings of approximately £1.5M to each authority, over a period of nine years. The joint service was fully integrated and funded 50/50 with its main operational base at the Dartford Civic Centre. Whilst recognising the entitlement of Sevenoaks to disengage from the partnership the timing was very unfortunate given the wide ranging regulatory role of the service to protect residents, visitors, businesses and the environment particularly during the on-going national public health emergency. Although the end date for the partnership was still under discussion Sevenoaks were keen for the partnership to end on 31 March 2021. Considerable work would need to be carried out to disengage the two services, including staffing, IT systems and shared data and to establish how to facilitate the smooth transition to a standalone Environmental Health Service. No redundancies were anticipated and it was likely that additional staff and resource would be required to maintain existing service levels. 

 

The Chairman noted the ending of the partnership with regret. It had provided greater resilience through the sharing of resources, risk and expertise. The challenge now was to develop a new model for a standalone environmental health service that would be even better. He was optimistic that this could be achieved as there were good foundations already in place with excellent staff and the Council was prepared to invest in the future of the service to ensure that it would operate effectively and to the highest standards. He noted that the Council was in a position where it could properly resource this work due to the prudent financial management that had been applied over many years and that the Council was fully committed to taking this opportunity to provide its own  excellent front-line service.

 

A Member noted that the Council had established a number of partnerships with other authorities which had offered economies of scale and shared risks to the financial benefit of the participants. He cited other successful partnerships with Sevenoaks, including the Revenues & Benefits Service, Counter-Fraud and Audit and asked whether it was possible that Sevenoaks could seek to withdraw from these as well. The Strategic Director (External Services) could not speculate on the rationale behind Sevenoaks’ decision but noted that, whilst they were also seeking to disengage from a partnership for Building Control services with another authority, they had currently given no indication that they wished to withdraw from the remaining partnership arrangements with Dartford.   She was confident that Dartford could retain its existing staff and recruit new environmental health officers, despite these being in high demand, to establish a highly effective standalone service which could deliver all the required regulatory functions as well as coping with the current public health demands and pressures associated with Brexit.

 

          RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the proposal by Sevenoaks District Council to disengage from the Environmental Health Partnership, be noted; and

 

2.    That the actions proposed by Dartford Council, as set out in paras. 3.6 and 3.7 of the report, to mitigate the impact of the disengagement, be noted

 

 

Supporting documents: