LACORS ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION REMIT

INFORMATION FOR BAR ASSOCIATION FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT & THE PUBLIC SERVICE

 

WHO ARE LACORS?

 

LACORS, the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, have existed since 1978, initially as LACOTS, with a remit of supporting local authority Trading Standards activities. Since that time LACORS has gradually expanded its remit to include a broader range of local authority regulatory services essentially across Environmental Health and Trading Standards. In 2005 a quinquennial review was undertaken by external consultants in which it was suggested that LACORS expand its remit still further to cover those remaining local authority regulatory services that it did not already cover in the Trading Standards and Environmental Health areas. In line with the recommendations of the quinquennial review and after securing funding, LACORS has been taking forward policy work in relation to environmental protection in England since April 2006.

 

LACORS is managed by a board of directors comprised of senior elected members from the UK Local Authority Associations, it is funded by local authority money and works for the collective interests of local authorities.

 

LACORS’ vision is to be an exemplar local government organisation, leading on policy development, driving improvement and adding value to regulatory services. Our key objectives to fulfil that vision are:

 

(i)                   to coordinate promote and encourage best practice;

(ii)                 to raise the profile of regulatory services; and

(iii)                to represent local government’s interests and lobby on its behalf.

 

WHAT IS THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION REMIT?

 

LACORS’ current environmental protection remit covers the “classic” local authority areas of air, land and water pollution and (particularly noise) nuisance. We also work on the key strategic areas affecting local authority environmental protection and will be taking our steer on future developments from senior officers. For 2006/2007 the key work streams that have been approved by our board of directors are:

 

(i)                   raising the profile of environmental protection services;

(ii)                 promoting and supporting good practice; and

(iii)                relationship management.

 

HOW WE WORK

 

LACORS works for local authorities and an important part of how we work is ensuring that we maintain close contact with authorities and what they need and want. This involves:

 

(i)                   visiting local authority departments and regional groups to understand issues on the ground and to ensure that we understand how officials involved in environmental protection work carry out their duties.

(ii)                 maintaining direct email contact with all environmental protection departments in England;

(iii)                operating a web site with information items and facilities for discussion fora and information sharing;

(iv)               running stakeholder events to discuss strategic issues;

(v)                 identifying local authority colleagues with particular experience and skill, briefing them and attending meeting at central government with them in order that local authority voices are heard directly;

(vi)               setting up a national policy forum with nominated representatives from all regions to steer our policy work on a permanent basis;

(vii)              setting up “sub-groups” from local authorities to set policy steer in specific areas; and

(viii)            setting up ad hoc “virtual groups” to allow discussion and direct officer involvement on specific issues as they arise.

 

WHY ARE WE MAKING CONTACT WITH THE BAR ASSOCIATION FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE PUBLIC SERVICE

 

Throughout our initial work it has become apparent that, in order to provide effective support to local authorities in carrying out their environmental protection functions, we need to build legal officers who are involved in and have an interest in the enforcement of environmental regulations into the equation.

 

We are currently at the early stages of deciding how best to build an input from local authority legal officers into the overall picture and are trying to “tap into” networks that already exist and contacts that we have already made.  Our initial contacts have been with Solicitors in Local Government, ACSeS and representatives of the UK Environmental Law Association and the Environmental Law Foundation.  Initially we intend to build interested lawyers into ad hoc “virtual groups” on specific topics but ultimately we will explore how to build lawyers into more permanent networks.

 

LACORS distinct perspective is that we are charged with representing the interests of regulatory services carried out by local authorities as a whole and not specific interests e.g. professional groups or departmental interests. This is not to say that we wish to diminish or otherwise compete with the work carried out by professional groups such as the Bar Association for Local Government and The Public Service, our aim is to work collaboratively with pre-existing groups to obtain the best overall results.

 

At this stage we would like to take the views of lawyers with an interest in the environmental protection area to see what support they would like/ feel they need and whether/ how they would like to participate in the work being taken forward by LACORS.

 

CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION WORK

 

Recent and ongoing work with a distinctly legal flavour has been involvement at the highest level in a review of Environmental Enforcement being carried out by DEFRA and the overarching review of penalties being carried out under the auspices the Cabinet Office (the MacRory review). We have also been asked (at a recent national meeting of representatives of heads of Environmental Health groups) to provide support for local authorities on the issue of Fixed Penalty Notices and we are currently trying to identify what the precise need. We are also preparing for a forthcoming consultation on the transposition of the Environmental Liabilities Directive into UK law.

 

We are currently starting the search for good practice examples to build up into case studies (e.g. peer review methodology, inter authority auditing, successful relationships with small and medium enterprises, methods of working with other departments). We are proposing to specifically gather information on difficult/ unusual/ particularly successful prosecutions where there may be experiences that could usefully be shared with other authorities. Our aim in doing this would be to highlight both the investigatory role of the Environmental Health Department and how the investigating officer and the legal department worked together rather than providing a traditional case summary. These will be promoted on the LACORS web site (a new enhanced web site should be up and running in the next couple of weeks).

 

We are also representing local authorities on initiatives led by central government, which impact on local government. To date this has involved e.g.:

 

(i)                   representing local authority interests on the various platforms set up to consider DEFRA’s review of the air quality strategy review and preparing a consultation response;

(ii)                 representing local authority interests in workshops set up to consider DEFRA and the EA’s Environmental Permitting Programme (EPP) and providing a written response to the recent consultation;

(iii)                collating and analysing local authority views on the review of Part B installations;

(iv)               collecting and analysing local authority views on the Atkins review (Performance Review of Local Air Pollution Teams) and preparing a paper to be presented at the Industrial Pollution Liaison Committee in July;

(v)                 Participating in work on the review of Soil Guideline Values for contaminated land;

(vi)               representing local authority interests on DEFRA’s review of environmental enforcement; and

(vii)              liaising with Defra to ensure local authority input into a revised Bathing Water Directive.

 

LINKS TO OTHER INITIATIVES

 

LACORS’ work has regard to cross-cutting initiatives affecting local authorities, whether they be initiated within the local government family or by central government. Current important initiatives from within local government are:

 

(i)                   the Local Government Association’s (LGA) People and Places initiative;

(ii)                 the LGA’s Greening Communities initiative;

(iii)                the post CPA framework for performance monitoring; and

(iv)               the LGA’s reputation of local government project.

 

Current important initiatives from Central Government are:

 

(i)                   the review of the regulatory sector post the Hampton review (including the establishment of the Local Better Regulation Office);

(ii)                 the climate change agenda.