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Annual Performance Report 2020-2021


Due to Covid-19, 2020-2021 has been a year like no other in recent Trading Standards history. Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, however, has risen to the challenges it faced and accomplished a significant amount of work including embracing the enforcement of the Health Protection Regulations in collaboration with partner agencies.

This report summarises Covid-19 related activities and work undertaken, as well as any pre-Covid-19 planned work progressed this year. This includes our highlight projects:

  • Mental health in our farming community.
  • Food allergens.
  • Compliance in the local lettings sector.

Budget and income

Overall expenditure decreased compared to the previous year. External income contributions were 3% lower than previous years at 8%. This was due to Covid-19. Income is received from a variety of sources including Government grants, Buy With Confidence, the Metrology Laboratory and Primary Authority which were all affected by Covid-19. Staffing costs account for 89% of total expenditure.

Per capita spend was £2.46. Per business spend was £47.29.

Financial year Total expenditure External income
2016/17 £3,130,045 £398,528
2017/18 £3,508,279 £456,509
2018/19 £3,394,952 £377,381
2019/20 £3,515,685 £392,504
2020/21 £3,369,401 £310,311

Note: the overall 2017/18 budget expenditure figure increased due to the expansion of the joint trading standards service to include Torbay Council as well as increased income generation.

Staffing

We have 0.03 Trading Standards Officers per 1,000 population and 0.62 Trading Standards Officers per 1,000 businesses.

We operate from five offices, which are located in Exeter, Kingsteignton, Torquay, Barnstaple and Wellington.

Covid-19

Joint responsibility for enforcement of the Health Protection Regulations with environmental health and the police.

Work carried out

  • Provided support and guidance to a wide range of businesses on compliance with Covid-19 legislation and diversification.
  • Produced a dedicated Covid-19 business support webpage including guidance packs on personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitisers.
  • Ensured sport at regulated venues could continue in line with current rules across Devon and Somerset.
  • Supported our most vulnerable consumers by raising awareness of Covid-19 related scams and disrupting doorstep crime, including removing fraudulent Covid-19 test kits from the market and the takedown of an online personal protective equipment (PPE) seller’s website.
  • Redeployments. Towards the end of 2020, nine officers and one senior manager took up posts assisting directly with the development and operation of vaccination, Test and Trace and lateral flow programmes. In addition, one officer supported planning in the Adult Social Services team.

Facts and figures

  • 2,325 complaints received. Top areas were:
    • Holiday cancellations.
    • Business closure regulations.
    • Fair-trading issues.
    • Social distancing and safety.
  • 127 requests from businesses with regards to ensuring they were Covid-secure or seeking business closure guidance and advice.
  • Over 1,500 views of the Service’s Covid website pages and 10,900 views of the Growth Hub’s Covid business support webpages.
  • Food and animal feed visits were suspended during the first lockdown, with remote audits being carried out in quarters three and four of the financial year.
  • Safety at sports grounds:
    • 11 Safety Advisory Group meetings at Regulated Venues.
    • Five annual reviews of safety certificates.
    • 10 event inspections according to risk.

Covid-19 and PPE

Summary of actions

  • Market surveillance of importers and distributors:
    • Reviewed 55 businesses on Devon Procurement List.
    • Identified a further 111 importers including 26 high-risk which were audited and advised to ensure compliance.
  • Responded to 29 complaints and 12 business requests regarding sale of non-compliant PPE and the manufacture of face coverings.
  • Produced guidance for importers and sellers on our Covid business support webpages.
  • Posted 24 Twitter and 11 Facebook PPE messages.
  • Press release on unsafe baby face masks.
  • Related newsletters for both business and consumers.

Examples of non-compliance identified

  • Advertising KN 95 face covering as PPE.
  • Advertisements for surgical masks which were, in fact, dust masks.
  • Lack of supplier details accompanying product.
  • Non-EU PPE products that failed to meet essential safety requirements.
  • Poor-quality face masks.

Covid-19 product safety surveillance and sampling

To help protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for businesses.

Actions

  • In addition to PPE work mentioned above, we undertook sampling of hand sanitisers produced, sold within the service area.
  • Those that came back unsatisfactory were mainly due to not meeting requirements of CLP (classification, labelling and packaging).
  • Traders were contacted and notified and advised to assist in bringing them back into compliance.

Facts

  • 20 safety samples were taken of PPE, hand sanitiser and UV wands.
  • 16 (80%) unsatisfactory.

Red-amber-green status

None given as there are no fixed targets, work is undertaken if resource capacity allows.

Covid-19 and livestock markets

Livestock markets have continued operating throughout the pandemic. The Service has worked closely with the police focusing on the larger markets of Sedgemoor (one of the largest in the country), Frome and Exeter in particular.

With support from the market owners, compliance levels with Covid-19 over quarters three and four improved significantly. Measures introduced include:

  • Employees at entrances ensuring use of hand gel and wearing of masks by attendees.
  • Wooden separation stands with Perspex tops so buyers can stand safely side by side.
  • Ring markers on floors to show 2m distance higher up the ring.
  • Auctioneers reminding those present of the need to ensure facemasks are being worn.

Supporting the local economy

Rural business surveillance and support

Ensuring confidence and safety in the farm-to-fork chain, with a focus on maximising animal disease control and increasing biosecurity.

Round-up of outcomes

  • Multiple lockdowns led to the challenge of remote audits for funded agriculture and animal feed inspections.
  • We continued our programme of enhanced visits with partner agencies to TB-persistent farms, contributing to a 50% reduction in number over the last two years.
  • Responded to an Avian Influenza outbreak in East Devon during Christmas/New Year with 20 officers/managers working with the Animal & Plant Health Agency on foot patrols to ensure keepers were housing their birds to prevent further spread and losses.
  • Our Trading Standards Farming Partnership (made up of representatives from various relevant organisations) continued to work together virtually throughout the pandemic including a winter newsletter being produced and sent out to all.

Facts and figures

  • 86% funded agriculture inspections completed.
    • 84 non-primary, e.g. animal feed and pet food manufacturers, co-producers.
    • 153 on-farm mixers, livestock and arable farms.
  • Four funded samples of raw pet food taken.
    • 50% unsatisfactory due to levels of enterobacteria with follow-up advice to traders.
    • Further complaint sample was satisfactory.
  • 122 inspections to animal disease Critical Control Point (CCP) premises (87 markets, nine abattoirs and one transporter).
  • 42 TB interventions.
  • 35% reduction in TB-persistent farms (from 65 to 42).
  • Responded to 29 breaches of Poultry Housing Order following Avian Influenza outbreak.

Red-amber-green status

Amber. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a reduced number of inspections were undertaken. CCP visits to markets were carried out through the year at a reduced level based on intelligence to maximise outcomes of visits. In quarter four, agriculture inspections were carried out remotely and the overall target for year reduced to 75%. Planned roadside checks in quarter four were cancelled.

Mental health and wellbeing in the farming community

To recognise, raise awareness and improve mental health and wellbeing.

Feedback included: “Great speakers, very informative, such a good idea”.

Mental health training

  • 20 minute in-house video created for all staff on mental health to assist when carrying out inspections.
  • 12 officers undertook Mental Health First Aiders training.
  • A survey before and after training found officers had improved in knowledge and confidence in advising traders on issues relating to mental health.

Trading Standards Farming Partnership mental health

Our Trading Standards Farming Partnership was used to assist in making links with other agencies to act as key speakers for our webinars on mental health.

Information was sent out in newsletters to members on our mental health work.

Webinars

Three live sessions were held in July, November and February receiving great feedback from attendees representing both the farming community and other agencies totalling over 31 organisations.

Speakers included representatives from the Farming Community Network, Young Farmers’ Clubs, Farm Safety Foundation, Campaign Against Living Miserably and Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution. In total 210 people attended the live sessions with a further 265 registering and viewing the recordings on YouTube.

Red-amber-green status

Green. We were unable to provide face-to-face events due to Covid-19. These were held online instead. This did mean though we could have speakers from further afield e.g. Ireland. Training was also virtual rather than face to face.

Most-complained-about traders – used-car sales

Engage with problem car traders to reduce complaint levels and consumer detriment.

Motor trade complaints continued to be treated as a priority during the year, being allocated for support or investigation as appropriate.

However, our planned proactive engagement with the 10 most-complained-about used-car-sales businesses was halted during 2020/21. This was due to a 66% drop-off in complaints during the first Covid-19 lockdown period, with continued business-opening restrictions for this sector throughout the year continuing to impact the level of complaints received.

With the reopening of the economy it is expected that complaint levels will rise again in 2021/22. A proactive, planned programme of visits will commence once a top 10 list of most-complained- about traders in this sector emerges.

Red-amber-green status

Red.

High-priority premises interventions

To help protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for business by interventions with high-priority businesses.

Actions

Each year we carry out a risked-based, intelligence-led assessment of premises on our database identifying those which are high priority. We will aim to visit 100% of these premises and have a medium-priority list for premises that we want to inspect if there is capacity when officers are in the area.

Petroleum inspections were undertaken throughout the year with:

  • Work being undertaken in conjunction with the Environment Agency due to two spills.
  • In-depth advice provided to bring three sites back into compliance.
  • Consulted on eight new sites: attending tank installations and one instance where we were able to avoid an electrical cable being placed in a hazardous zone.

Figures

  • Petroleum – eight (100%) (plus 24/74 medium priority).
  • Fireworks – 50 (100%) (plus 6/30 medium priority).
  • Manufacturers:
    • Food – 2/3.
    • Non-food – 6/14.
  • Buy With Confidence re-audits – 13/30.
  • Weighbridges – 0/50.
  • Licensing income: £40,764.

Red-amber-green status

Amber. Due to Covid-19, not all planned Buy With Confidence re-audits were undertaken and will be rolled over to 2021/22. Manufacturer visits were also reduced due to businesses not operating.

Paid-for business support: Primary Authority, Metrology Lab and bespoke advice

Actions

Regular contact was made with our Primary Authority businesses throughout the year offering support and advice whilst they navigated the impact of Covid-19.

Here is some of the feedback we received:

  • “Thanks for the help and advice over the last 12 months, it has been much appreciated”. The Bay Tree Food Company.
  • “Thank you so much for your thorough feedback. It is very much appreciated.” Sativa PLC.
  • “The support from Trading Standards in a friendly, approachable manner is always appreciated to ensure our business continues to operate safely.” Anonymous.

Figures

  • 44 Primary Authority (PA) memberships.
  • Five new PA businesses.
  • £8,560 PA income*.
  • £11,616 bespoke advice income
  • Metrology Lab external income: £53, 817.

*From 1 March to 1 November 2020 there was no charging.

Surveys

  • Support to our Primary Authority businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic – seven responses.
  • To businesses including the offer of free business support – three responses.

Red-amber-green status

Amber. Due to Covid-19 the majority of our paid-for services have been provided virtually. Targeted marketing campaigns were put on hold and the move to provision of free advice for all businesses meant income was less than targeted.

Paid-for business support – Buy With Confidence (BWC) and Made In Devon

Actions

BWC members were provided support and advice on request with regular email newsletters providing guidance on key concerns for businesses around Covid-19, EU Transition etc.

Funding was received from Devon County Council to aid economic recovery, through the development and implementation of a Made In Devon scheme category within BWC.

Work involved:

Made in Devon Buy With Confidence

  • Design and creation of a logo and website for Made In Devon.
  • Development of criteria for membership and auditing forms.
  • Marketing campaign including a radio advertising campaign on Heart FM.
  • The scheme was soft launched in November 2020 with the first 50 applicants receiving free membership for a year.

Figures

  • We have 289 BWC members.
  • 65 new-member applications for BWC members including 57 wishing to use the Made In Devon logo.
  • £1,450 BWC income in fees
  • £40,000 from Devon County Council to support Devon-based members in light of Covid-19 by covering the cost of their fees for a year.
  • Produced nine email newsletters.

Red-amber-green status

Green. Due to Covid-19 the majority of our paid-for services have been provided virtually.

Complaints and investigations

Complaints

We received over 14,400 complaints during 2020/21. These were risk-assessed in line with our control strategy with a focus on complaints relating to Covid-19, animal disease control, doorstep crime, food allergens, scams and the motor trade. Twenty-three percent (over 3,300) were allocated for further investigation of potential criminal breaches. This was an increase on
previous years.

Investigation results

During 2020/21 we had a number of cases presented in court. Outcomes included:

Red-amber-green status

None given. Covid-19 has affected the length of time it takes for cases to be heard in court.

Non-paid-for business support to traders requesting advice

Actions

This task was aimed at improving recording of non-paid-for business support to unable us to identify which sectors were requesting our services and allow targeted marketing to raise wider awareness of free and paid-for support available.

A training PowerPoint was produced for officers for recording of time within our database. A total of 216 hours 50 minutes of non-paid-for advice was provided. Advice and support were given to 280 different traders.

Figures

Top trade sectors receiving free advice:

  • Letting and estate agents – 24 hours.
  • Livestock markets – 12 hours.
  • Milk/eggs/dairy products – 11 hours.
  • Safety at sports grounds – 10 hours.
  • Filling station/petrol/oil – eight hours.
  • Personal protective equipment – six hours.

Advice was provided as a result of:

  • Complaints – 102 hours.
  • Service requests – 61 hours.
  • Visits – 51 hours.

Red-amber-green status

None given. No fixed targets, work undertaken if resource capacity allows.

Most-complained-about traders in other sectors

Engage with problem traders to reduce complaint levels and consumer detriment.

Actions

Traders identified were allocated to an officer for a review of their complaints, and proactive engagement with the trader to provide guidance and advice to bring them back into compliance. Businesses included holiday companies, wedding venues, and online retailers and service providers.

Facts and figures

  • 26 traders identified as requiring intervention corresponding to 237 complaints and £221,500 detriment.
  • Interventions led to 75%* reduction in complaints over following three months and 70% reduction in overall detriment.

*High percentage reduction may in part be due to lockdown.

Red-amber-green status

None given. No fixed targets, work undertaken if resource capacity allows.

Supporting and protecting the most vulnerable

Scams awareness and prevention

Raising awareness of scams to educate consumers and businesses and provide support to victims.

Actions

  • Telephone welfare checks were made to known victims of scams to ensure they aren’t becoming repeat victims during Covid-19.
  • Second-highest local authority for sign-ups to Friends Against Scams.
  • 866 surveys with advice were sent out to past victims.
  • Remote support was provided to 47 victims known to still be responding to scams.
  • Five Covid-19 scam-related reactive press releases issued.
  • The Service was asked to lead on the creation of a good practice guide for the Local Government Association on the regulation of consumer protection and scams.
  • Focused social media campaigns e.g. Black Friday, TV licencing and Green Home Grants.
  • Created a partnership with Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service for raising their awareness, improving referrals and providing them with scams training.
  • Provided training on exploitation and Covid-19 scams to Adult Social Care.
  • Scams article in weekly bulletin sent to 6,400 schools.
  • Scams articles published in other consumer publications, with a total circulation of 169,000.
  • Supported Scamnesty month and Rogue Trader week.

Red-amber-green status

Amber. Due to Covid-19 a planned Digital Devon Lives task was put on hold; we were unable to carry out in-person visits to scam victims and live events were cancelled; we did not complete planned short videos for raising scams awareness.

Doorstep crime

Take measures to prevent, disrupt and deter doorstep criminals and rogue traders.

Actions

Provision of advice to traders including some claiming to be offering Covid-19 related services. There are ongoing investigations into a range of rogue trader offences by builders and gardeners for fraud and consumer protection offences with some individual losses of over £30,000. One completed investigation for a drainage company was fined £3,685 after pleading guilty to unfair trading and has paid back over £20,000 to victims across the South West.

Facts and figures

  • Covid-19 reduced reports by 50% in lockdown.
  • 424 reports in total with July and August peak months for incidents (118).
  • Total consumer detriment was £100,320 with an average loss of around £2,229.
  • Total detriment recovered: £10,261.
  • Top reported issues:
    • Companies offering energy efficiency measures under government grant schemes.
    • Home maintenance and improvement.
    • Roofing, guttering and facias.
    • Gardening products and services.

Red-amber-green status

Amber. Covid-19 impacted our ability to respond to all complaints received and carry out targeted victim prevention in areas where there was known rogue trader activity.

Safety at sports grounds

Ensuring that appropriate safety measures are in place at regulated sporting facilities.

Elite sports venues, unlike many businesses, remained open for business after an initial two-month interruption from March to June 2020. The return of elite sport was very much under the spotlight to ensure that all venues were Covid-secure, and that safety management complied with all Covid requirements.

The return of elite sport experienced many challenges including:

  • Furlough of venue safety management teams.
  • Shortages of PPE and hand sanitiser.
  • Playing behind closed doors
  • Socially distant capacity events including test events.
  • Covid-19 resilience of safety management and players.
  • Rapidly changing legislation and guidance including the challenge of a changing tier system which saw games and test events cancelled at short notice.
  • Virtual safety advisory groups.
  • Suspension of season for non-elite football clubs and the closure of certain sports venues.

The Service worked closely with the venues on these challenges including the updating and reissuing of general safety certificates for games behind closed doors and socially distanced events, and monitoring league games and preseason friendlies.

Facts and figures

  • 11 safety advisory group meetings at regulated venues.
  • Five annual reviews of safety certificates.
  • 10 event inspections according to risk.

Red-amber-green status

Green. Covid-19 increased the amount of work required with multiple changes to legislation so that professional sports could continue behind closed doors, then with limited spectators. This will continue in 2021/22.

Food standards and feed (non-funded) surveillance and sampling

To help protect consumers and ensure a level playing field for businesses.

Actions

Covid-19 affected our ability to carry out planned routine surveillance and sampling of food and feed businesses. This was largely due to the extended closure of catering businesses and other inspections being undertaken virtually.

Feed samples taken included raw pet food and imported feed at Teignmouth docks. The unsatisfactory samples related to raw pet food with high levels of Enterobacteriaceae.

Food samples were taken as a result of complaints regarding speciation and high levels of fat in mince.

Our priority aim during this period was to bring the businesses back into compliance.

Facts and figures

Type Total taken Number satisfactory Number unsatisfactory
Feed 7 5 2
Food 6 3 3

Red-amber-green status

None given. No fixed targets work undertaken if resource capacity allows.

Helping people to live healthier lives by preventing harm and promoting individual health

Improving compliance in the local lettings sector

Increase consumer awareness, provide regulatory support and increase compliance.

Actions

A programme of audits of letting agents’ websites was undertaken. Non-compliances found included:

  • Failure to display permitted fees.
  • Requiring tenants to pay prohibited fees.
  • Failure to display statutory statements e.g. client money protection, Electrical Performance Certificates.
  • Failure to hold valid client money protection.

Most businesses have welcomed contact and have made the changes necessary to ensure they operate within the law.

Facts and figures

  • Nine officers received specialised training in the legislation
  • 81 letting agents websites audited – 70% found non-compliant in first instance.
  • 57 received tailored advice and further guidance.
  • Targeted media campaign planned, currently under development.

Red-amber-green status

Amber. Due to Covid-19 we were unable to progress planned exploration of cross-service regulation with partners.

Food allergens

Prevent harm to consumers by ensuring businesses comply with food safety.

Actions

  • Three webinars were held in the autumn raising awareness of food allergens.
  • £3,500 of Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS) funding secured for the mentoring of seven businesses and the production of a short film clip to advertise our webinar.
  • Officer Allergen Response Kits were created along with aide memoires for use with allergens complaints.

Red-amber-green status

Amber. Due to Covid:

  • Extensive closure periods of catering businesses meant allergens inspections and sampling were halted and have been rolled over to 2021/22.
  • Development of an memorandum of understanding with environmental health services for dealing with allergens issues was unable to be progressed.
  • The number of businesses taking up direct mentoring was lower than expected, original target – 10.

Age-restricted products – knives and illicit tobacco

Prevent harm to consumers by ensuring businesses comply with legislation regarding their sale.

  • Proactive work was halted in response to Covid-19 regulation work and redeployment of officers.
  • Age-restricted products complaints reduced by 48% during lockdown and were 22% lower during restricted opening.
  • 90% of complaints received were allocated for appropriate action.
  • Nine businesses received advice regarding the home delivery of alcohol.
  • 11 cease-and-desist letters sent to online sellers of illicit tobacco. Ongoing activity will be monitored.

Red-amber-green status

Red.

To be recognised for innovation, excellent service and as a great place to work

Developments and recognition

The service aims to continuously improve on its performance, actively seeking to be innovative and provide an excellent service to all our stakeholders.

This year we have:

  • Finalised our merger with Plymouth Trading Standards which became operational on 1 April 2021.
  • Continued development of a modern database for recording and managing our work.
  • Embraced technology as result of Covid-19 to carry out inspections and support businesses virtually.
  • Explored technology for development of a one-stop shop for consumers and businesses.
  • Committed to staff development including:
    • Reviewing and updating our Career Progression Scheme
    • Supporting new and existing members of staff in undertaking the Trading Standards Professional Qualifications.
    • Management development with two managers completing Level 7 qualifications.

The work of the Service was also externally recognised in 2020/21 through:

  • The Heart of the South West Better Business for All (BBfA) Partnership winning the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy BBfA award. Devon, Somerset & Torbay Trading Standards is a lead member of the partnership.
  • Being a shortlisted finalist for the Local Government Chronicle Awards in the ‘Best Service Delivery Model’ category.


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