FOOD STORAGE AND DISTRIBUTION FEDERATION

CO-ORDINATED PRIMARY AUTHORITY PARTNERSHIP WITH SLOUGH BOROUGH COUNCIL

REVISED IN LINE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE ENTERPRISE ACT 2017

Frequently Asked Questions

1a. What is the Primary Authority Scheme?


Primary Authority was launched in 2009 to make regulation easier and simpler for business to understand. It enabled a business, to form a legally recognised partnership with a single local authority, called its ‘primary authority’. The government is committed to developing Primary Authority and sees the scheme as playing a key role in its work to improve the way that regulations are enforced.

1b. What is a Co-ordinated Primary Authority Partnership?


It is a partnership between a co-ordinator (e.g. a Trade Association) acting on behalf of a group of businesses “which share an approach to compliance” and a range of products or services which are similar in nature and a single Local Authority. The key is that the partnership and any Primary Authority Advice which is issued has legal status, unlike the previous Home Authority process. The scheme was changed in October 2017, to expand access to PAP to a wider range of businesses, and these FAQs reflect those changes.   

1c. What is a Primary Authority?


A Local Authority which is recognised legally as the Primary Authority for a business once it has been “nominated” by the Secretary of State. Nomination relies on having responsibility for regulatory functions covered by the Partnership and it must be suitable, having the appropriate experience, competency and resource. The primary authority can provide robust and reliable regulatory advice which other local authorities must take into account in their dealings with the business. In this way, Primary Authority promotes consistency and fairness in the way that local authorities enforce regulations.

2. Who is the Partnership with?


Slough Borough Council, which was picked for its closeness to the FSDF Office at Grazeley, their experience in working with large corporate businesses with multi sites across the UK and their proactive approach to working with a Trade Association and its members, from large corporate to small and medium enterprises (SME).

3. How can Primary Authority benefit my business?


Through our Primary Authority partnership, our members can benefit from primary authority advice, tailored to our sector.  The advice could cover guidance on trading standards, environmental health licensing via a single point of contact. This enables FSDF members to invest in confidence in products, practices and procedures, knowing that the resources they devote to compliance are well spent.

 The key benefits of having a primary authority vary from business to business. However, the benefits that co-ordinated partnerships aim to deliver include:

  • Expertise:a primary authority can become an expert on our sector and can provide useful, authoritative and reliable advice (known as Primary Authority Advice) on what our members need to do to comply with the law.
  • Understanding:the close relationship between the primary authority and your co-ordinator means that the primary authority can develop a good understanding of the issues faced by businesses in our sector and can help inspectors from other local authorities to better understand the challenges you face, and how you are trying to comply with legal requirements.
  • Reassurance: where your business follows Primary Authority Advice you can have confidence that you are doing the right thing and that local inspectors can’t ask you to do something different. The primary authority can direct against any enforcement action proposed by another local authority, if it is inconsistent with the advice given. This protects our members from the consequences of different local interpretation of regulations.

4. How does it work?


The scheme enables Slough Borough Council to develop positive relationships with the FSDF as a representative of wide range of FSDF member businesses. , It allows members to demonstrate their wish to work in partnership with regulators and should improve their experience of local regulation. The Partnership can cover all aspects of regulation and enforcement undertaken at Local Authority level, but we have chosen to be active in   Animal Health and Welfare, Food Safety & Hygiene; Food Standards; Health, Safety & Welfare, Environmental Protection, Road Traffic, Pollution Control, Metrology. Primary authority advice can be developed which relates to regulations which FSDF members are affected by.

5. Is my business eligible?


Your business is eligible to participate in our co-ordinated primary Authority partnership if it is a member of the FSDF. We will provide a conduit between our members and our primary authority.

These FAQs are concerned with co-ordinated partnerships and the FSDF Primary Authority Partnership with Slough Borough Council. Businesses can be a member of more than one regulated group and benefit from Primary Authority Advice through more than one co-ordinated partnership

FSDF will be able to include businesses which have existing Direct Primary Authority partnerships in our regulated group. Further information is also available if you are interested in a direct partnership which would be bespoke to your own business needs and would not necessarily reflect the needs of the wider FSDF membership.

FSDF will create a website link to enable member access to Primary Authority advice. Any Assured Guidance will also be published on the FSDF Website within the Members’ Area.

6. What can a partnership cover?


A partnership can extend to a broad range of the regulatory areas covered by local councils and fire and rescue services. These areas are defined under the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 (see List of Legislation) and include, for example, health and safety, food hygiene, product safety, fair trading, age restrictions and some areas of local licensing, including explosives and petroleum. It has recently been extended to fire safety.

The regulatory areas covered by the scheme do vary across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The scheme is concerned with regulation by councils and fire and rescue authorities, and does not extend to the enforcement activity of national regulators such as the Health & Safety Executive and Food Standards Agency.

7. What is the role of the BEIS Regulation Delivery Office?


BEIS is the Registrar of PAP schemes throughout the United Kingdom, and maintains the Public Register in which each Primary Authority Partnership is registered. BEIS is also a regulator and now coordinates National and Local Authority regulation and enforcement. 

 

8. Why Slough? My business is in the North


Slough is close to FSDF office at Grazeley, Reading, and enables the Local Authority to meet and talk with FSDF at regular reviews, with the objective that issues will be quickly dealt with.

9. What will it cost my business?


Normally nothing other than time to attend review meetings and relevant events, and the routine costs associated with maintaining appropriate standards and compliance with regulatory requirements.

10. What benefits will it bring to my company and my colleagues?


The generation of a positive relationship and demonstrable commitment to work in partnership with regulators. It will also lead to consistency of application across all UK locations within a member business, and with the FSDF member business range across the United Kingdom.

11. What is Primary Authority Advice?


A business can rely on the advice provided by Primary Authority, and on its primary authority’s interpretation of the relevant legal requirements. Provided the business follows the Primary Authority Advice, it doesn’t need to worry about responding to conflicting advice or even facing enforcement action from another local authority that has a different interpretation of the legal requirements.

This is because Primary Authority Advice has its basis in the legislation that established the statutory scheme and this legislation provides protection for a business that follows advice provided by its primary authority. A local authority that wishes to take enforcement action against a business in primary authority must first notify the proposed action to the primary authority.

The primary authority is able to direct against, or block this action if it would be inconsistent with Primary Authority Advice that the business has received. For this reason, Primary Authority Advice is often referred to as providing assurance, or simply as assured advice. The assurance that is provided by following Primary Authority Advice can reduce a business’s exposure to the costs of unfair or inconsistent regulatory action.

12. How is Primary Authority Advice provided?


Primary Authority Advice to businesses in co-ordinated partnerships will usually be developed by the primary authority, or by the primary authority working with the co-ordinator, and is tailored to meet the collective needs and circumstances of the group of businesses. The coordinator has the statutory duty to disseminate the information to members. Sometimes the Primary Authority Advice will take the form of guidance that has been developed by the co-ordinator, such as a manual or handbook, which the primary authority has reviewed and agreed.

The advice is issued by the primary authority to the co-ordinator. The co-ordinator is responsible for making sure that the advice is sent out to the businesses, and that they are also sent any subsequent updates to the advice. Your co-ordinator will be able to explain the arrangements that it has agreed with a primary authority.

The primary authority is required to share Primary Authority Advice that it provides to businesses in co-ordinated partnerships with other local authorities, by publishing it in the secure area of the Primary Authority Register.

13. Can I ignore my existing Local Authority and their officers, and just deal with FSDF and Slough BC?


No, you will still need to maintain a working relationship with your local regulator but if you disagree with the actions of your local regulators, you can refer the issue to the Primary Authority through FSDF, who will take up the issue on your behalf, to seek consistency of interpretation and application.

14. Will my local inspector know I am in Primary Authority?


(unless you opt out of the partnership??) Your business details are supplied to BEIS on a list of FSDF members entitled to participate, and listed on a Public Register maintained by the Regulatory Delivery Office. They are also included on a secure web page which the primary authority uses to share information with local inspectors about the work that they do with your business and, through your co-ordinator, with other businesses following the same approach.

For example, any Primary Authority Advice that your business receives will be published here by the primary authority so that local inspectors can see what advice you are working to. This web page is part of a secure IT system called the Primary Authority Register.

All local authority inspectors should check the Primary Authority Register before carrying out inspections, or when they receive complaints or enquiries about a business, to see whether the business is in Primary Authority partnership.

Your business will receive a link to a downloadable certificate which you can display on your premises – this will draw attention to your participation in the scheme.

15. If my local LA tells me to do something which I feel is wrong, how do I react?


Tell him/her that you are a PAP member, which Local Authority is your PA, and that you wish to refer the issue to them. Your local regulators should then engage with Slough for further discussion.

FSDF members should also advise FSDF as the PAP coordinator of any incident or subsequent issue as soon as possible and certainly within 48 hours.

16. Can Primary Authority prevent enforcement action against my business?


Any local authority that proposes to take enforcement action against a business in Primary Authority Partnership will usually need to notify the primary authority in advance of taking the action.

There are some exemptions from this requirement, for example where emergency action is required.

A primary authority is able to direct against proposed enforcement action that is inconsistent with Primary Authority Advice that it has given.

Further information on the requirements of Primary Authority in relation to enforcement action against a business that is in the scheme is available on the Enforcement Action page.

17. Will it save my business any money?


Yes, it will save time and therefore money, by improved compliance and a collaborative approach.

18. Will it add administrative burden to my company and cost money?


It should not, unless you have a unique problem which needs to be addressed on a bespoke basis and in more detail.

19. What is Assured Guidance? Can I rely on it in a Court of Law?


Assured Guidance is known as Primary Authority Advice it is developed by the Primary Authority on issues which relate to the members companies of a Co-ordinated PAP. It must be correct and relevant to a significant proportion of the businesses in the partnership. It has legal status and can be relied upon in a Court of Law. When Primary Authority Advice has been issued it will be disseminated by FSDF.  

20. What about Approved Codes of Practice - where do they fit?


Where appropriate, Approved Codes of Practices will be incorporated into Assured Guidance.

21. What benefits will Assured Guidance provide a satisfactory resolution to a difference of opinion with my local EHO/TSO?


Relying on Assured Guidance and telling that to the local regulators will cause them to contact your Primary Authority to discuss the circumstances and obtain a recognised solution acceptable to all parties. It should also create a more collaborative approach in future.

22. What does FSDF as the co-ordinator do?


Within the scheme, the co-ordinator acts as the legally responsible body for the Primary Authority and will act as the conduit between the primary authority and their members. The role will usually involve some or all the following:

  • Developing working arrangements with the primary authority
    Ensuring the FSDF member listing and relevant details are maintained
  • Working with the primary authority to ensure that it understands the advice needs of the businesses
  • Working with the primary authority to develop Primary Authority Advice which it feels would benefit its members.
  • Disseminating Primary Authority Advice to the businesses and ensuring that they are aware of any subsequent changes to the advice

23. Can I call and ask specific questions which relate to my business?


Yes, you can contact the FSDF about issues which affect your business, we will determine if your query is likely to impact on a number of members and decide if it would be in the benefit of the membership to seek advice on the matter.

24. Who should I contact? (Contact details)


FSDF Offices in the first instance:

Tel: 0118 988 4468

Email: info@fsdf.org.uk

25. Will it cost me anything extra for specific advice for my business?


Slough BC cannot provide direct advice to individual FSDF co-ordinated Partnership members unless you have a direct Partnership with them. However, FSDF reserves the right to re-charge time at the agreed going rate ( currently £68 per hour) for time over and above a reasonable period or time to achieve a resolution for your business.

26. Does this Partnership also cover Regulation areas administered by Government Agencies?


No, it covers categories of Regulations administered at Local Government Level only. There is now an opportunity for additional connectivity between Local Authorities and Government agencies, such as the Health and Safety Executive and the Food Standards Agency but the scheme is still focused on Local Authority Regulation.

27. How does the joining process work?


All FSDF members are now, with effect from 1st October 2017, PAP members. FSDF as PAP coordinator has a statutory duty to make a list of members of the group, and ensure that the list is accurate and up to date.

FSDF also must ensure that the list is available to:
a) The Secretary of State
b) The Primary Authority
c) A qualifying regulator who has a function which is relevant to the regulator and a partnership function (and enforcing authority).

The partnership will be listed on the Public Register, with details of the regulated person(s),(our member’s) the primary authority, and the co-ordinator. Partnerships remain on the Public Register until revoked by the Secretary of State.

FINALLY

Detailed information of the Primary Authority Programme is available in the Primary Authority Statutory Guidance, published by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Regulatory Quality Office and this is downloadable from the Government website.