Innovation Exchange

Measured Change

Introduction

Key activities

Benefits and impacts

Learning

Further Information

Measured Change is the culmination of a partnership between 12 West of Scotland Council Trading Standards (TS) Services. The West of Scotland Group Notified Body, hosted by Dumfries and Galloway Council (DGC) is now designated as a Notified Body under relevant EC Directives and Quality Standards on behalf of the partnership.  Other Councils contribute specific functions to the partnership which is governed within the Quality Management System. The process undertaken and resultant partnership has so far delivered specific improvement across partner Council areas in service resilience and sustainability, skills development, systems standardisation and quality assurance with further development to be considered collectively.  This strengthens and sustains a function which contributes to governing an estimated £212 billion worth of consumer goods sold nationally controlled by weights and measures legislation, with a further £280 billion worth of industrial weighing and measuring taking place annually.

Theme: Service Transformation

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Through enhancing communications across Council areas and enabling collective exploration of forthcoming issues affecting TS, the process and resultant partnership has delivered the following for those engaged:

1. Provision of a knowledge hub and joint public facing website to exchange and impart information relating to service provision and national and international service drivers.

2. Pooling of skills and knowledge to plan and provide CPD opportunities anticipating national and European developments in legislation.

3. Standardisation of operating procedures and methodology across partners governed in line with collectively agreed quality standards documentation.

 

In April 2013, a Service Level Agreement was created for each partner to commit to the Group for a period of four years, ensuring that the designation could be applied for and that each partner would have certainty that it would continue to exist for the duration of the designation. This was accompanied by an annual fee of £500 to provide collectivised services on behalf of partners. The Agreement set out a commitment from D&G Council, as host, to maintain a calibration lab in accordance with the Standard; maintain a quality system with a shared Quality Manual; organise internal and external auditing with the National Measurement Office and to provide a minimum of 10 hours CPD for every Authorised Verification Officer (AVO) within the partnership (TSOs can only become AVOs if they meet the required level of competency).

 

Partners, in turn, agreed to maintain their own weighing and measuring equipment to the prescribed standard; comply with the Quality Manual; have adequate liability insurance; ensure that officers attended the training provided; and to carry out their own internal auditing. Training was carried out over three sessions at the commencement of the Agreement in 2013 to ensure that each partner could guarantee a minimum level of competency in their TSOs and that all had a consistent approach. This training is now built into CPD sessions which meet the agreed level of 10 hours per annum, the minimum standard required for AVOs.

 

Annual audits are carried out involving all partners to ensure continued compliance and quarterly meetings provide a continual review platform where problems and best practice are shared in order to provide continuous improvement.

Undertaking the process of engagement which has resulted in this formal partnership has been beneficial in itself.  It has delivered results and impacts as outlined elsewhere in this case study.  In addition to this, results and impacts relating specifically to the TS function can be summarised as follows:

 

  1. By March 2014 the Partnership had received UK and EU designation as a Notified Body, in recognition of compliance to Standards and evidenced competencies. This includes designation for certain measuring instruments for which there are very few other Notified Bodies in the UK. For example, there are currently only 13 Notified Bodies for rail weighbridges and automatic catchweighers (commonly used in food factories) in the UK. This is only the fourth NB in Scotland that specialises in such complex industrial instruments, the others being Highland, Shetland and Aberdeenshire Councils. This makes our GNB of greater significance within the UK as we generate enquiries from a number of businesses regarding the installation of instruments throughout central and southern Scotland and northern England. There are currently 46 Authorised Verification Officers across the 12 Authorities within the GNB who are able to share and contribute their technical skills when questions are raised.

  2. Combining and pooling of back office functions has enabled partners to achieve greater resilience to legislation changes. Full implementation of the new Directives and Standard for weighing and measuring instruments took place from April 2016. The impact of this was easier to prepare for as a group and it is anticipated that the demand for services of the GNB will increase as a result.

  3. The development of a collective knowledge across council areas has resulted in a greater ability to react to the needs of businesses. Verification of newly installed rail weighbridges at the second largest power station in the UK allowed a local and cost-effective service provision from the GNB where previously this would need to be sourced from far further afield. Future development of the GNB would be to expand our designation to include meter measuring systems for road tankers.

  4. It is estimated that over the lifetime of the project financial efficiencies of £262,000 will be made. This will come from savings of £220k for officer time on shared systems and process development (200 hours of TSO time plus costs (£25/hr) per year (x4) per partner Authority (x11)) and £42k (368 courses @ £120/day minus £2,000 in costs) through the amalgamation of CPD provision. Although the principal aim of the project was not to achieve financial savings it is envisaged that greater economies of scale could be realised through further expansion of the partnership.

All of the West of Scotland Authorities are committed to promoting their local economy and there is no doubt that a robust weights and measures service at local level benefits local businesses and protects consumers. The potential impact of the GNB in the context of the national value of regulated consumer goods mentioned above would be 3.6% of the total (based on population) and could therefore be valued at £7.6 billion.

Measured Change is innovative because it uses existing and traditional structures and, by putting them together creates a partnership that is greater than the sum of each of the partners. Specifically this has:

 

  1. Created and provided an ongoing forum within an accountable structure to collaborate in the provision of the GNB and inform its future development. This provides extra stability and means that the impact of one individual leaving the service would not have the devastating effect that it might have within one Authority; as has been the case over recent years when experts retire and take all of the knowledge and skills with them. There will be more in-built resilience and an increased capacity for succession planning, future-proofing the services provided. This has been in advance of any national directive to undertake such an initiative and allows the opportunity for other council areas to seek to join this approach in a clear and transparent basis.

  2. Provided opportunity for individual partners to contribute their greatest skill to the group. For example, D&G has developed a quality management system that has been shared with the other partner Councils; South Lanarkshire Council has trained and developed all of the officers to ensure sufficient competency to perform conformity assessments; and East Dunbartonshire has contributed expertise in auditing to ensure the quality management system and officer training and development meets the requirements. All of the partners have pooled their experience and practical knowledge in an area that is so highly specialised that no one person can easily build this level of expertise on their own. Problems need only be researched once and this can be done as a joint effort rather than each Authority working individually on a specific issue that may occur anywhere.

  3. Sought to formalise and document the approach through a Service Level Agreement and Quality Manual informed by all partners. The underlying aim of this being to ensure that this initial idea was progressed in a known and transparent way and will be sustainable for at least the lifetime of the project (4 years). This timescale will allow active consideration of extending or replicating the project for a greater timeframe or greater number of partners.

  4. Amalgamated the public facing communication of the partners into one public facing website thereby looking to combine activity to reduce costs and duplication of activity across Council areas. The number of hits will be monitored on an ongoing basis through biannual review meetings.

Although the initial designation process is now complete, the regular SCOTSS meetings are used to govern the project and the Group is open to the opportunity to expand either in range of TS functions or services or across council areas.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:

 

Sandra Harkness

Service Manager, Trading Standards

Dumfries and Galloway Council

01387 260000

Case study added to site: June 2016

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