Warwickshire County Council and partners’ collaborative approach to ensure COVID-19 Regulations were followed by local businesses during the pandemic has been rewarded with a major national honour.
The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has awarded the county and partners Best Collaborative Working Initiative (with other public sector or third sector) 2021 award, in recognition of its highly successful collaboration with local businesses which successfully responded to the biggest regulatory challenge in decades: ensuring that COVID-19 Regulations were consistently applied across the county, and that businesses were supported to comply.
The multi-agency approach involved the county’s Environmental Health, Trading Standards and Community Safety teams; the District and Borough Councils; Public Health; Warwickshire Police; Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service and Coventry City Council.
The collaboration saw 4,300 interactions by the partners with businesses over compliance with COVID-19 Regulations since 25 March 2020, with enforcement action needing to be taken on only six occasions.
With an emphasis on informal advice and support, rather than enforcement, the partners produced best practice guides and information for staff, operators and senior managers as the regulatory framework and guidance changed throughout the pandemic.
They delivered more than 30 webinars from June 2020 on for every business sector, as well as a diverse range of community and other events, including Remembrance events, religious events and high-profile sporting events.
One of the biggest challenges was the different interpretations of the Regulations being taken by businesses in order to stay open. However, the united approach to the application of the COVID-19 Regulations ensured a consistent response from all partners.
From the outset of the pandemic, Warwickshire Trading Standards became the central point for referrals of any breaches, or reported breaches, of the Regulations. This information is shared at a twice weekly meeting - the Warwickshire Intel and Tasking Partnership Meeting - where partners carefully assess the breaches against the Regulations and apply the same approach across all business sectors.
The Warwickshire collaboration has been a catalyst for change, at levels well beyond the boundaries of the County. For example, a collective compliance approach was made to a car parts retailer who continued to allow the general public into their stores, in contravention of the Regulations. The result was that the retailer changed their practices for all stores across the country.
One of the most recent challenges for the partnership was the onset of the summer festival season. The Intel and Tasking Partnership developed a public health risk indicator model to assess the potential for events and festivals. Each week a video has been posted to YouTube updating event organisers on any changes, or emerging trends.
Regular surveys with partner agencies have revealed how valuable this collaborative approach has been for all parties in their aim of supporting businesses and keeping residents safe.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said:
“I’m delighted and proud that the County Council and our partners have been recognised by receiving this APSE Award. As a result of our joined-up working, residents and business have not only seen consistency in terms of advice and support, but also transparency in the way we have applied the COVID-19 Regulations. While seeking compliance, we have at the same time, placed an emphasis on support and information to businesses, only using enforcement powers on the rare occasions when all other avenues have failed. The collaboration and consistency that lies at the heart of this approach provides a long-lasting legacy of co-operation between partners that will last well beyond the pandemic.”
Councillor Judy Falp, Portfolio Holder for Community Protection for Warwick District Council said:
“We are pleased to see that the hard work and dedication of teams from across the District Council has been recognised at a national level. Our focus has always been on supporting businesses in navigating the legislation and requirements, working closely with our partners to ensure that their staff and customers were safe. We continue to provide support to businesses as the legislation changes.”
Deputy Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police, Alex Franklin Smith, said:
“I am delighted the force’s contribution has been recognised at a national level and am incredibly proud of how we have adapted our ways of working during a particularly challenging 18 months.
“We have always maintained an emphasis on giving informal advice and support, and engagement rather than enforcement, and along with our partners, have done everything we can to keep the people of Warwickshire protected at all times.
“Collaborating with partner agencies was absolutely key to providing a consistent response to the pandemic across the county.
“It was imperative that we worked together to support the vast majority of people and businesses determined to do the right thing while ensuring appropriate actions were taken against those deliberately putting others at risk.
“I would like to thank all those involved in the multi-agency work, which I believe made a vital contribution to keeping people safe during a significant health crisis.
“The approach built on relationships that were already established and made them even stronger, leaving a legacy of partnership work that will continue to benefit the people of Warwickshire for years to come.”
The APSE awards recognise the very best in local government frontline services across the UK. To find out the winners of each category in the APSE Service Awards 2021, visit www.apse.org.uk/apse/index.cfm/events/apse-annual-service-awards-2021