Our interview with David Pickering, Trading Standards Team Leader at Buckinghamshire County Council, reveals how the Food Standards and Labelling Groups bring local authority regulators, trading standards and environmental health together to exchange information and ideas, seek advice from peers and keep up to date with the latest developments.
"I use the Food Standards and Labelling Focus Group as a vehicle to produce guidance and form opinions and help inform the main group. The focus group can gather and discuss unresolved issues raised in the main group and provide advice quickly."
Opportunities for shared learning across groups
The Food Standards and Labelling Group enable regulators to share opinions and advice and develop practical resources. We have been able to produce two-three opinions purely using Knowledge Hub, which reduced the end-to- end times significantly. This meant that we did not have to wait for the monthly meetings or meet face-to- face to finalise them.
In the Food Standards and Labelling Focus Group we deal with lots of open-ended discussions from the main group, allowing us to assess what is causing people issues. We can use this to gather the popular issues and make a decision about whether we need to provide an opinion on it or not. This not only supports the government's Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO) agenda and is the mechanism to achieve it, but it also provides an official response to legislation from the sector which we can publish to the main group.
The wider Knowledge Hub community provides us with the opportunity to network with other professionals working with areas related to food standards and labelling, such as those working on the public health agenda.
"The focus group has enabled us to progress opinions and guidance virtually so that we are not waiting for the next meeting to discuss issues."
Reducing inconsistencies and costs
There is not currently another way of ensuring legislation is enforced consistently. If the group didn't exist you could end up with 80-90 different opinions on implementation of regulation, which leads to inconsistency across councils. Knowledge Hub enables one consistent approach to be developed by practitioners on the ground.
As a focus group of 30 people, we used to meet four times a year in London and we have managed to halve this and meet twice a year instead, and use the group to discuss issues in between meetings. This has reduced travel expenses for 60 days of the year and reclaimed 60 full working days for 30 people.