Headlines: May 10th, 2006

A newly-created Local Government Panel, made up of elected members from around England and Wales, has had its first meeting with the Health and Safety Commission. The new forum has been established to promote a dialogue on local, central and devolved government issues that impact on health and safety regulatory functions.The panel will also have the task of reviewing the effectiveness and assessing the performance of the partnership between the enforcing authorities, the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities. It was set up after a review last year of the liaison and governance arrangements between the two sides. That review recognised local government as a key strategic partner that had a unique role among stakeholders. It also stressed the importance of setting up a regular forum with local government to bring about an improved partnership

Bill Callaghan, the Chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, said he had been impressed with the contribution and enthusiasm shown in the last year by many local authorities working with the HSE on joint initiatives and new approaches to health and safety enforcement. “I’m particularly pleased that HSC will now have the chance of wider and direct dialogue with local government to help capture the full potential of HSE and local authorities working together,” he said.

For Local Government, Geoffrey Theobald, Chairman of LACORS – the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services – said the meeting marked an important day that gave councils a stronger voice in health and safety issues and would offer more opportunities to influence national health and safety policy and strategy. “By strengthening the partnership between HSE and local authorities, this forum will enable more effective use of joint resources, helping health and safety regulatory services achieve their full potential in improving health, safety and well-being of local communities,” Councillor Theobald added.

Local authorities are currently responsible for the enforcement of regulations in about half of all workplaces, covering 12 million workers mostly in offices, shops, warehouses, call centres and similar premises. The Executive is responsible for the remainder of activities and the workers in the