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COMAH Charging Review Group

Minutes of the Meeting Held on 13 October 2004


Present:

Mr Kevin Allars, Chairman, HSE

Industry Members

Dr Terry Ritter - LPGA
Mr Nick Berentzen - CIA
Mr David McHugh - Transco

Competent Authority Members

Mr Victor Isenwater - HSE
Ms Paula Moorhouse - HSE
Mr Kelvin McFadyen - HSE, Secretary


Welcome and Introductions

1.The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting. Apologies had been received from Tom Fidell (LPGA), for whom Terry Ritter was deputising; Jim Mowatt (T&GWU); Ian McPherson (UKPIA); Clive Musgrave (Transco), for whom David McHugh was deputising; Wil Huntly (EA); Andrew Hitchings (EA) and Bill Tomkins (HSE).

2.Apologies had also been received from Paul Wesson (BOC) who has changed jobs and for whom a replacement was required. Owen Tudor (TUC) who is no longer their H&S Officer and again a replacement is required. Paula Woolgar has replaced John Ford as a SEPA representative and sent apologies. The group noted that the CBI contact was now Janet Asherson.

The Chairman expressed his disappointment at the low turnout, and particularly at the lack of EA and SEPA representation.

Minutes of the Meeting held on 8 October 2003

3.The minutes had been circulated to members prior to publication on the Internet and were formally accepted.

Matters Arising

4.

Efficiency Gains

5.HSE reported that efficiency gains could only be accounted for when they were realised, not when they were only prospective. HSE has a number of reviews underway that have or should provide gains. The buildings occupied and their locations are under review as are the staff (posts) based in London to see whether jobs could be done elsewhere. Currently posts identified as relocatable are being moved when they become vacant. The new Bootle HQ building should provide efficiency gains, but these are unlikely to be realised until around 2007. The balance between front line and back office staff is being reviewed and some identifiable savings from that have fed through to the 2005/06 rate.

Progress on the Evaluation of Charging

6.The brigading of some back office functions such as personnel, training and IT support are shortly to be brigaded into an Operations Group Support Unit, with any surplus staff or funds transferred to front line functions. In addition, less expensive administrative staff are being recruited and trained to undertake roles as Regulatory Compliance Officers, freeing up inspector time from more routine health and safety issues such as dealing with industry enquiries and gathering investigation data. The Operations Group comprises the Hazardous Installations Directorate, Nuclear Safety Directorate, Field Operations Directorate and the Railways Inspectorate. For HID the brigading of back office functions currently mean the loss of 31 staff supporting the Directorate of c600 staff. 81 staff will carry out those support functions for the whole Operations Group comprising some 2600 staff. HSE has a target of increasing front line work by 20% over 4 years. We are 2 years into that process and gains are starting to happen and work through.

7.In response to Industry members HSE said that it was bound by HM Treasury to recover the full cost of chargeable activities and could only take prospective savings into account if they were measurable.

8.In addition to the initiatives above there are outside reviews taking place. The Hampton Review mentioned in the last Budget Speech is looking at regulatory efficiency and its impact on industry. HSE has made submissions to the review, a COMAH site has been visited and a meeting with CIA arranged. Various ideas are emerging from this review, from having a single regulator down. The review report is due to be sent to HSE soon to check for factual accuracy, before being presented to Government at the end of the year. There is also the House of Commons Work & Pensions Select Committee report on the work of HSE/C, to which the Government response is still awaited.

9.The ability of HSE to generate savings from these various initiatives and reviews takes time. The move of the Railway Inspectorate to the Office of the Rail Regulator was announced some time ago, but is unlikely to be completed until about 18 months time. This is because legislation is required for the move to happen and the legislative timetable is very busy. If any of the recommendations from the Hampton Review require legislation, such as merging of regulators, there will be long lead times.

10.A new single IT system for HSE's operational intelligence data and time recording is being developed. This should go live next year. There will be start up costs, but efficiency gains should be realised in time. Similarly the greater use of home working will provide gains in time, but there are start up costs for hardware and software.

11.Industry members said they recognised the efforts HSE is making to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Proposed Charge-out Rates 2005/06

12.The HSE outturn rate for 2003/04 was £111, against a charge rate of £113. This meant that for the first time there had been a small over-recovery of costs amounting to £79k. Treasury rules provide for unintentional over-recoveries to be retained. This will be done to offset previous years under-recoveries. The HSE outturn figures are published in the annual accounts.

13.The proposed HSE rate for 2005/06 is £115, which will be submitted to HSC and ministers for approval. The rate takes account of inflation and projected cost increases, including higher superannuation charges that will add between 5% and 6% to the pay bill. Measurable savings from the back office review and other initiatives offsets these increases. It was noted that the back office review savings had reduced the proposed rate by £4..

14.Industry members noted the proposal and understood the basis of the calculations. They requested that any future over- and under-recovery of costs be rolled forward and built into the rate calculation. HSE agreed to review any future over-recovery of costs and whether it could be returned to duty holders in some way.

Secretary's Note: Members should note that:

15.Members had previously been informed that the SEPA rate would remain at £120. The Secretary had been told the previous day that the EA rate would be £115. Industry members noted this asking whether EA/SEPA also published their accounts. They asked if EA and SEPA could provide similar background to that provided by HSE and an explanation of the 2005/06 rate calculations to aid better understanding. HSE assumed that accounts were published and undertook to request the data required from EA/SEPA.

Action: HSE

16.One Industry member also mentioned that the invoice data from EA/SEPA was not as informative as that supplied by HSE.

Disputes Panel - Independent Member

17.HSE said that this item had been put on the agenda because the independent members had been appointed some time ago and it was thought prudent to check the currency of the nominations. The meeting agreed that if a Level 3 dispute arose in the future another member of the group could be used as the independent member.

Any Other Business

18.The Chair said that he would be writing to all COMAH companies soon regarding the outcome of the HSE work with EA, SEPA, CIA and CO on improving regulatory efficiency and openness (the CEMAP process: Chemical Enforcement Meeting Action Plan). When doing so he would be asking them not to involve inspectors in discussions about charging policy. Charging is Government policy and inspectors should not need to get involved in discussions about its merits, particularly as such discussions reduce the time they can spend on doing their job. Industry noted this.

19.Given the large number of apologies received for this meeting and the limited number of agenda items the Chairman raised the question of the worth of future meetings was raised. Industry members felt that the annual meetings still had value and should continue for the time being.

Action: Secretary

Date of Next Meeting

20.The next meeting was set for 19 October 2005 in Bootle.


Updated on 10/11/2004

Updated 2008-12-05