Cumulative Impact on Public Health Scrutiny Review
Councillor Janette Williamson, Cabinet Member for Public Health, said:
“Ensuring Wirral residents live healthier lives is one of our 20 Pledges, and remains extremely important to the Council. Making sure our policies and approach to services throughout the organisation support our ambitions is vital.
I think the work completed by Members through this Scrutiny Review is very helpful and will go a long way towards helping us achieve our pledge”.
The Cabinet had regard to a report which informed that at its meeting on the 23rd June 2015, the Policy and Performance Co-ordinating Committee had agreed to undertake a scrutiny review into the potential for developing a Cumulative Impact Policy. This was due to concerns raised about negative public health and public order impacts in localities with high concentrations of off-licences and fast food outlets.
The scope of the work was widened during the review process to incorporate other powers and approaches at the Council’s disposal to mitigate the harmful impacts of over-concentration of these premises. Members were keen to establish what powers and tools were at the Council’s disposal and to what extent these are being fully realised.
On 8 September 2016, a report on the findings of the review had been presented to the People Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Committee had endorsed the findings and recommendations set out in the report and had referred them to the Cabinet for approval. The report of the Scrutiny Review Panel was attached as Appendix 1 to the report.
The report outlined the actions being undertaken in response to the Scrutiny Review. These were attached as Appendix 2 to the report.
The Cabinet noted that the report linked to the Wirral Plan Pledge to support Wirral residents to lead healthier lives and supported the actions that were being developed to deliver that pledge.
Councillor Moira McLaughlin was in attendance at the meeting and informed that the Scrutiny Review Panel’s report was the result of the work of a Task and Finish Panel that had been initiated following discussion at a meeting of the former Policy and Performance Co-ordinating Committee during which Councillor Paul Hayes made the observation that Wirral had a problem both in terms of public health and with crime and disorder related to excessive alcohol consumption and the question was asked – are the existing policies to help reduce the impact of this sufficiently robust and if they are, are they applied rigorously enough.
The Task and Finish Group had been established to address that. The objectives had been to understand the profile for Wirral of the prevalence and density of licensed premises, to understand the impact of excessive use of alcohol on the health of people living in Wirral and to examine the powers, policies and initiatives available to the Council to mitigate against the negative impact of high levels of alcohol consumption.
Councillor McLaughlin informed that over the period of time that evidence was gathered, the Panel had heard from officers from Planning, Licensing, the Police and Public Health and as the objective had been to address public health issues around lifestyle, it had included fast food as a contributory factor to the well documented negative impact which most seriously effected people living in areas of high deprivation.
The Panel had not looked at Betting Shops, though it did recognise that the density of these in some areas was also damaging the life of some people.
Councillor McLaughlin thanked all of the officers who had contributed to the information the Panel had received as well as Patrick Torpey and Mike Callon, the Scrutiny Support Officers who had provided support and had been extraordinarily helpful.
Councillor McLaughlin reported that the questions that the Panel had asked were how could the consumption of the most damaging high strength alcohol be reduced, how could people be encouraged to eat more healthily and reduce their reliance on the unhealthy fast food and were the existing policies robust, if not what could be done to strengthen them and could they be implemented to maximum effect.
In total the Panel had made seven recommendations which were set out in the Panel’s Report and centred on strengthening the way public health issues were included in both local and national planning and licensing policies.
Councillor McLaughlin informed that the Panel had heard of some excellent initiatives that local businesses were being encouraged to sign up to on a voluntary basis such as an agreement to stop selling the most damaging high strength alcohol, through the Reduce the Strength Campaign, and to address poor diet through the Takeaway for a Change and Eat Well Wirral Campaigns which worked with parents, children and retailers to encourage healthier diets and the Panel would like to see this work carried on with vigour.
The Panel wanted to see the work to improve these aspects of Public Health supported by stronger working relationships between the departments and the establishment of a cross-departmental working party that reported to the Health and Wellbeing Board to carry this work forward.
Councillor McLaughlin reported that the Panel had been dismayed that there had been no consideration for Public Health and Licencing Regulations and would like the Council leadership to press for such an objective to be included in the City Region, and the City Region to add its influence to that of the Local Government Association and Directors of Public Health for greater consideration to Public Health at national level.
The Panel wanted to see a refreshed Licensing Policy document for Wirral which sought to address the objectives of the Wirral Plan and though the conclusion of the report. The Panel did understand that Cumulative Impact policies were only one tool which could be used. The Panel would like to see them used where appropriate.
In relation to the Planning Policy, Councillor McLaughlin reported that the Panel had concluded that there was scope to go further than had been the case in the past and follow the examples of Local Authorities such St Helens and Stoke who had developed Supplementary Planning Documents to make exclusion zones, for example fast food outlets near to secondary schools.
The Council welcomed the fact that people were living longer but knew that a gap between life expectancy which existed between people living in more affluent areas and those in the more deprived wards was a massive challenge. It wanted people to live longer but it also wanted those lives to be lived and enjoyed in good health.
Councillor McLaughlin concluded by thanking her colleagues Councillors Phil Gilchrist, Paul Hayes and Janette Williamson for the work they had put in and invited comment on the Task and Finish Panel’s report.
Councillor Ann McLachlan welcomed the joined up approach and agreed it was important for both Licensing and Planning to be involved as allowing numerous alcohol and fast food outlets to go ahead had a negative effect on public health. She informed that this was something that the Leader would take up with the Liverpool City Region.
Councillor Janette Williamson thanked Councillor McLaughlin for presenting this welcome review on behalf of the Panel that undertook the work. She informed that she had taken part in this particular piece of scrutiny work and had found the experience reinforced her belief that the Council should take every action it could to reduce the impact of alcohol and unhealthy food in the local community.
Councillor Williamson also referred to the many health inequalities that exist the community that were linked to alcohol and poor diet and noted that it was often the most challenged communities that were exposed to the greatest risks.
Councillor Williamson referred to Appendix 2 to the report that showed that many of the actions of the review were already being worked upon. The Reducing the Strength, Eat Well Wirral and Takeaway for a Change were continuing to gain engagement from businesses, schools and fast food outlets. The Council had started pilot work to develop the High Streets in local community initiatives. An agreed approach to introduce cumulative impact policy in areas where there was evidence that justified this and the Council had led the work to develop a Cheshire and Merseyside approach to addressing licensing issues. Councillor Williamson ended by informing that it was vital to keep residents safe and healthy.
(1) the contents and recommendations of the Cumulative Impact on Public Health Scrutiny Review be approved; and
(2) the Officer response to the recommendations outlined in the report be supported.
- Cumulative Impact on Public Health Scrutiny Review, item 54. PDF 114 KB
- Cumulative Impact on Public Health Scrutiny Review - Minute Extract, item 54. PDF 58 KB
- Appendix 1 for Cumulative Impact on Public Health Scrutiny Review, item 54. PDF 2 MB
- Appendix 2 for Cumulative Impact on Public Health Scrutiny Review, item 54. PDF 64 KB