Primary authority questions and answers
What is a Primary Authority?
It is a scheme defining a legally recognisable partnership between a business and a single local authority – the ‘Primary Authority’. Partnerships are formed through the Secretary of State at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. It creates statutory duties for enforcing authorities.
Which local authority will be the Primary Authority?
For the current schemes for pet shop licensing and health & safety we have chosen the City of London Corporation.
What areas does the OATA scheme cover?
It will cover pet shop licence inspections and any health & safety issues.
Does the scheme cover the whole of the United Kingdom?
Unfortunately, the legislation isn’t yet in place to allow this. The pet shop scheme will cover only England and Wales. Scotland may be covered in the future subject to a consultation that is to be undertaken. The health & safety scheme covers England, Scotland and Wales but does not yet apply in Northern Ireland. You can see the geographical coverage that the scheme applies here.
Why is OATA doing this and why now?
Over the years we have heard many grumbles about the very varied standards of pet shop licensing across the country. We believe it’s vital that there are consistent standards across the UK that all pet shops have to comply with. It’s only by having good welfare standards everywhere that we can protect the reputation of the industry. Poor pet shops affect everyone and we believe every pet shop must be of at least a ‘good’ standard. This scheme is our attempt to try to work towards that ourselves while we lobby for consistent pet shop standards at a government level.
Why might it help my business?
We thing there are practical benefits to those who join the scheme:
- If you’re a retailer with more than one shop in different authority areas, you’ll benefit from the one set of standards for all your shops to follow.
- Even if you just have one shop, if you’ve had strange and unreasonable conditions put on your licence in the past, you’ll benefit from the ‘assured’ advice that sets out exactly what your local authority should follow – and we’ll fight your corner over this
- You can show your customers that you work to high animal welfare conditions in comparison to your competitors and are willing to demonstrate this by volunteering to enter into this scheme
How do I qualify to participate?
Any retail member of OATA can participate in the pet shop and health & safety scheme, provided you have signed up to our Code of Conduct. We will look to see if other businesses can also take advantage of the health & safety scheme in due course.
Your shop also needs to be in England and Wales to sign up to the pet shop licence scheme but if you want to benefit from the health & safety scheme you can sign up to this if your shop is based in England, Wales and Scotland.
Unfortunately, neither scheme is available to OATA members in Northern Ireland.
What will the pet shop license scheme be based upon?
The 2013 Model Conditions for Pet Vending issued by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health will be the core of the scheme.
Because I am a member of OATA do I have to join this Primary Authority scheme?
No. This is an opt in scheme so the choice is yours.
What is ‘assured advice’?
This is the advice given by the City of London Corporation, through OATA, to participants in the scheme which you can legally rely on. In the past schemes (such as Home Authority) local authorities only had to take note of advice but under the Primary Authority scheme local authorities must take notice of assured advice.
How will I get assured advice?
If you have concerns about conditions being applied to your pet shop licence or requirements put on you about health and safety issues then you would ring the OATA office and confirm information in writing.
OATA might be able to help you by intervening directly or, if it’s an issue that several members are asking about, we’ll collate all the contacts and ask the City of London Corporation for advice which we will then feedback. You can then take this back to your local authority and they must follow it.
How quickly might assured advice be available?
Once OATA has requested advice from the City of London Corporation we should get an answer within five working days.
If I am not in the scheme will I be able to see & use the assured advice?
We will make any assured advice available to all OATA members, whether they’re in the scheme or not. But ONLY members opting into the scheme will be able to take the advice to their local authority and know that the authority should comply with it.
Why include reptiles and amphibians?
Many of our members sell these and so we thought it made sense to cover them. We will work closely with REPTA (the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association) to make sure the advice given is practical.
Will the assured advice on the pet shop licensing and Health and Safety schemes be different in anyway?
Inevitably there will be differences. But our aim will always be to find a way that means no practical differences in the application of these schemes. And because we’re dealing with one authority – the City of London Corporation – on both schemes that should make it easier.
Health & safety law is national so there is no room for doubt that assured advice binds all local authorities. But, as the Pet Animal Act delegates responsibility to local authorities, they may question the assured advice. If that were to happen we would support any member in challenging the local authority up to and including at Magistrates Court. We would anticipate that, faced with the support of the assured advice and such a challenge, they would back down.
Most authorities we believe will agree readily with the advice from the City of London Corporation given their exceptional depth of experience in this field.
Will it cost me anything to join the scheme?
No, there are no additional costs for members joining this scheme. The City of London Corporation will charge OATA for the costs associated with issuing their assured advice. OATA will pay these charges centrally. You will of course still have to pay for your inspection fee locally.
This is a ‘co-ordinated’ scheme. What does that mean?
Until recently Primary Authority schemes were only available to businesses trading in more than one local authority area. Recent changes mean that members of trade associations which have ‘a shared approach to compliance’ can now get the benefits.
OATA’s members all sign up to and agree to be bound by our Code of Conduct so that shows they have ‘a shared approach to compliance’. So the scheme is only available to businesses which are members of OATA and which have signed up to our Code of Conduct. We will ask you to sign up to our Code if you have not already done so, if you want to join the scheme.
OATA is the Co-ordinator of the scheme. What does that mean?
OATA is the co-ordinator of the scheme. This means members raise concerns with OATA, we’ll collate these and, as appropriate. ask for advice from the City of London Corporation. This will be ‘assured advice’ that has legal standing. We will then communicate that advice to members to show to their local authority, who should then follow it.
Why was the City of London Corporation chosen as the Primary Authority for this scheme?
The City of London Corporation undertakes the pet shop licensing visits for most of the London Boroughs and several local authorities close to London. They are also responsible for the Animal Reception Centre and animal welfare at Heathrow airport. (They don’t undertake the health checks on imported animals, the AHVLA do that but the checks are carried out in their buildings). At the Corporate level they have responsibilities for and practical expertise in matters relating to Health and Safety at Work.
They have a wide range of experience and OATA has worked with them satisfactorily for more than 20 years.
Will City of London Corporation staff carry out any visits to my shop?
Your pet shop licence visit will be done by your usual local authority. So for businesses in the London area this may be the City of London Corporation.
How long will this scheme run for?
We anticipate and hope it will be permanent. However, the scheme has to be reviewed regularly. The first review must take place 18 months after it starts. By then members will have under gone two licence renewals. That should give us a clear idea if the scheme is delivering the hoped for benefits to members and OATA can decide on its future.
Could the scheme be expanded to cover other areas?
Yes. We are certainly interested in adding Fire Safety to the areas we cover. There are also areas such as Fair Trade and Product Safety that might be of interest in the future. However, we are adopting a stepwise approach rather than trying to do everything in one go.
Can I read any of the background documents to better understand this scheme?
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Model Conditions for Pet Shop Licensing 2013 can be found at here.
A summary of the inspection plan your licensing officer would use is here (please read it alongside the above document.
“Primary Authority Statutory Guidance” is a produced by the Better Regulation Delivery Office of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills and can be found here.
The topics and geographical coverage that the scheme applies to can be found here.