Primary Authority enables businesses to obtain consistent advice on compliance with regulation, in a tailored and cost effective manner, from local authorities. Primary Authority advice is assured – the primary authority may direct against enforcement action if it is deemed to be inconsistent with advice given – and this gives businesses the confidence to invest and grow. The scheme is statutory, established by the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 (RESA). As at December 2016, 15,850 businesses and 181 primary authorities are in Primary Authority partnerships.
Government recognises the value of Primary Authority to businesses and regulators alike. Primary Authority represents a new way of regulating, in which regulators work closely with businesses to ensure compliance while encouraging growth. Since Primary Authority began in 2009, the scheme has been extended to include more areas of regulation and to enable more businesses to participate. Businesses which are regulated by multiple local authorities are able to partner directly with a primary authority, or are able to access the scheme via a coordinator such as a trade association.
Following public consultation and a review of Primary Authority, the Enterprise Act 2016 further extends and simplifies Primary Authority, with effect from 1 October 2017. These changes include:
- Opening up Primary Authority partnerships to pre-start up businesses and businesses trading in only one local authority area;
- Making it easier for groups of businesses to access Primary Authority by placing coordinators at the heart of partnerships, removing the requirement for individual businesses that rely on their co-ordinator to sign up for partnerships;
- Creating a statutory role for national regulators to support primary authorities, thereby allowing greater consistency across local and national regulation; and
- Updating and streamlining administrative processes.
This consultation includes a draft statutory instrument containing the details needed to effect these changes. The draft statutory instrument proposes to:
- specify several national regulators to be ‘supporting regulators’ to Primary Authority partnerships;
- ensure that the scope of Primary Authority in Scotland and Northern Ireland continues unchanged;
- simplify the definition of ‘enforcement action’ for the purposes of notifications to the primary authority; and
- update the requirements for applications for the determination process.
The consultation also outlines proposals to replace the ‘categories’ system which determines the scope of partnerships and underpins the current administration of Primary Authority.
A series of engagement events is planned for Spring 2017 and all stakeholders are encouraged to attend. These events will outline how Primary Authority will operate from 1 October 2017 and will give participants further opportunity to express their views. We are building a new Primary Authority Register, ready for 1 October 2017 and input from users is shaping its development.
General views, in addition to responses to specific questions, are welcome. The consultation closes on 7 April 2017.
Why We Are Consulting
We are keen to hear your thoughts and examples around the implementation of the Primary Authority changes detailed in this consultation and about the supporting regulations, specifically on how these proposals might affect your organisation or those you represent.
It is important to note that this is not a consultation on the policy changes that are laid down in the Enterprise Act 2016.