Other business advice

The advice sheets below have the latest information on other business advice. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Enforcement & Regulatory option).

Primary Authority and Home Authority

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

All businesses operating in the UK need to comply with a wide range of legislation enforced by trading standards. These matters are dealt with and enforced by your local authority.

Primary Authority and Home Authority have both been developed to assist businesses. Local authority trading standards services enforce a wide range of legislation with which businesses and industry have to comply. Both of these schemes offer advice and guidance to all manner of businesses, large and small.

The schemes are very similar but offer different benefits, depending on whether you require general advice, or specific targeted and qualified guidance on interpreting the law and putting systems in place across your business.

Primary Authority is a statutory partnership where a business that has branches in a number of local authority areas can adopt any local authority as their Primary Authority. The businesses can set up a formal relationship for tailored advice, guidance and assistance; there will be a cost agreed between the parties based upon the time and assistance required. Other local authorities must consult that Primary Authority if any problems arise.

From 1 October 2017 every UK business can access advice on Primary Authority from one place. There are fewer eligibility criteria, enabling businesses trading in one local authority area and those who are not yet trading to access assured advice. The extension of Primary Authority gives every business and every person who wants to start a business access to reliable, tailored regulatory advice.

Home Authority is a voluntary system operated by trading standards and is dependent upon the local authority having the necessary resources to provide advice to businesses based in their geographical area. They can also liaise between other trading standards services where problems have arisen.

PART 1: PRIMARY AUTHORITY

The scheme allows businesses to form a legally recognised partnership with one local authority - the 'Primary Authority' - in order to receive tailored support in relation to one or more specific areas of law. That 'Primary Authority' is resourced by the business to help by issuing assured advice, coordinating enforcement action across all locations used by the business, and developing an inspection plan for the business as a whole.

A business can select any local authority it wishes to become its Primary Authority. If, for example, there are many areas of legislation covered and the business concerned has numerous outlets with a multi-million pound turnover, then the business can ask more than one authority to cover different aspects of law, as the workload may be deemed too great for one authority to handle.

Conversely a relatively small business may wish one authority to cover all of its legal needs.

How does it work?

The business chooses the local authority they wish to nominate as their Primary Authority. The local authority does not have to be the nearest in terms of geographical location; the choice may be dependent on an authority having the relevant skilled officers necessary in order to facilitate the arrangement.

Usually a single point of contact in the authority will be nominated to whom the business can turn for all relevant advice.

An agreement will be made between the Primary Authority and the business regarding the level of support required and the resources needed. Usually this is based on an estimate of the time required to set up various checking systems and putting in place inspection plans. The Primary Authority can give advice on any matter relating to the category of legislation covered by the agreement. This could include:

  • the legal obligations incumbent upon the business
  • interpretation of legislation
  • various checking procedures to ensure legal compliance

There may also be inspection plans, which can be rolled out across the business to improve its effectiveness, prevent any breaches of the law and avoid repeated checks by local regulators. Local authorities must follow these plans unless the Primary Authority has been notified and an alternative course of action has been agreed.

Primary Authority agreements will not prevent any legal action where advice and guidance has not been followed, or actually ignored. However, if any problems do occur in any authority then they must liaise with the Primary Authority before any legal action can be taken. If the business has followed the advice of the Primary Authority it is extremely unlikely to result in legal action.

Who administers Primary Authority?

Primary Authority is administered by Regulatory Delivery, which is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Regulatory Delivery is responsible for:

  • ensuring the UK's system of weights and measures, hallmarking and utility metering is fair for businesses and consumers
  • providing policy support to ministers about measurement issues
  • providing technical, legal and commercial certification services to support manufacturers and local authorities
  • enforcing technical legislation in the UK, carried out by the enforcement authority

Many of these functions link in with the work of local authority-based trading standards services.

Regulatory Delivery works to ensure that the way regulation is enforced is proportionate and risk-based, delivering existing functions such as Primary Authority, legal metrology and hallmarking policy, technical regulation and enforcement work.

Who can adopt such a policy?

Any business (including those trading solely on the internet) or charity that is regulated by at least two authorities can apply to form a Primary Authority partnership. In other words, if your business has outlets across more than one local authority boundary, then your business is eligible.

Small businesses are also eligible, as are start-up businesses, franchisees and those in trade associations. If you operate a franchise then the franchiser can apply and all members of that franchise will receive information on compliance. Similarly, a trade association can apply for a Primary Authority agreement and all association members will receive the benefits, as will the companies in a company group and businesses subscribing to a compliance or assurance scheme.

How can one be set up?

Essentially this is straightforward. Contact your local authority or an authority you believe will offer the best assistance for your business; they may already highlight how to set up a Primary Authority partnership on their website (not every authority participates in the scheme). Alternatively contact Regulatory Delivery and they can refer your business to an appropriate authority.

The local authority can then accept, or reject, a request to form a partnership followed by:

  • agreement on the terms and conditions
  • agreement on costs and charges
  • acceptance by Regulatory Delivery

What are the benefits?

  • Primary Authority allows businesses to be involved in their own regulation
  • makes it easier for businesses to comply with the law, reducing the costs of compliance, without reducing regulatory protections
  • businesses can invest in products, practices and procedures, knowing that the resources they devote to compliance are recognised throughout the country
  • new products / services can be planned with targeted clear advice on advertising, packaging and labelling
  • when a new regulation is introduced it allows businesses to quickly establish an agreed means of compliance
  • improvements in relationships with regulators
  • improved intelligence about regulatory matters
  • improvements in the consistency of regulatory advice and guidance
  • support for staff development
  • support for addressing incoming regulatory issues from enforcing authorities
  • the ability to block enforcement action that is inconsistent with advice from the Primary Authority results in time savings for all parties: Primary Authorities, businesses and other local authorities

For an idea of the the costs, the Hampshire County Council guidance includes details of an hourly rate and set-up fee, as well as other information for businesses that are considering signing up for the scheme.

What legislative areas are covered under the agreement?

Primary Authority partnerships do not only cover areas enforced by trading standards services. Please note, however, that not all authorities will cover the full range of legislation listed below:

  • age-restricted products
  • agricultural produce
  • animal health and welfare
  • animal feed
  • consumer protection
  • environmental protection
  • fire
  • food hygiene and standards
  • general licensing
  • housing
  • petrol storage
  • pollution control
  • product safety
  • public health and safety
  • road traffic
  • weights and measures

Primary Authority Register

The Primary Authority Register is held and maintained by Regulatory Delivery.

It has a number of resources to help businesses get the most from Primary Authority, including presentations, guides, information sheets and template documents.

Businesses operating across UK borders

If your business has premises in, for example, both England and Scotland the Primary Authority system is not so straightforward. The reason for this is that there are certain legislative areas that a Primary Authority based in England is not permitted to deal with in Scotland (there are legislative areas that they do have authority to deal with, just not all of them).

When enquiring about setting up a Primary Authority partnership, if necessary ask the authority for more detail on this complicated matter.

Further reading

More detailed guidance on Primary Authority can be found on the GOV.UK website, including specific guides for businesses and trade associations.

PART 2: HOME AUTHORITY

The beauty of the Home Authority principle is that it is free to businesses.

Local authorities help businesses operating in the UK to comply with legislation by providing advice, guidance and information.

Businesses will generally build up a relationship with, and receive advice and information from, one particular local authority. This is usually the local authority where the business is based and that authority is referred to as the 'Home Authority'.

However, it is important to note that Home Authority predates Primary Authority and the government have stated that they would wish all trading standards services to offer only Primary Authority. Whilst in principle it may be possible to find a trading standards service that will offer Home Authority, in practice it is increasingly unlikely that any new arrangements will be set up.

How does it work?

If you are a sole trader and have only one outlet or factory, your Home Authority will be the local authority where this outlet or factory is located. This also applies to businesses trading over the internet. For a business with a number of branches or premises throughout the UK, your Home Authority will generally be the local authority where the head office, main production site or warehouse is located.

The Home Authority principle is therefore a scheme to help businesses by providing contact points for advice and guidance in order to maintain high standards of public protection, encourage fair trade and develop a consistent approach to enforcement.

The local authority acting as your Home Authority can deal with enquiries from other authorities around the UK. They will maintain a record of relevant incidents, company policies, diligence systems and advice. They may carry out a number of roles for your business, and these roles, or areas of advice, will be outlined at the beginning of the relationship.

It must be made clear, in offering advice, that whilst the Home Authority might not be taking legal action, this would not stop other authorities from doing so if an offence has been committed.

Who administers Home Authority?

The scheme is operated by your local authority and a database of participants is held by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.

Not all authorities operate the Home Authority principle; reduced staffing levels have led to many trading standards services being unable to offer the scheme.

Who can adopt such a policy?

For sole traders or businesses with only one site or office, the Home Authority will be the local authority where this site or office is located. The same also applies to businesses trading over the internet.

If your business is based in one local authority, but operates across a number of local authorities, the Home Authority is the local authority where the relevant decision-making base of your business is located - for example, this may be the registered office or where the main production plant or import warehouse is based.

How can one be set up?

Essentially by contacting the local authority of the area where the business is based. If your registered office is in one authority but your main business is located in another it can be either, it is your choice. However, if you have a manufacturing or production process it may be best to choose the area where that plant is based so that the processes or production can be examined by the Home Authority when advising your business.

Note: as mentioned above, the government recommends that local authorities actively pursue Primary Authority agreements, but there may still be a few that are prepared to give free advice under Home Authority.

What are the benefits?

  • improved relationships with your local trading standards service; named contact officer(s) for any problems or advice.
  • advice and guidance on legal compliance. The Home Authority will keep accurate records of this advice in order to assist other authorities with any enquiries
  • the Home Authority can also:
    - visit your business and monitor trends, company policies, etc
    - ensure your business complies with all relevant legislation
    - offer advice and guidance on new law
    - arrange regular meetings with your businesses to discuss any issues that have been raised and attempt to resolve disputes between you and other enforcement authorities within the UK

What legislative areas are covered under the agreement?

Essentially the same as the above list for Primary Authorities but similarly it is dependent on the availability of expertise within that authority.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: October 2017

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

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