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Multiple agencies target businesses operating outside of the law in Herefordshire

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Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) have recently been involved in various Multi Agency Targeted Enforcement (MATE) operations. The MATE strategy, created to provide an effective and efficient methodology for Enforcing Authorities within Herefordshire, allows all involved parties to have greater access into premises using the shared powers of entry. It also provides the opportunity for all agencies to share information on premises and persons more efficiently.

The information generated through the initiative helps to target the enforcing agencies resources to help protect vulnerable people within Herefordshire.

The enforcing authorities are made up of Herefordshire Council's Trading Standards (TS), Environmental Health Housing (EHH), West Mercia Police (WMP), Home Office Immigration Enforcement (HMOIE), Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and HWFRS. By conducting joint visits the enforcing authorities reduce the impact on businesses through the use of a multi-agency single visit, which is in-line with the 'Better Business Compliance Partnerships Government Strategy'.

Additional to supporting the Government Strategy, HWFRS involvement in MATE helps to support the organisation's strategic vision of 'Saving More Lives' and the WMP vision of protecting people from harm.

The MATE initiative has generated successes in Herefordshire which include 25 premises inspections, five fire safety letters issued, five enforcement notices issued, four prohibition notices issued and six premises to be inspected as planned audits.

Sean Bailey, Station Commander and HWFRS lead on MATE, said: "MATE has provided significant information and intelligence for all of the Enforcing Authorities involved. Each agency has been able to target its limited resources more effectively."

"A single visit by multiple agencies that have differing powers of entry and inspection, has resulted in greater successes for all agencies involved and has reduced the levels of risk to vulnerable people in single visits.

He continued: "As an enforcing authority, HWFRS has a statutory obligation to ensure compliance with the Fire Safety Order (FSO) in its area. Working with our partners, through MATE, we are ensuring that responsible persons comply with the requirements of the FSO and that people are safe in the event of fire.

We are targeting our resources at individuals and premises that have shown a failure to comply with the law in many areas, who often put profits above safety, and to ensure that these people comply with the FSO in the same way that responsible business owners are expected to do".

West Mercia Police's Sargent Duncan Reynolds said: 'We have seen great examples of partnership working within the MATE Strategy which has generated results for all agencies involved. We are working together to tackle hidden forms of criminality and illicit activity where in some cases offenders are operating from behind the cover of a business, in order to increase their profits through varying forms of modern slavery, large scale smuggling of illicit tobacco and the exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable people."

"Being a part of a multi-agency operation allows us to gain access to areas of a business outside of the 'front of house' which is what the public see on a day-to-day basis. We are able to see accommodation areas in addition to store rooms and kitchens where much of the offending takes place. We are also able to build up an extensive intelligence picture of such offending which would otherwise remain hidden. It also helps to raise public awareness of such issues and helps the public to make better choices as to where they eat, shop or have their cars washed for example."

He continued: "West Mercia Police is committed to building on the successes of the MATE Strategy as we move into 2018 and beyond, actively seeking new opportunities across the County of Herefordshire to continue our work."