Surrey County Council has teamed up with a national body in a ground-breaking deal to help small businesses across the country.
The county council's trading standards team has linked up with The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) to simplify rules for local shopkeepers and encourage economic growth.
The ACS Assured Advice Scheme will give all its members the opportunity to benefit from the type of certainty over their compliance procedures previously only afforded to multiple chains. The ‘primary authority’ scheme, one of the first to be established in the country, is an all- new partnership between Surrey County Council and the ACS.
It has been made possible by a change in the law that came into force last October and is being supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The scheme is launching with assured advice for convenience stores in England on how to handle compliance with the tobacco display ban coming into force on April 6, 2015.
A guide on preventing under age sales of alcohol is also expected to be available imminently, and over the course of the rest of this year, further assured advice guides are planned for areas including managing food hygiene, managing health and safety and the sale and storage of fireworks.
The scheme is available to all ACS members who choose to sign up, and by being part of it, retailers will have peace of mind that the policies and procedures in place in their store cannot be challenged and changed from one local authority to the next.
Scheme members will also be able to seek specific ‘assured advice’ to deal with problems or issues as they arise.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “ACS is proud to be leading the way in making it possible for convenience store retailers across England and Wales to benefit from primary authority.”
Mr Lowman said: “We are delighted to be working with Surrey County Council to achieve this. Our guidance is developed specifically for convenience store operators. “It is simple, easy to use, and also unique, because it comes with the reassurance that if you sign up and follow the advice, you will have the confidence that your procedures are legally correct and not open to challenge by local officers."
David Hodge, leader of Surrey County Council, said: “We’ve launched partnerships with Surrey businesses of all sizes to strengthen the local economy, and this link-up with ACS will help companies across England and Wales to get on with being successful.”
Business Regulation Minister Michael Fallon MP, said: “We are delighted to endorse the partnership between ACS and Surrey County Council. “In November 2013 we made it possible for trade associations to provide primary authority so that thousands of smaller businesses could benefit from the reassurance of a scheme that has proved successful for hundreds of larger businesses."