A request to attend the head offices of West Yorkshire Trading Standards service could send shivers down the spine of many a company secretary.
Not so for Dave Belmont, company secretary of Steeton-based Acorn Stairlifts. His invitation was to appear as a guest speaker, extolling the business benefits of maintaining a close and amicable working relationship with Trading Standards.
Mr Belmont was delighted to accept the invitation to speak at the 'Big 30 Open Day' celebrating 30 years of West Yorkshire Joint Services, of which Trading Standards is a key component.
Since the abolition of West Yorkshire Metropolitan Council in 1986, the region has been administered by five district councils – Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield. However, it was clear that the delivery of certain services would still work better on a region-wide basis, provided on behalf of all five councils together.
To manage that process West Yorkshire Joint Services (WYJS) was established, funded by the five councils and with representatives of each serving on a joint steering committee. Today the services delivered by WYJS include archaeology, archives, ecology, materials testing, analytical services and the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service.
The Big 30 Open Day celebrated WYJS's development and achievements over the past three decades and highlighted the services it offers today. Held at the organisation's HQ in Morley, it included tours of the specialist laboratories and research facilities housed there. It also featured an exhibition, networking opportunities and a series of keynote speakers including Acorn Stairlifts' Dave Belmont.
While some companies dread a call from Trading Standards – as it usually means they've done something wrong – Acorn instead works closely with the service to make sure it never finds itself in that position. For the past three years it has had a 'Primary Authority' partnership with West Yorkshire Trading Standards.
This enables the company to receive regulatory advice, support and training from Trading Standards in developing and enhancing its customer relations procedures, which were recently awarded ISO 10002 accreditation by the British Standards Institution – a first for any national stairlift company.
Earlier this year the partnership was also Highly Commended in the national Primary Authority Awards, another industry first for any supplier of mobility equipment. Now Acorn is flagged up as a 'beacon business' – an example of best practice for others to follow – for its proactive and constructive relationship with Trading Standards.
In a well-received presentation, Mr Belmont outlined Acorn Stairlifts' worldwide operations and told delegates how its Primary Authority partnership with Trading Standards continues to benefit the business: "Acorn Stairlifts is committed to providing outstanding customer relations and our ongoing partnership with West Yorkshire Trading Standards enables us to do that," he said.
"I was delighted to be asked to speak at the Big 30 open day and hopefully persuade other delegates to adopt a Primary Authority partnership approach to benefit their business."
Sharing the podium with Mr Belmont was Jackie White, of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, who summarised the Primary Authority scheme and described its advantages for both sides of a partnership.
Speaking afterwards she said: "West Yorkshire Trading Standards would like to thank Acorn Stairlifts for their contribution to West Yorkshire Joint Services Big 30th Birthday Celebrations. It further emphasises our positive working relationship through the Primary Authority scheme."