Councillors to grant officials emergency coronavirus enforcement powers

Council officials are expected to take on emergency coronavirus enforcement powers under new laws passed last week.

Tomorrow (Tuesday 31 March) senior councillors are being asked to agree who will have the job of ensuring pubs, restaurants and other businesses stay shut in Brighton and Hove during the lockdown.

Brighton and Hove City Council said in a report that an unspecified number of officials would be designated as “enforcement officers”.

These are likely to include officials who already carry out existing enforcement work for the council such as environmental health and licensing officers.

The report said: “The role of local authorities is limited to the closure of premises.”

It is the job of Sussex Police, the report said, to enforce other aspects of the lockdown such as preventing people from gathering in public places.

The decisions around how the new powers are used will be made by the council’s Policy and Resources Urgency Sub-Committee.

The councillors taking part are expected be just the three party leaders – Labour council leader Nancy Platts, Green councillor David Gibson and Conservative councillor Joe Miller.

They will take part in a virtual meeting from 10am, using remote-working technology. The council hopes to record and webcast the meeting.

The report on the emergency powers said: “Given the serious risk to public health, the council would be criticised, and potentially legally challenged, for failure to use the powers to protect the public.

“The designation of officers to enforce the regulations is an enabling measure and officers will be able to assess the situation and exercise discretion on whether and how to use the powers.”

Any business that stays open can be given a fixed penalty notice, ordered to close or be taken to court for criminal prosecution.

The council is expected to extend the enforcement powers under the Coronavirus Act to

  • Regulatory services managers
  • Environmental health officers
  • Senior licensing officer
  • Technical officers in the Environmental Health and Licensing Team
  • Trading standards officers
  • Fair trading officers
  • Highways enforcement officers
  • Field officers
  • Seafront Team

Businesses are allowed to sell takeaway food and drink – to deliver to people at their homes – but they are not allowed to serve customers on the premises including land outside.

The restrictions are set out in the regulations, made under the Coronavirus Act, known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.

The government is to review the restrictions every 21 days starting on Thursday 16 April.

Businesses ordered to close or operate as takeaways only are

  • Restaurants, including hotel dining rooms and members clubs
  • Cafés, including workplace canteens, but not including cafés or canteens in hospitals, care homes or schools, prisons, the military and services for the homeless
  • Bars, including hotel bars and those in members clubs and pubs

Non-food businesses ordered to close include cinemas, theatres, night clubs, bingo halls, concert halls, museums and galleries, casinos and betting shops.

The list also includes spas, nail salons, beauty salons, hairdressers and barbers, massage parlours, tattoo and piercing parlours, skating rinks, indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools, bowling alleys, arcades, soft play and leisure centres, funfairs, playgrounds, sports courts, outdoor gyms, outdoor markets, except for stalls selling food, car showrooms and auction houses.

Events at council-owned venues have been cancelled or postponed.

The Brighton Centre website includes details of rescheduled events or refund options.

The Brighton Dome website said that it was trying to reschedule as many shows as possible and urged customers to check their emails.

Councillor Nancy Platts

The council said: “We have been made aware of some businesses operating when they should be closed. These businesses have been contacted and advised to cease trading during the emergency.

“We’re also compiling a list, with Sussex Police, of premises that are trading when they shouldn’t be and where social distancing is not being implemented in food businesses.

“At the moment, warning emails are being sent to invoke social responsibility and protect employees.

“Until delegated authority, under the new legislation, has been approved, no prohibition notices have been served.”

The council added that it expected to grant officials the necessary delegated authority at the meeting in the morning.

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