The council has formally taken on powers to police businesses under the coronavirus regulations in Brighton and Hove and to shut down rule-breakers and fine them £4,000.
New officials, to be known as covid information officers, are being recruited to be the council’s eyes and ears.
They will be expected to provide advice and guidance as part of a phased approach in most cases before any enforcement action is taken.
Those taken on in the temporary posts are to help ensure that businesses – including shops, cafés, pubs and bars – are covid safe.
The government has granted £154,000 to fund the posts from this month until the end of February. After three months, the service will be reviewed and adapted as required.
The officials will gather evidence for officials with the power to serve notices and fines ranging from “coronavirus improvement notices” and “coronavirus immediate restriction notices” to “coronavirus restriction notices” and fixed penalty notices.
The details were set out before senior members of Brighton and Hove City Council at a “virtual” meeting last Thursday (3 December).
The council’s Policy and Resources Committee was told that the new “covid cops” would support other council officials who have been granted enforcement powers under the coronavirus regulations.
These include field officers as well as environmental health, trading standards and licensing officers and the council’s seafront team.
They have been given the power to close businesses in breach of the rules for up to seven days and issue £4,000 fines.
A report before councillors said: “Formal enforcement, whether by serving notices, issuing fixed penalty notices or instituting prosecution is something used as a matter of last resort.
“Informing, encouraging and persuading people would normally be the preferred choice.
“But that may not be appropriate in all circumstances and the council has to be prepared to use formal enforcement powers where they are necessary and proportionate.
“In the practical use of any powers, regard will be had to ensure that any action taken is consistent with the council’s policies regarding inclusion and equalities.”
The new team will also work with Sussex Police to manage the night-time economy – pubs, bars and takeaways – in the city centre. Night clubs remain closed because of the pandemic.
The officials will, among other things, aim to ensure that people stick to the rules on social distancing in busy areas.
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