Councils get powers to close businesses that are not Covid-secure

Padlock (PA Archive)
14:22pm, Tue 24 Nov 2020
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Councils will be given new powers to close businesses for up to a week if they fail to make their premises Covid-secure, Downing Street has said.

The Government will legislate to allow local authorities to take “swift and effective action” against premises that pose a risk to public health.

Businesses could be fined up to £4,000 for breaching a restriction notice, which would order premises to close for 48 hours or seven days.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “Until now, local authorities have been able to issue fines to businesses who have failed to comply with the legal obligations to be Covid-secure.

“The new powers will allow them to formally request rapid improvement or close these premises where appropriate through the issuing of notices.

“These will include a coronavirus improvement notice which will give premises 48 hours to rapidly implement Covid-secure measures; a coronavirus immediate restriction notice which will close any premises which pose a public health risk for an initial 48 hours to give the premises time to put in necessary safeguards; and a coronavirus restriction notice which will close premises for seven days.”

The spokesman said premises will be fined £2,000 for breaching an improvement notice and £4,000 for breaching a restriction notice.

The Government’s Coronavirus Winter Plan said a “small number” of businesses are operating in an unsafe way, putting progress on controlling the pandemic in “jeopardy”.

“Local authorities have said to the Government that current powers are inadequate and do not allow them to enforce the law,” said the plan, published on Monday.

It added: “Local authorities will be given streamlined powers to issue improvement and restriction notices to businesses that are breaching Covid-secure rules, with the ability to compel the immediate closure of a premise that is not complying with Covid-secure regulations.

“These new powers will enable upper and lower tier local authorities to take swift and effective action against those premises that are posing a risk to public health.

“Businesses will also face financial penalties for not meeting the requirements of an improvement or restriction notice issued by a local authority.

“The Government is clear that these powers should only be used where necessary and proportionate to do so, and by trained local authority enforcement officers.

“Local authorities will continue the approach they have taken to date; engaging, educating and encouraging premises to comply, and only taking enforcement action to address the most pressing public health risks.”

The new powers will require secondary legislation, which will be brought forward in a statutory instrument next week.

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