Coronavirus enforcement boosted with £60m funding

Local councils will receive part of an additional £60 million from the government to step up their enforcement of coronavirus rules as part of the government’s plans to tackle the rise in infections.

Alongside funding for the police, local councils will use the funding to increase their compliance work and enforcement checks on businesses. Currently, enforcement officers such as Environmental Health Officers are responsible for explaining and encouraging businesses and communities to follow the latest guidelines, carrying out inspections, issuing fines and closing premises in the case of non-compliance.

The surge funding will also enable police to increase patrols in town centres and ensure that people are complying with the new restrictions, particularly in high-risk areas. Police will also provide more support to local authorities and NHS Test & Trace to enforce self-isolation requirements.

The £60 million funding will be divided equally between police and local councils, with both receiving a £30 million share. The government is expected to publish new guidance outlining the types of compliance and enforcement activities councils could carry out using the £30 million funding. This includes covering costs associated with stepping up enforcement activity, measures to help the public and businesses to understand the latest regulations and funding the cost of dedicated staff to encourage compliance with the rules, including marshals.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Since the start of the pandemic people and businesses across the country have pulled together and followed the latest guidelines – this will be more important than ever as we head into the winter. That’s why we are giving councils a further £30 million in new funding to support their work on compliance and enforcement in their communities.

“Councils play a crucial role in protecting people’s safety, supporting businesses and helping the public to better understand the guidance. This new funding will ensure they can step this up further and continue to act proactively.”

Nesil Caliskan, chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Rising infection rates are a stark reminder of the need for all of us to follow the Covid-19 rules. It is good that government has recognised the pressures on council enforcement officers and will provide additional funding for councils to support the enforcement of Covid-19 laws. It is also helpful that councils will have the flexibility to determine how best to use the money, as the LGA had called for, so they can decide on the best approach for their areas.

“The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing pressures on councils’ regulatory services, which in many places are now at tipping point. As local authorities continue to lead local work to tackle Covid-19, the government needs to use the Spending Review to ensure councils have enough funding to maintain vital trading standards and environmental health services over the next six months and beyond.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel added: “The vast majority of the British public has come together, followed the law and helped prevent the spread of this virus. But we’ve been clear that, with infections rising, we will not allow a small minority of people to reverse our hard-won progress. This extra funding will strengthen the police’s role in enforcing the law and make sure that those who jeopardise public health face the consequences.”