Councils get new powers to close down businesses that are not Covid secure

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The Government will legislate to allow local authorities to "compel the immediate closure" of a premise that poses a risk to public health.

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

The plans are contained in the Government's Winter Plan, which acknowledges that current powers are "inadequate and do not allow them [Local Authorities] to enforce the law."

Local Authorities will be given streamlined powers to issue improvement and restriction notices to businesses that are breaching Covid-secure rules, it says.

This includes the "ability to compel the immediate closure of a premise that is not complying with Covid-Secure regulation."

The government will also making £900 million worth of funding available to local authorities which have the highest level of restrictions to help control the coronavirus. 

Local councils have been raising serious concerns that when lockdown eased during the summer, they were unable to tackle compliance in pubs, shops, offices, restaurants and warehouses which they are responsible for.

Speaking to Safety Management, Kate Thompson Director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in Wales explained the government named the Health and the Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974 as the key vehicle for overseeing the implementation of Covid secure guidelines during the summer.

“The tools under the Health and safety at Work Act are less suitable for the type of swift action to require changes or force closure of non-compliant premises that councils need," she said.

“The Health and Safety Executive has suggested that it would not be possible to issue a prohibition notice requiring a premise to close due to the failure to implement social distancing measures, while improvement notices allow a 28 day period to introduce necessary changes – too long in the context of a pandemic,” she added.

Social distancing outdoor seating with Covid-19 signs, Old Compton Street, Soho

The government's plan for managing Covid-19 through the winter can be downloaded here


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