Councils have issued over £1m in fines to businesses for COVID offences, an investigation has unveiled.
Research by the Manifesto Club found local authorities have used powers granted during the pandemic to issue 1,201 penalties to businesses for violating COVID restrictions. This includes a failure to enforce social distancing or allowing households to mix on premises.
The report also found that local authorities currently employ 1,867 COVID marshals, with 40% of councils using private companies to supply staff.
Local authorities also issued 295 COVID ‘directions’ to restrict access to public spaces or events between 18 July 2020 and 9 April 2021, according to the research.
The report - From ASBOs to Covid Marshals - Are local authorities becoming too much like the police? - also analysed the use of penalties and ASBOs issued by local authorities every year.
Councils responding to the FOI request said they had issued 222,702 penalties for motorists driving in new low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in 2020. Other penalties included 4.7 million for parking offences, 250,000 for litter, 1 million for moving traffic offences, and 10,000 anti-social behaviour offences.
The report also found there were 32,170 new style ASBOs issued in 2020, and 5,491 on-the-spot fines for people violating Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs).
Josie Appleton, Manifesto Club director and report author, said: ‘Government seems intent on piling more and more enforcement powers on local authorities, but these lack basic accountability. Government doesn’t even keep statistics on the use of these powers, let alone ensure that they are being used fairly.
’As well as costing people money, penalisation can lead to criminal records that can affect employment and higher education opportunities. Instead of becoming second-rate police, councils should focus on their unique and important mission of improving local areas and representing the wishes of local people.’
Photo: Peter_Fleming / Shutterstock.com