Staffordshire County Council given power to close businesses not doing enough to prevent Covid-19 spread

New powers given to Staffordshire County Council enable them to close businesses if they flout social distancing and hygiene measures in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

A sign reminding people to social distance in Stone
A sign reminding people to social distance in Stone

Limiting opening hours and restricting the number of people allowed in a premises at any time are also part of the new powers given to upper-tier local authorities by new Health Protection Regulations – and the county council would not require court approval first before taking action.

Staffordshire County Council's new cabinet member for health has said closure of a business would be considered a last resort, and the authority may first send a non-statutory warning letter to a business causing concern before it considers issuing a direction.

A report to yesterday's cabinet meeting said: "There are currently a number of premises in the Staffordshire area where concerns have been escalated to the county council by partners such as the police and district and borough environmental health officers alleging those premises are not complying with public health guidance. Under the regulations the county council can take measures to act to protect public health.

"Although not a requirement of the regulations the warning letter is intended to give businesses an opportunity to immediately rectify any identified concerns, or access further support that could potentially avoid closure. If required a direction could and would be issued immediately and without warning."

Dr Johnny McMahon, the council's new cabinet member for health, care and wellbeing, told yesterday's meeting: "The vast majority of commercial enterprises are doing the right thing in these very difficult times to protect their customers and the wider community as a whole. For that we are eternally grateful. There are, however, some, either by accident or by design, for whom that is not the case.

"These are very strong powers but these are unprecedented times. It may mean a retail outlet is letting too many patrons through its door – such that they can't exercise social distancing safely – so we define a number over and above which they cannot go.

"If there is some circumstance where hygiene is not available, particularly when food is involved with cafés and restaurants, we would want to direct that. Where there's not proper toilet management facilities we would want to direct that in order to keep the toilets safe.

'Keep the virus at bay'

"There are more challenging directions we can issue, such as restricting times in which they trade – and ultimately it can include closure. I hope that ultimate sanction is nothing we ever have to come to, but we have been conferred those powers in order to keep the virus at bay."

Fellow cabinet members also backed the new measures.

Councillor Mike Sutherland said: "For me the health and safety of our residents is our absolute priority."

Councillor Mark Sutton added: "The warning letter gives businesses the opportunity to put right things they perhaps haven't been doing before we take any action."

Council leader Councillor Alan White added: "I hope common sense prevails across the board and we never have to use these powers."

Earlier this month Stone Town Council members called for late night venue licences in the town to be suspended during the coronavirus pandemic after The Crown & Anchor pub in Station Road was linked to 22 Covid-19 cases.

An update from Staffordshire's Covid-19 Member-Led Local Outbreak Control Board, presented to yesterday's cabinet meeting, said: "In the last month, the most significant incidents have been an outbreak related to the Crown & Anchor, and an ongoing elevated level of infections in parts of Burton.

"The number of new confirmed cases in Staffordshire remains low at around five-to-10 a day. We continue to deal with a steady stream of incidents related to care providers, educational settings, businesses and communities."

Most Read

Most Read

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News