Bedford Borough Council’s Environmental Health team has served eleven prohibition notices and issued two fines to businesses that have stayed open illegally during this period of national restrictions.
From Thursday 5 November, a number of non-essential businesses were required to close as part of the Government’s measures to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
The Council’s Environmental Health team, alongside the COVID marshals, have undertaken 110 monitoring visits to local businesses after reports that they were operating illegally. These businesses have ranged from leisure facilities to licensed premises such as pubs, to car washes.
Prohibition notices were issued to eleven of these businesses. Prohibition notices are direct enforcement action which restricts activities and the opening of restricted premises, giving the Council the power to take further action including prosecution if they reopen. Two Fixed Penalty Notices have also been issued to businesses which refused to close.
If prohibition notices are not complied with or a fixed penalty notice not paid, a business may also be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose potentially unlimited fines.
In addition, the Council has been providing advice and support to local businesses during this lockdown to help them understand the regulations that are in place, their options during these four weeks, and the support available to help them through this period.
Cllr Colleen Atkins, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Regulatory Services said “The Government introduced restrictions on the public, businesses and services to reduce the day-to-day contact between people, slow the spread of COVID-19 and so protect the NHS and save lives.
“To date, eleven prohibition notices have been served and two fines issued to businesses that have stayed open illegally.
“Where businesses that are not permitted to open continue to operate during these restrictions the Council, working with partners including the Police, will take action on behalf of local residents.
“We all hope that these restrictions will be lifted after Wednesday 2 December, so we can enjoy a busy, productive and safe Christmas period. But that will only happen if we all play our part, and that has to include our local businesses.”
Chief Superintendent John Murphy, leading Bedfordshire Police’s response to coronavirus, said: “Although we appreciate that having to close down a business is difficult for those concerned, we can’t stress enough how important it is that we all have to play our part to help stop the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and to keep ourselves and others safe.
“We don’t take enforcement lightly, however businesses can not be allowed to break the rules. We will continue to work alongside the local authorities to ensure that they don’t, and we have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to anyone who is found on their premises.
“The current government restrictions are in place for a very good public health reason and we all need to adhere to them. We are grateful to those who are sticking to the rules and if we all do our bit, we will hopefully be able to return to our normal lives sooner.”