Police forces and local councils will receive an additional £60 million to step up their enforcement of coronavirus rules as part of the government’s plans to tackle the rise in infections.
The surge funding, recently announced by the Prime Minister, will 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.
Local councils will use the funding to increase their compliance work and enforcement checks on businesses.
Local councils play a central role in ensuring compliance with COVID-19 guidance in their local communities. 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 government will also 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.
Marshals, or stewards and ambassadors as they are referred to in some areas, have already been rolled out successfully by many councils to help businesses and communities to follow the latest guidelines, freeing up the police and other enforcement officers such as environmental health officers.
They do not carry out an enforcement role, which continues to be the role of the police and designated local council enforcement officers. Instead they can work with local businesses on queue management, direct pedestrians and support social distancing in busy public areas, remind members of the public to wear a face covering where it’s required and help with the regular cleaning of touch points.
The £60 million funding will be divided equally between police and local councils, with both receiving a £30 million share.
The funding will be provided to police only for use in relation to coronavirus enforcement. Forces will be required to provide the Home Office with enforcement plans to demonstrate how the money is being used to tackle non-compliance with public health rules.
This new funding is on top of an unprecedented package of over £4.8 billion for councils. They also have access to a government scheme that will compensate them for irrecoverable income losses from sales, fees and charges.
The Home Office is also launching an income loss recovery scheme for police forces to recover a proportion of income they have been losing due to the pandemic.
The scheme will apply to sales, fees and charges where forces would usually generate income, such as policing of sporting fixtures or providing security at airports. The scheme will enable forces to recover 75p in every £1 of budgeted income lost due to COVID-19 restrictions this financial year once forces have absorbed 5% of those losses themselves.
Details of the income loss recovery scheme for police forces can be found on GOV.UK from 8 October.
Full details of the allocations to local authorities can be found on GOV.UK from 8 October.
Guidance on how the £30 million for councils could be used, including the roles of marshals, stewards and ambassadors, will be available on GOV.UK once published.