Hundreds of complaints about businesses breaking Tier Two rules
- Credit: Ella Wilkinson
Hundreds of complaints have been lodged with Norfolk councils over alleged breaches of coronavirus restrictions by businesses.
But authorities have only resorted to enforcement action in a handful of cases.
Health and council bosses yesterday issued a plea for businesses and the public to abide by the Tier Two restrictions Norfolk is covered by.
There were concerns that some businesses - and customers - were not following the restrictions, which does not permit mixing of households indoors.
And, amid concern that members of the public are also not sticking to the rules, Norfolk police have confirmed that, since November 5, they issued 34 fixed penalty notices to people contravening them.
Police also made eight arrests relating to breaches of coronavirus restrictions during that period.
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Police, environmental health officers and Covid support officers were visiting businesses, including pubs and restaurants, today to ensure restrictions are understood, with the government due to review the tiers next week.
And figures have revealed the number of complaints lodged with Norfolk councils about businesses since November 5, the day national lockdown was re-introduced.
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Norfolk emerged from that lockdown in the more restrictive Tier Two, having been in Tier One previously.
Norwich City Council has had 160 complaints about businesses between November 5 and now.
Those complaints led to visits to businesses to educate them on the rules, but also to one fixed penalty notice and one prohibition notice.
Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “Our Covid-19 support officers, environmental health and licensing teams have been working closely with businesses in the city to help them operate in a safe way that follows the Tier Two guidance.
“This is very much about everyone working together to help slow the spread of the virus in the city and people visiting these businesses can play their part as well.
"If you are coming into Norwich to shop or eat, please wear a face covering where needed, keep space between yourself and others and make sure your hands are regularly washed or sanitised.
"We have experienced very few problems with people not following the rules since we entered Tier Two, and have been pleased to welcome back the large number of businesses in Norwich that have been able to reopen.”
West Norfolk Council had 125 complaints, the bulk of which led to verbal advice or letters being sent to businesses.
But one fixed penalty notice and one prohibition notice was served.
Stuart Dark, cabinet member for environmental services and public protection, said: “Of the thousands of businesses in west Norfolk, we have received only 125 complaints, and only two of them have needed formal enforcement by way of a fine or prohibition notice.
"That demonstrates the vast majority of businesses are doing everything they can to put in place measures to keep people safe.
"It only takes a minority of businesses looking for loopholes or operating outside of the guidance to undermine the good work of everyone else. "
Great Yarmouth Borough Council has issued three prohibition notices, and five fixed penalty notices since November 5
The council said: "These are challenging times for businesses and the majority follow the rules well.
"The best support residents can give to businesses is to keep to the guidelines when visiting as customers, so they as a business can confidently meet the Covid guidelines.
“Where the council receives reports of a premises breaking the rules, which often comes from fellow businesses, Covid marshals and the public, environmental health officers will attend to provide advice, answer questions and to encourage voluntary compliance in the first instance.
"Those who refuse to follow the governments guidelines will be dealt with accordingly.”
North Norfolk District Council said it could not confirm how many of the 300 queries it had received since November 5 were complaints against businesses reportedly breaching Covid 19 regulations.
But the council did serve one prohibition notice to a restaurant which was open during the second lockdown when it should not have been.
Breckland Council had 46 complaints but did not issue any fines or prohibition notices.
A Breckland Council spokesperson said: “We have been working closely with local Breckland businesses throughout the pandemic to ensure they are clear on the latest national guidance to keep their staff and customers safe.
"Our approach has been to work collaboratively with businesses and in the first instance to educate and encourage compliance by providing support and guidance.
"We do have enforcement powers in instances of non-compliance, but our businesses have responded positively to the advice they’ve been given and to date it has not been necessary to issue any enforcement notices or fines."
South Norfolk Council and Broadland Council did not respond to our request for information on complaints and action taken.