Norwich city centre could have officers to check people stick to coronavirus rules
- Credit: Archant
Cash to stem the spread of coronavirus could be used to send council officers into Norwich city centre to make sure shoppers and businesses understand restrictions around the pandemic.
While Norwich City Council is not calling those officers coronavirus marshals, they would be funded by money the government has made available to support that scheme.
And the council has not ruled out bringing in extra resources - or even an external agency - over the busier Christmas shopping period.
Almost £86,000 for Norwich City Council is among more than half a million pounds awarded to councils in Norfolk and Waveney through the government’s £60m surge funding, to support enforcement and compliance of rules and restrictions.
A Norwich City Council spokeswoman said: “The council is looking at using the government funding to send qualified and experienced officers out into the city centre this winter to help keep people safe.
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“While these officers are working with the public to share important information and provide reassurance, we are putting plans in place to backfill some of their day to day duties on a part-time temporary basis with people who have previously worked in these roles and have retired.
“The council will also work with the more than 900 houses in multiple occupation in Norwich, providing information and talking to letting agents about what is required from them to help protect residents.
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“As the city centre gets busier in the run up to Christmas, we will assess whether we need to send more council resources out to help people or if we will appoint an external agency to do this.
“As has been the case throughout the pandemic, our priority is to help keep people in Norwich safe.”
Last month, prime minister Boris Johnson announced his idea of coronavirus marshals, which led to questions from councils about how they would be funded - that is what the cash now announced can be used for.
The government said such marshals would help businesses and communities follow the latest guidelines.
They said those marshals would not carry out an enforcement role, which would still be the role of the police and designated council enforcement officers.
Instead they would work with local businesses on queue management, directing pedestrians and supporting social distancing in busy public areas, reminding members of the public to wear face coverings and helping with the cleaning of touch points.
Norfolk police is getting £335,622 to step up enforcement of coronavirus and Suffolk police will receive £270,181 to help them enforce the laws.
Norfolk police’s temporary assistant chief constable Julie Wvendth said: “As we head into what appears to be the second wave of the virus, our local communities will need to come together with everyone; individuals, households and businesses, all having a responsibility to ensure that we work to stop the spread and continue to adhere to the public health guidelines around social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands.
“With the virus rates increasing, yet our crime rates back to pre-Covid levels, we will be working with our partners, including those in the third sector, to help support our residents and, in particular, those who are most vulnerable.”
She said police would continue explaining and encouraging people to follow the rules, but added: “We must be clear that we will take enforcement action against the minority who knowingly flout the rules with no sense of guilt about the risks they are taking on others’ behalf.
Communities need to be reassured we will deal with breaches, but we have to get the balance right in dealing with that and reports from our communities versus the hidden harms and hidden crimes we are all facing in a very challenging and constantly changing environment.”
In terms of other councils, West Norfolk will get about £83,000, Great Yarmouth nearly £68,000 and Breckland just over £66,000.
South Norfolk has been awarded about £57,000, North Norfolk just over £52,000 and Broadland a little shy of £50,000.
East Suffolk Council will get about £121,000.
Both Breckland and East Suffolk said they would not employ Covid-19 marshals, but were considering how best to use their money.
North Norfolk Council said it is considering how to use the cash, A spokesman said, since June, its environmental health team has been redeployed for short periods to advise local businesses on safe re-opening and trading, as well as to bring in social distancing measures in towns and tourist areas, which will need to continue.