Covid marshal scheme to end in Portsmouth if roadmap ‘works out’

A SERVICE to protect Portsmouth businesses and residents by enforcing Covid-19 rules is set to end next month if the government's roadmap ‘works out as planned’.

Portsmouth City Council confirmed it will end its Covid business compliance officer scheme on June 22 - unless it is still needed.

Compliance officers were first hired through a contractor in October last year, using a government grant of more than £130,000.

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Portsmouth City Council Covid business compliance officers, known as Covid marshals. Picture: Portsmouth City Council

Their main duty was to ensure all businesses within the city were Covid compliant. They could then report back on any offenders that could result in fines of thousands of pounds.

Richard Lee, Portsmouth City Council’s regulatory services manager, said: ‘If the roadmap works out as planned and there's no need for the service, then we'll wind it down at the end of June. But we have to plan for other possibilities so we can continue to protect the public if necessary.

‘If the service is needed after June 21 in some form, to help keep Portsmouth safe, then it will continue. For example, officers might be needed to help explain any remaining Covid safety guidelines from the government.

‘The initial government grant came to an end, but we have been using another source of government pandemic funding for the service.’

It comes after the Telegraph reported in April that Portsmouth council had extended existing contracts for Covid marshals beyond July, alongside other councils.

And a job advert for Covid compliance officers in Portsmouth was posted on LinkedIn two weeks ago, which said they would ‘operate in Portsmouth until the end of July - this is likely to be extended longer’.

However, Mr Lee added: 'The service is provided to the council by a contractor and they recruit as necessary to maintain the service. Sometimes there are vacancies that need to be filled.

'The council is not expanding the service. There are four officers working in the community and that number is not increasing.

'Our aim is to educate and explain if possible rather than use enforcement powers.

'The officers do not have enforcement powers themselves, but the council has issued 12 formal notices where serious breaches of regulations have occurred.'

Since the service started compliance officers have made 7,630 visits.

Some fixed penalty notices served to Portsmouth businesses for breaching Covid compliance rules were as high as £4,000.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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