Barking and Dagenham’s warnings to stores over face masks sparks row with government
PUBLISHED: 12:26 02 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:26 02 October 2020
A row has erupted after the town hall served warning notices to stores following complaints of customers not wearing face masks.
The council reports issuing community protection warning notices to Lidl in Longbridge Road, Barking; Sainsburys in High Road, Chadwell Heath; Morrisons in Wood Lane, Dagenham, and the borough’s three B&M stores.
Sainsbury’s has denied receiving a notice.
Barking and Dagenham has urged the stores to take “all reasonable steps” to ensure people wear coverings and social distance while shopping.
But authority leader Cllr Darren Rodwell has since fired off a letter dated September 30 to the secretary of state for business, Alok Sharma MP, after an official told the town hall it couldn’t take further action against the stores.
In it, he explained how the warnings were made under the Anti Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and not the government’s Covid-19 emergency powers.
“I am shocked that you appear to be taking the side of business interests over the health of our residents”, he wrote.
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He added the council remained “disappointed” that only the police can issue fines and called for the powers to be extended to local authorities.
A government spokesperson said: “Shops and supermarkets are required by law to inform customers to wear a face covering, unless they have an exemption, through signs or when they enter the premises.
“This is enforced by local authorities and businesses risk facing a fine if they fail to do so. If customers refuse, the business can escalate to the police if needed.”
A Lidl spokesperson said the retailer has worked closely with councils to ensure a safe shopping environment.
Neither B&M nor Morrisons responded to requests for comment.
Tom Ironside from the British Retail Consortium, said: “The government has decided the responsibility for enforcing the law about individuals wearing face coverings is for the police, not retailers.”
The council’s latest notices were issued following complaints from the public and follow the town hall writing to Asda earlier this month about the same issue.
READ MORE: Council writes to Asda demanding it do more to force customers to wear masks
Failing to comply with a warning notice, may lead to a formal community protection notice being issued. Breaching one of these is a criminal offence punishable by an unlimited fine.
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