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Covid marshals in Newbury? West Berkshire Council confirms it has no plans, after government announcement

Council leader says “consent is better than enforcement”

Local Democracy Reporter Nathan Hyde

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Covid marshals will not be patrolling the streets of West Berkshire anytime soon.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he wants the marshals to help councils enforce social distancing rules in towns and city centres across the country.

But the government has not provided councils with any funding for the scheme or provided the Covid marshals with any enforcement powers.

West Berkshire Council currently has no plans to introduce the marshals, but insist that environmental health officers are working to ensure people and businesses are complying with government guidance.

Leader of West Berkshire Council Lynne Doherty said: “Local authorities didn’t actually get involved in any consultation around this (Covid marshals project), but it’s something we might potentially be asked to do.

“We have our Public Protection Partnership with Reading and Wokingham and they have been working really closely on the ground to make sure people are Covid-compliant.”

She also said checks have been carried out on businesses, such as shops, cafes and restaurants, to ensure they are “Covid-compliant”.

She added: “West Berkshire residents really did follow the advice they have been given and been very good at listening.

“I would far rather people follow the guidance voluntarily than see it being enforced.

“Consent is better than enforcement.”

Earlier this week,  councillor Nesil Caliskan, from the Local Government Association, said the government Covid marshal announcement “has caused confusion among councils who need urgent clarity”.

He added: ” Without additional funding to support this proposal, many councils are likely to have to prioritise other activity.

“Even if marshals were rolled out in great numbers, they will not have enforcement powers so it is important that residents do not expect councils to be able to act when they cannot.”

During the pandemic, 555 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in West Berkshire and 132 have died.

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