Councils will get powers to shut pubs that break Covid rules

Christopher Hope
·3-min read
Matt Hancock said authorities would be able to act in 'a firm and fast way' against those breaching rules - AFP
Matt Hancock said authorities would be able to act in 'a firm and fast way' against those breaching rules - AFP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Councils are to be given powers to shut pubs and bars that flout coronavirus social distancing rules, Matt Hancock has told MPs.

The Health Secretary said the Government was giving stronger enforcement powers to councils after requests from the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 330 councils in England.

In August, the LGA complained that licensing laws do not allow councils in England to take action on public health grounds, such as over places at which Covid-19 guidelines are not being followed.

Mr Hancock told MPs: "The proposals that we'll bring forward will mean councils will be able to act without delay and use closure notices to shut premises on public health grounds to help suppress the virus.

"We'll work with local authorities in the coming days on the details of these proposals so we can act in a firm and fast way against the minority who are breaching these life-saving rules. We want to put in place stronger regulations to give local authorities firmer powers to take further action in their area."

Nesil Caliskan, the chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, told The Telegraph: "Ensuring councils have a range of tools at their disposal will allow them to work quickly to help suppress the virus in their communities and take action before it is too late.

"It is important that councils can take rapid action against businesses that fail to do this, as it both helps prevent the spread and supports those businesses which have worked hard to keep their premises safe."

Separately, Mr Hancock to put Stoke-on-Trent under Tier 2 restrictions following a request from the local council in an attempt to head off "further escalation" to Tier 3.

Three-tier postcode tool
Three-tier postcode tool

The city of 250,000 people had been in Tier 1, the "medium" threat category, but its leaders, supported by its three Conservative MPs, backed action amid a rapidly rising rate of infections.

The latest NHS Digital figures showed that the number of new cases in the city rose to 210 per 100,000 in the week to October 19. Analysis revealed that the virus is spreading in northern, central and southern areas, with transmission mainly household to household, according to the council.

Mr Hancock also formally announced that Slough and Coventry would be moving to Tier 2. All three areas will be provided with financial support from the Government.

Elsewhere, Warrington and Nottinghamshire could be moved into Tier 3 after the Government began talks with council leaders. Mr Hancock said: "We are formally beginning discussions with Warrington about moving into the very high alert level due to a continuing rise in cases there."

David Mellen, the leader of Nottingham City Council, said he had received an invitation to meet ministers alongside the Nottinghamshire County Council leader, Kay Cutts.

It comes despite Nottingham's coronavirus case numbers having started to decline in recent days, with 639.5 cases per 100,000 people reported in the week to October 17.

In Blackpool, which along with the rest of Lancashire was placed into Tier 3 restrictions last week, tourism leaders made a plea for financial support after seeing "mass cancellations of hotel and attraction bookings".