In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Councils have undertaken significant work in protecting the health of the public by ensuring social distancing while shopping for essential goods and in protecting employees. One of the key changes in the way they deliver services has been the implementation of new powers to ensure that those businesses which are permitted to open have appropriate social distancing measures in place and to ensure that other businesses remain closed.
Since 26 March, 1,862 enquiries or complaints about businesses have been received and resolved by Councils. 8,686 proactive calls or visits have been made to businesses. Compliance by business has been high although during this period 4 Prohibition Notices have been served under the Health Protection Regulations. 126 warnings for non-compliance with the Health Protection Regulations have been issued.
Local authorities are also working closely with the Scottish Government to progress policy and guidance for businesses to restart, while establishing joint working arrangements with Police Scotland, Food Standards Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive. It is likely that workloads will increase significantly when there is an easing of lockdown, where local authorities will require to support and regulate businesses to ensure they have appropriate social distancing measures in place and to provide assurances to employees and the public.
COSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing Councillor Kelly Parry, said:
“Ensuring the health of the public and employees while supporting businesses throughout this crisis is crucial and COSLA welcomes the heroic effort of Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers in their response to an ever-changing situation.
“Local Government is playing a key role in protecting public health and supporting business, and close collaboration with the Scottish Government and key partners will be essential as businesses gradually reopen.”
Brian Lawrie, Vice-Chair of the Society of Chief Environmental Health Officers of Scotland said:
“This indicates the responsiveness and the collaborative working arrangements of Scottish local authorities which has enabled them to take on new powers in response to the pandemic. We applaud the local Environmental Health and Trading Standards services for their tremendous efforts to support businesses, their communities and the progress in the work needed to ensure the control of the spread of this virus. It is clear that our policy of Explain, Engage, Encourage and Enforce policy has been effective and would urge businesses to continue to engage with their local services for advice and support as we restart our local economies.
“Over the next weeks and months this work will continue as local authorities support businesses who wish to restart. We trust this will provide confidence to employees and our communities that all businesses that open will do so safely.”