Gloucestershire’s so-called “covid marshals” will officially start patrolling the county’s streets from today, and repeat flouters will get a yellow card leading to a fine, writes Leigh Boobyer.
The six Covid-19 compliance officers will wander around areas of Stroud, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury to tell people how social distancing rules can be followed.
The officers will ensure businesses and public are following the Government’s coronavirus rules, and they will also be on hand with face coverings and hand gel to give away.
They can’t enforce the rules but they can issue a yellow card “as a very last resort” to people who seriously or repeatedly flout advice given to them, which could lead to a fine from the police or their local council.
As England is braced to go back into lockdown on Thursday (November 5) with new restrictions set, the officers will be able to “help those who struggle with the rules”, Gloucester City Council director Anna Brinkhoff said.
The officers will be patrolling some of the county’s streets as of today (November 2) until April next year.
The Government said earlier this month local councils in England will receive £30million partly to fund the officers.
Gloucestershire County Council said it received £300,000 for the officers which will be located within each district.
Speaking on the steps of Gloucester City Council’s chamber, Anna Brinkhoff said: “We have acted with great speed in responding to the Government’s funding, intending for us to put together covid ambassadors. People who can support the public in behaving in a covid-compliant way. We have pooled £105,000 of funding across four councils.
“These people will be engaging with the public to advise and guide. We will want to deploy the resource where it is needed, so we will do that quite flexibly across the four councils. They are very much part of a blended approach: we have got enforcement which is done by the police, and environmental health officers who have powers to issue penalty notices. We have also got really softer volunteers, so this is a great addition.
“They will play a key role when we are in lockdown from this Thursday. We will be adjusting their work accordingly in retail and leisure, which will hopefully be opening in December.
“It is needless to say we are in a really challenging time at the moment, we all have to change our behaviour and comply with the rules. Our team will help those who struggle with the rules as well.”
Steve Lindsay, Gloucester City Safe manager and looking after the operational of the CPOs, said the jobs were given to people who “would have otherwise not had one”.
He said: “In Gloucester we have what we call city protection officers, and for the rest they are going to be called community protection officers. We think that name is better than ‘covid marshal’, because they can multi-task.
“We have our own intelligence database, where they will update the system and the relevant councils can update the basis.
“They’ll be a mobile unit, going round the areas en route to bases, supporting local businesses and ensuring the public adhere to the social distancing and the lockdown coming on Thursday.”
Mr Lindsay continued: “They are SIA-accredited staff. They come from all walks of backgrounds, and we employed people who would have otherwise been without a job.”
Cheltenham Borough Council leader Steve Jordan said: “The main objective is that they can advise and support the businesses and people out and about.
“Even though we are going into lockdown, people will still need help to be up to date with the guidance. They still have a useful role to play.”