A London council has accused the Government of telling it to ‘back off’ from forcing supermarkets to make sure customers are wearing face masks.  

Four retailers, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Morrisons and B&M homeware stores, were handed warning notices by Barking and Dagenham council in east London after officials saw staff failing to enforce the rules. 

After the notices were issued under antisocial behaviour legislation, the stores are believed to have complained to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). 

A government official then contacted the council to say the notices had sparked an ‘unfavourable reaction’ from the retailers and they should ‘refrain from taking any further action’, according to a letter of complaint sent by the local authority to Business Secretary Alok Sharma. 

Sainsbury's

Lidl

Four retailers, including Sainsbury’s and Lidl, were handed warning notices by Barking and Dagenham council in east London after officials saw staff failing to enforce the rules. File photos 

This prompted council leader Darren Rodwell to claim that the Government was trying to stop it from clamping down on rule-breakers as he vowed to put ‘people before profit’. 

What are the rules over wearing face masks in shops and who enforces them? 

Everyone must wear a face mask inside shops unless they are exempt for medical reasons. Anyone failing to do so can be fined by police. 

Under anti-Covid legislation, stores must tell customers that they are required to wear a mask. 

Barking and Dagenham council says it needs antisocial behaviour legislation to get retailers to actually enforce mask wearing. 

However, the Government insists this could open them up to a legal challenge. 

Shops are able to inform police if customers don’t wear a mask so they can be given a of £1,000 fine. 

He said: ‘It is important to put people before profit. A government official contacted us and asked us to back off from this enforcement. There are complaints from supermarkets that we were being too heavy handed, but I believe we were doing the right thing.’

Everyone must wear a face mask inside shops unless they are exempt for medical reasons. Anyone failing to do so can be fined £1,000 by police or £10,000 for serious breaches. 

Under anti-Covid legislation, stores must tell customers that they are required to wear a mask. 

Barking and Dagenham council says it needs antisocial behaviour legislation to get retailers to actually enforce mask wearing. 

However, the Government insists this could open them up to a legal challenge. 

In a letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, council leader Darren Rodwell wrote: ‘The approach taken by the council, under the 2014 act, is no different to any other premises in which people within a premises are engaged in criminal or antisocial activity, and the premises fails to reduce the occurrence of the problem, or adopts a soft touch approach.

‘I have heard much said about it not being the role of a store worker to challenge members of the public and I am sympathetic to this. The council wrote similarly to the Asda supermarket in early September, which has resulted in positive steps being taken by Asda both locally and nationally, which we are extremely grateful for.’

The antisocial behaviour warning notices were issued between 24 and 25 September, according to The Guardian, which first reported the council’s letter.  

Morrisons

B&M

After the notices were issued under antisocial behaviour legislation, the stores are believed to have complained to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). File photos 

A file photo of shoppers wearing masks as they walk down a pavement in Basingstoke

A file photo of shoppers wearing masks as they walk down a pavement in Basingstoke 

A Government spokesperson said: ‘People must wear a face covering by law in shops and supermarkets in England. They can be fined if they do not.

‘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.’

Sainsbury’s said: ‘Safety is our highest priority. We are following government guidance closely and continue to remind customers to wear face coverings if they are able to. 

‘We have regular tannoy announcements, greeters outside our supermarket and posters including those provided by the Council.’  

Tom Ironside, Director of Business & Regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘The Government has decided that the responsibility for enforcing the law about individuals wearing face coverings is for the police, not retailers, and we welcome their support. 

‘Our members will be fulfilling their legal obligation to encourage and communicate the rules on face coverings, such as through signage and in-store announcements. In some cases, staff have been greeting customers and reminding them about the need for masks’

MailOnline has contacted Lidl, Morrisons and B&M for comment.   

A government official then contacted the council to say the notices had sparked an 'unfavourable reaction' from the retailers and they should 'refrain from taking any further action', according to a letter of complaint sent by the local authority to Business Secretary Alok Sharma

A government official then contacted the council to say the notices had sparked an ‘unfavourable reaction’ from the retailers and they should ‘refrain from taking any further action’, according to a letter of complaint sent by the local authority to Business Secretary Alok Sharma

This prompted council leader Darren Rodwell to claim that the Government was trying to stop it from clamping down on rule-breakers as he vowed to put 'people before profit'

This prompted council leader Darren Rodwell to claim that the Government was trying to stop it from clamping down on rule-breakers as he vowed to put ‘people before profit’



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