Concerns have been voiced about how local authorities will wield powers to close businesses and cancel events, after prime minister Boris Johnson's announcement earlier today.
Johnson unveiled the new local powers alongside additional abilities for ministers to enact local lockdowns, as he opened the door for a return to workplaces. Hospitality leaders have expressed concerns that the measures wont be used proportionally or uniformly across authorities around the country.
Introducing a framework for containing and controlling future outbreaks, Johnson said that the coronavirus would be managed "through targeted local action… where speed is paramount".
He said: "From tomorrow local authorities will have new powers in their areas. They will be able to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces and cancel events."
Johnson added: "Ministers will be able to close whole sectors, or types of premises in an area, introduce local stay at home orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the maximum size of gatherings beyond national rules, or restrict transport systems serving local areas."
Concerns have already been aired about how the new powers could be applied by local authorities. Jonathan Downey founder of campaign group Hospitality Union and chief executive of London Union, told The Caterer: "It's terrifying and there wont be a uniform application of the guidance so what's fine in Camden wont work in Islington, what's OK in Leeds might lead to a venue being closed down in Manchester. That's the big concern, that they've given too much power to people with not enough understanding of the operational issues and risks."
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has also stressed the need for new powers to be used in a proportionate manner. She said: "It's important that government guidance is clear and consistently applied by local authorities. Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses have been among the hardest hit by this crisis, so any decision to close these venues in the future, if necessary, must be proportionate, transparent and based on clear science."
The prime minister has said the new powers would allow for a wider loosening of restrictions, with employers given more discretion about people returning to work from 1 August.
- From 1 August, updated advice on returning to work will be issued, with employers given more discretion on bringing employees back to offices as long as they are Covid secure.
- Leisure businesses such as bowling, skating rinks, casinos and beauticians can reopen from 1 August.
- Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will be allowed.
- Outdoor performances will be permitted.
- From October, large concerts will be allowed.
Addressing the issue of returning to work, Johnson said: "From 1 August we will update our advice on going to work. Instead of government telling people to work from home, we're going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely."
Contract caterers including Bartlett Mitchell founder Wendy Bartlett and CH&Co chief operating officer Allister Richards welcomed the announcement. Bartlett said that the industry had worked hard to ensure people could be welcomed back to the workplace safely.
Richards added that the business was delighted that people were being encouraged to return to their workplaces.
"This is another significant step to the recovery and rebuild of the hospitality industry and our business, and we wholeheartedly welcome this move," he added.
Photo: number10gov Flickr