Published: 15:00, 11 September 2020
| Updated: 15:30, 11 September 2020
Councils are demanding clarity over plans for Boris Johnson's army of 'Covid marshals'.
On Wednesday the Prime Minister told the country the new teams would "boost the local enforcement capacity" to ensure people are following coronavirus guidelines - but local authorities in Kent remain in the dark as to how this will be implemented locally.
There are also concerns over how the new roles will be funded, and what enforcement powers the marshals would actually hold.
Many businesses and councils have already deployed staff in busy locations - such as shopping centres - to encourage people to respect social distancing and wear masks where necessary.
At Bluewater shopping centre a team of 'social distancing champions' is on hand to ensure all new measures are adhered to by shoppers.
However most of these schemes lack any power to compel people to follow the regulations in place to curb the spread of the virus.
A spokesman for Gravesham Borough Council summed up the view of district and borough authorities across the county in the days following the PM's announcement.
"We had no advance notice of the Prime Minister's announcement of the Covid Marshals programme and are awaiting further details of how the government expects the programme to be implemented and funded," they said.
"Here in Gravesham we have already used a similar scheme, having introduced our own Town Centre Marshals to provide help and advice to traders and customers when non-essential shops and businesses were allowed to reopen in June."
A spokesman for Ashford Borough Council said: "We await detail from the government on the proposed Covid-19 marshal scheme, and details of any funding for such schemes.
"In addition, we await for regulations to be published with reference to the amended rules on gatherings but understand that enforcement responsibilities are liable to remain with the police."
Kent County Council's director of public health, Andrew Scott-Clark, says it will be working with district councils to see how the Covid marshals scheme "can best be developed".
"Any new responsibilities for councils in this area will have to be fully funded..."
Meanwhile, Kent Police will increase its presence in key locations across the county ahead of the more stringent social distancing rules coming into force next week.
From Monday the so-called 'rule of six' will limit gatherings of adults and children in England to no more than six people, both indoors and outdoors.
Those failing to comply with the new guidance risk receiving a £100 fine, which will double on each further repeat breach up to £3,200.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has welcomed the government's decision to bolster powers for councils, for example making it a legal requirement that venues keep test-and-trace details from customers, but it says more detail is needed on how new measures such as the 'rule of six' will be enforced.
Cllr Nesil Caliskan, chair of the LGA safer and stronger communities board, said: "While most businesses are implementing the necessary measures to protect people's safety, we are pleased the government has also acted on LGA calls for councils to have powers to take action when rules are being flouted.
"These measures will mean they can act quickly and proactively in cracking down on places that flout Covid-19 guidance, to prevent problems in the first place instead of only being able to act when it is too late.
"We need to quickly see further detail on how the government's Covid-19 Secure Marshal scheme is intended to work, and any new responsibilities for councils in this area will have to be fully funded."