Published: 20:31, 13 January 2021
| Updated: 20:50, 13 January 2021
Reports from the public concerned about Kent businesses breaching Covid rules have more than doubled since the third lockdown began and non-essential stores were ordered to close, according to Kent Council Council's Trading Standards.
The authority says it is currently getting more than 170 reports a week; up from around 85 a week at the start of December.
The most frequently complained about issues range from stores failing to challenge customers not wearing masks, non-essential business being open and stores failing to manage social distancing.
Enforcement teams across the county are now stepping up their response with a crackdown on businesses which flout the rules while also providing additional information to those who are unclear on how to operate legally within the current restrictions.
Since the start of December, more than 70 businesses have received advice or formal notices asking them to step-up measures to keep customers safe, or to close until the lockdown is lifted.
KCC Trading Standards will this week write to more than 1,000 businesses across the county reminding them of what the lockdown rules mean in practice and the penalties which can be imposed on those found to be in breach.
To help business owners who may still have questions, a free 'Ask the Experts' webinar is being held online tomorrow.
'We will not hesitate to take necessary action requiring them to close immediately...'
Representatives from KCC Trading Standards, Environmental Health, KRF Enforcement Cell and Kent and Medway Growth Hub will join the online event which starts at 1pm.
Steve Rock, head of KCC Trading Standards, said: “The surge in reports we are seeing reflects not only the current tighter restrictions but also signals the public’s desire to shop safely and see operators acting responsibly.
“In many cases, by visiting a business and providing advice, our teams are able to resolve issues. In others, where owners are knowingly breaking the law, we will not hesitate to take necessary action requiring them to close immediately.
"If they still do not comply, we will look to issue a fixed penalty notice and it could end up in prosecution.”
The fixed penalties start at £1,000 for a first offence, rising to £2,000 for second, £3,000 for a third and £10,000 for each penalty notice issued thereafter.
For more information on how to join the webinar and to sign up, visit www.kent.gov.uk/lockdown3businessevent.