'Confusion' over Covid street marshals as North Yorkshire health officials call for government clarity

Health officials in North Yorkshire are calling on the government for more clarity on its plans to introduce Covid-19 street marshals in town and city centres.

Monday, 14th September 2020, 3:45 pm
Updated Monday, 14th September 2020, 3:48 pm

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government and public wanted to see "stronger enforcement of the rules" when he last week announced marshals will be introduced to help ensure social distancing is followed.

However, there remains questions over how they will work and who will pay for them.

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, North Yorkshire’s director of public health, said the county council can't yet make a decision on whether the marshals will be introduced because it is awaiting for more details.

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North Yorkshire health officials say more government guidance is needed before a decision on whether to introduce street marshals is made.

"We are working with partners to look at how appropriate marshals are to the circumstances the county faces," he said on Friday.

“As the announcement was made only earlier this week, we await further details from the government and no decision has yet been taken about whether or where to employ marshals.”

The government said marshals can either be volunteers or existing members of council staff.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said "any new responsibilities for councils in this area will have to be fully funded", but there has been no funding announced by the government.

Nesil Caliskan, chair of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, said: “This announcement has caused confusion among councils who need urgent clarity from the government on any extra resources and details on how it should work on the ground.

“It is right that councils will be able to choose whether marshals are the best way to manage COVID-19 risks in their local areas.

"However, without additional funding to support this proposal, many councils are likely to have to prioritise other activity.

The government has still to set out details of what marshals will do, and says those decisions will be a matter for local authorities.

In areas where marshals have already been introduced, they have handed out hand sanitiser and face coverings, answered questions and explained social distancing guidelines to members of the public.

Marshals do not have the power to enforce social distancing or to issue fines to anyone who breaks the rules, but the government says they can call the police if enforcement action is needed.