Boris Johnson’s COVID plan ripped apart as English councils warn marshals ‘unlikely’

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Measures which came into force on Monday now means groups of no more than six people are able to meet indoors and outdoors as cases of the deadly coronavirus pandemic continue to soar across England. Fears of a second wave of the virus have been raised.

As part of the new plans, Mr Johnson suggested COVID marshals would enforce rules on social distancing, gathering in groups and wearing masks.

But his plans have been criticised by local councils and health officials over the lack of detail.

Questions on funding, recruitment and enforcement powers have been raised.

A government spokesperson said local authorities “are best placed to determine the model of deployment and responsibilities of marshals in their areas”.

They said further details are expected to be announced in “due course”.

However, Bob Cook, leader of the Stockton Council, said the plans have caused “a lot of confusion”.

He said: “We’ve had no answers to any of these questions.

“It’s a very strange way of doing things.

“Things would be a lot clearer if the government would actually talk to local councils before making such announcements.”

A spokesperson for Cheshire East argued any new responsibilities must be “fully funded by Whitehall”.

Southend’s public safety councillor, Martin Terry, also called for the government to provide funding for the new measures.

He said: “We can’t do things out of thin air.

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“The government has to put money on the table.”

Other councils including Newcastle City, Lewisham, North Yorkshire and Swindon have all criticised Mr Johnson’s plans.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes complained authorities have received no “extra funding or resources” to help train marshals and accused the government of “serial incompetence”.

Amanda DeRyk, Lewisham Council’s cabinet member for finance, said she only learned about the plans after listening to the radio.

She said: “You’re like, hang on a minute, that’s the first we’ve heard.

“There’s this sort of policy of decision making by sensational announcement.

“I heard that on [Radio 4’s] the Today Programme.”

Although some authorities – such as Leeds and Cornwall – have already introduced marshals, others have warned they will not have “enforcement powers”.

The Local Government Association said: “Even if marshals were rolled out in great numbers, they will not have enforcement powers so it is important that residents do not expect councils to be able to act when they cannot.”

They added that “any new responsibilities for councils in this area will have to be fully funded”.

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