Southend Councillor threatens ‘sledgehammer’ powers if businesses ignore public health warnings

A Southend councillor has urged businesses to listen to government advice about social distancing or face losing their license.

The warning from Councillor Martin Terry (Ind) comes after large groups of people gathered on the central seafront and old Leigh over the weekend, as well as on seaside locations across the country.

Mr Terry says that some food businesses were allowing customers to bunch together when ordering takeaways while other businesses opened despite the government advising against it.

“People and businesses need to be more careful,” said Mr Terry.

“We need to remind businesses that we give them their licenses to operate and if they disobey direct advice from the Prime Minister then maybe a tougher stance will need to be taken.

“Sadly, some people are putting their wallets in front of their responsibilities. There is no excuse when the government has said it will compensate all businesses.

“Over the weekend what was going on particularly on City Beach was quite ridiculous.”

He added that the council wants to solve the issue through dialogue, but if this fails they will review what they can do about licensing.

Ignoring government advice and potentially endangering the public could be seen as a breach of the conditions, he explained.

The warning has come after council leader, Councillor Ian Gilbert (Lab), urged people not to visit the seafront.

“People and some businesses are just not taking this seriously enough which is so disappointing,” said Mr Gilbert.

“It is for this reason that we are taking the unprecedented step of actively discouraging people from visiting the seaside and gathering in crowds.

“We of course understand the attraction of visiting, but the risk of crowds gathering and queuing in large numbers at takeaways for example and spreading the virus is too great.”
Councillor Matt Dent (Lab), who represents Kursaal ward, also hit out at people ignoring advice on social distancing.

In a strongly worded appeal, he said: “I am sure many of you have seen the photos and posts showing all the people ignoring government advice and socialising anyway. I want to make a direct request for people not to do this. Please take the situation seriously and stay at home unless you absolutely have to go out.

“I know with children at home and adults off work, it can seem like a holiday, but it is not. If you go out and behave like this not only are you putting yourselves at risk but everybody else and the longer people do no take this serious and self-isolate, the longer this will go on.

“Don’t do it, don’t put other people at risk.”

He added: “To businesses please do the right thing and discourage these congregations.”

One of the largest businesses to open its doors over the weekend, against government advice, was Sealife Adventure on Eastern Esplanade.

The Stockvale Group, which owns Sealife Adventure, was contacted to comment but did not respond.


Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter