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Friday, December 9, 2022

More than £600,000 in Covid-19 fines served to London’s businesses

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Police forces have faced the brunt of the scrutiny over coronavirus powers being used to break up illicit parties and enforce the lockdown rules, while Scotland Yard is currently deciding whether to hand out fines for the Partygate scandal at Downing Street.

However little attention has been paid to how local authorities – also permitted to issue fines and bring prosecutions under the Covid laws – have used their powers.

Freedom of Information requests reveal councils around the capital have handed out at least £600,000 in fines since the pandemic began, while a further £24,000 in fines have been imposed after full criminal prosecutions brought by six councils – Greenwich, Waltham Forest, Ealing, Haringey, Bexley, and Tower Hamlets.

Just two councils – Redbridge and Newham – were responsible for more than a third of London’s total fines, £215,420, with the issue of 200 and 195 Fixed Penalty Notices respectively.

In contrast, neither Bexley nor Lewisham councils have issued any fixed penalty notices while Camden, Kingston, Richmond and Bromley have each handed out only one penalty.

Many of the penalised businesses failed to close their doors during the three government-ordered lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, when only essentially services were allowed to operate. Cafes, restaurants, and bars were fined for failing to enforce social distancing within their venues.

Redbridge council said it issued £54,000 in fines to businesses which did not display QR codes to help the NHS Test and Trace system, while Enfield council said businesses had been admonished for ignoring the 10pm closing time rule and seating customers indoors instead of outdoors.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council issued 10 fines, including one for a “party taking place with music and dancing” in October 2020, and a £1,000 fine was issued the following month over a wedding with around 100 guests.

Knightsbridge café Falamanki was fined for ignoring the rules of the second national lockdown, while Zain’s Beauty Centre in Earl’s Court was fined twice for continuing to operate as a barbers in June 2020.

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