County council chiefs in the dark over ‘Covid marshals’ for Devon – weeks after PM’s announcement

Devon County Council (DCC) chiefs say they are still waiting for details of how a ‘Covid marshal’ scheme will work. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the scheme for towns and city centres – aimed at ensuring social distancing rules are followed – nearly a month ago.

The Government said that the marshals can be volunteers or existing local authority staff, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

But DCC members heard on Thursday that none are operating in the county as the council is yet to receive details of the initiative.

Councillor Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour opposition group, asked for a report on how many Covid marshals could Devon have, where will they be based, and what the governance and reporting structures will be.

Cllr Roger Croad, cabinet member for public health, told him: “The announcement of Covid wardens by the Government to help tackle concerns raised about social distancing in town and city centres was a welcome acknowledgement of the difficulties posed to our partners in trying to manage the current legislation and guidance.

“But at this time the detail behind this announcement is still awaited and so I am unable to respond to the detailed questions you have asked, which we will seek to develop answers to with our district council and Police colleagues as well as other community safety partners.”

Cllr Hannaford said it was ‘disappointing’ there is apparently no funding or governance structures to back up the Government’s Covid marshal scheme announcement.

He added: “They could prove useful, especially as police capacity is stretched to the limit after a decade of cuts.

“As elsewhere in the country, there is now very low or no social distancing in Exeter, in particular around the city centre, patchy mask wearing, and a general low level of hand sanitising.

“Safety and precautions on buses can be very random especially for vulnerable individuals.

“As we can see cases and infections are rising quickly in and around Exeter, especially amongst university and college students, both on and off campus, and the possible cross contamination to the wider community is a big concern.”

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