EHP Liz Bailey is Commercial Regulatory Manager at Luton Borough Council. She told EHN Extra how her team has used a £132,000 funding from the government to employ COVID marshals for 16 weeks.
"This funding was greatly welcomed. We immediately saw the benefit that having additional resource would bring: we’d be able to deploy across the borough to gather intelligence and be able to impart important messages as well as provide high visibility to the public, enabling us to target our enforcement resources more effectively.
"We’ve employed a team of security guards from the security company APS. They operate in two shifts with four marshalls per shift and they report to me directly. They work flexibly seven days a week, 10am to 11pm. At the council we use a reporting app, which the marshals also use to log findings.
"Being a unitary authority, we have strong links with public health and have weekly outbreak management meetings and look at extremely comprehensive data produced by our business intelligence team. Every morning I also have a 9am dial-in with the police. I use this information to brief the marshals on where they should focus their efforts each day.
"They have no enforcement powers. They are our eyes and ears, and we’ve coached them about what to look for in terms of COVID secure measures and the relevant regulations and guidance. They gather intelligence and engage with businesses across the borough to enable our officers to go out and enforce where necessary.
"Before the second lockdown they were helping with social distancing guidance and COVID compliance among businesses. If we’d served a prohibition notice, for example, we’d share that information with the marshals and they would check that the notice is being complied with. Other than that, they have a role in nudging businesses into complying with COVID rules, for example checking whether posters and QR codes are on display and to hand out useful guidance and letters we produce. They are very much advising and guiding businesses.
"They also help with public compliance. We found that people not wearing face coverings and visors has been the main continuing issue, and we’ve had days of action with the police.
We’re used to being out and about as a council. Very early on in the pandemic, Luton took in house the ‘Failed Follow Up’ data from NHS Test and Trace. We have a dedicated in-house team in the customer services centre who use local information to successfully contact positive cases who for whatever reason were not contactable by NHS Test and Trace. In the event that our customer services team are not able to get through to these cases, we then have a team of ‘door knockers’ who go out on foot to the home addresses to make contact, provide advice and encourage contact to be made with our customer services team for test and tracing purposes and to ensure that the positive case and their contacts are isolating. Information and support available to assist with isolating such as food and financial support available can also be signposted at this stage.
"Having the marshals join our team has relieved the pressure on us. We send them on patrol and task them with keeping an eye on things. It’s a great relief to our team. We would like to hope that central government extends the funding. The 16-week period ends mid-February. Any additional resource would be welcomed as part of the ongoing local and national strategy until – fingers crossed – we resume some sense of normality in the spring as the vaccine is rolled out."
Liz Bailey is Commercial Regulatory Manager in the Commercial Regulatory Services team, which covers food safety, food standards and health and safety, at Luton Borough Council. The team is part of the council’s Public Protection department.