Councils have new powers to enforce lockdown rules on businesses and are calling on people to report any local companies that are flouting the law.

A raft of businesses should now be closed and North Devon Council and Torridge District Council have the power to prosecute any that are breaking the law.

The Gazette has been contacted by several readers who are concerned at various businesses remaining open and social distancing rules not enforced.

Premises which should be closed include pubs, cafes and restaurants, plus all retail apart from food shops, pharmacies, post offices, petrol stations, hardware stores and other exceptions.

Those which may still operate include takeaways, manufacturing, garages, veterinarians, bicycle shops and banks.

The councils have power to check whether businesses should still be open and also to enforce social distancing rules, which say employees should be able to work two metres apart and there should be propern hygiene provision.

North Devon Council’s head of environmental health, Jeremy Mann said: “We very much hope that businesses will comply with the requirements of the regulations given the seriousness of this pandemic and we would like to know if there are any places open that should not be or if any premises that are allowed to be open are not putting measures in place to protect their workforce.”

And council leader Councillor David Worden added: “This is a very difficult situation we find ourselves in as we don’t want to be seen to come down hard on local businesses but this is a matter of national importance and it is critical these types of businesses close down to slow down the spread of this horrendous virus.

“We are sure that our businesses in North Devon are already doing the right thing but this safety net is there for anyone acting irresponsibly and flouting the law.”

Janet Williams, environmental health and community safety manager at Torridge, said: “We are grateful that many businesses across Torridge are actively supporting the campaign to stop the spread of COVID-19 by shutting their premise’s and stopping work. Joining with the rest of the public we appreciate the sacrifice they continue to make.

“Any business that is not required to close must adhere to the government guidance such as following social distancing rules, have facilities for hand washing, with reminders for employees to wash their hands for 20 seconds. Additionally they must ensure frequent cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, keeping staff up to date on actions to reduce the risk of exposure. Employees are required to be made aware of the symptoms of the virus to ensure employees stay at home if they start to experience any of these.

“The public can email environmental.protection@torridge.gov.uk if they have any concerns about a particular business but we would ask them to first cross check with the government advice to see if the business is either acknowledged as one that can stay open or are perhaps operating in a manner that means they are complying with all the latest guidance.”

Anyone in North Devon who wants to report concerns about a business continuing to trade or not implementing social distancing, should contact North Devon Council, preferably online via https://my.northdevon.gov.uk/service/Incident_to_Environmental_Health or call 01271 327711 or email customerservices@northdevon.gov.uk.

For Government guidance on which businesses should be closed, CLICK HERE .