SOUTHAMPTON Council has not issued any fines to businesses for flouting the second coronavirus lockdown.

The authority said it had preferred to engage with traders during the four-week closure of non-essential retail, which ended yesterday.

The lockdown was introduced in response to signs of a new wave of Covid-19 infections. It forced the closure of pubs, restaurants and non-essential retailers, except for click and collect shopping and takeaway food and drink.

But it also led to complaints that shops such as supermarkets, homeware stores and garden centres were allowed to carry on selling non-essential items alongside their core ranges.

Businesses flouting the lockdown laid themselves open to fines ranging from £1,000 for a first offence to £10,000 for the fourth and subsequent offences.

A statement from Southampton City Council said: “Southampton City Council has not issued any fines during the current period of restrictions to control the transmission of coronavirus.

“The council has followed a graduated approach to remedy any non-compliance, following the ‘4 Es’ hierarchy – engage, explain, encourage, enforce.

“Officers are working with businesses in Southampton to ensure they are Covid secure and safe for their staff and customers.”

Government guidance said big retailers should close off distinct areas of their stores which were devoted to non-essential items. However, some have said the guidance does not constitute law and is therefore unenforceable.

Southampton City Council said: “The council has not taken any enforcement action to close parts of larger retail premises. The powers available to local authorities are set out in the Health Protection Regulations and apply across England. The council has authorised officers to take action in appropriate situations using these powers.”

Introducing the lockdown rules to the House of Commons last month, Boris Johnson said: “I am truly sorry for the anguish these measures will impose, particularly for businesses which had just got back on their feet, businesses across the country who have gone to such trouble to make themselves Covid secure, to install Perspex screens, to do the right thing.”

But he added that “it is clear that we must do more together”.