AS A Freemantle resident and local ward councillor I was very saddened to read how the police were forced to take enforcement measures against party goers in Paynes Road recently for flagrantly flouting the Covid-19 regulations.

The city council and Hampshire police follow the four E’s model in carrying out our role to ensure national restrictions are followed.

Here we seek to ‘Engage’, ‘Explain’, ‘Encourage’, and – only as a last resort - ‘Enforce’.

The city council supports a network of 300 Covid-19 community champions provided with information, advice and guidance about how to prevent infection, reduce onward transmission, and contain outbreaks.

We do this through weekly live briefings, drop-in sessions, email bulletins and social media posts.

Champions can use this information to help keep themselves and their families safe.

They raise issues and ideas at these briefings which provides us with a valuable insight to help shape communication to the general population.

In addition council officers support a community response group to promote wider engagement.

This is a daily meeting with various public and voluntary sector service provider organisations across the city assisting in the Covid-19 response.

Last year the city council introduced an Engagement Innovation Fund to support various community projects to increase community awareness, engagement and compliance with key Covid-19 public health measures to prevent the spread of transmission.

From December 2020 Southampton Covid-19 marshals were deployed to patrol the city centre and district centres and visit businesses across the city to monitor and support Covid-19 safety measures.

While our marshals do not have enforcement powers, they engage and encourage businesses and members of the public to follow guidelines including social distancing and face coverings.

Where escalation to formal enforcement action is required this is through the police or the council’s environmental health officers.

Although Covid marshals and environmental health officers seek to work with businesses informally, the city council will use the full extent of the powers available to secure compliance where a business persistently fails to meet legal requirements.

This includes the use of formal prohibition procedures and legal proceedings.

Policing data shows that Southampton has been one of the busiest areas in Hampshire for Covid-19 related incidents, with 3,146 out of a force total of 20,156.

Enforcement action to date includes issuing penalty notices, which are now being used increasingly to tackle anyone non-compliant with government guidance.

This is in line with a stronger enforcement strategy across the country in order to protect the health of the population and save lives.

The overwhelming majority of the people of Southampton have been magnificent in their resilience to this dreadful pandemic.

In those few isolated cases where breaches occur, however, the authorities locally will have little hesitation in using the enforcement powers at their disposal.

Cllr Dave Shields

Southampton