Statement regarding Grace Cards and Books, Droitwich

Updated 24 November 2020

A spokesman for Wychavon District Council said: "Officers from Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) and West Mercia Police have visited or contacted Grace's Cards and Books on several occasions to engage with the owners to encourage them to comply with the current Covid-19 regulations and avoid further action.

Unfortunately, due to continued breaches of the regulations, West Mercia Police, on behalf of WRS, served a Fixed Penalty Notice to the business on 23 November for £1,000.

Wychavon District Council has considered an appeal submitted by the business that claims as they sell confectionary and sugar craft products, they should be allowed to continue to remain open as they are essential items.

The food offering is not substantial enough to detract from the business' core activity which is a card and gift shop. The food items highlighted also do not allow the business to meet the examples of food retailers set out in the relevant legislation, which includes food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops.

We note the business also claims to be selling newspapers and should therefore be treated as a newsagent. WRS officers saw no visible sign of these items when visiting the store and satisfied themselves the core business was the sale of cards and gifts.

As set out in previous statements issued by Wychavon and West Mercia Police regarding this issue, we understand and sympathise with all businesses in these challenging times. We also reiterate our desire to work with local communities and businesses, encouraging everyone to comply with current legislation to help stop the spread of the virus and avoid fines and other enforcement activity.

We look forward to next week when we hope all businesses will be able to reopen and we will continue to support our local traders throughout this pandemic, and afterwards, as we start the recovery process."

Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) is a shared service delivering Environmental Health functions (food safety, health and safety and many aspects of pollution control) and Licensing administration  on behalf of the six district councils in Worcestershire. They are also carrying out the district councils' responsibilities in terms of the coronavirus regulations.

Original statement issued on 23 November 2020

Phil Merrick, Director of Economy and Environment for Wychavon District Council, said: "We absolutely understand the challenges all businesses are currently facing and will continue to face. We have supported them throughout this pandemic and will continue to do so.

We distributed more than £32million to businesses during the first lockdown and have so far paid out more than £600,000 to businesses forced to close during the current lockdown with more applications to process. We are also making £1.3million available to support businesses that are affected by the restrictions but do not qualify for the main support scheme.

Both grants are available for businesses to apply for from our website and we would urge Grace Card and Books to do so if they haven't already.

The Government set out by law the types of business that had to close from 5 November in order to halt the spread of the virus, reduce the pressure on our NHS and save lives. Grace Card and Books is registered as a card and gift shop and that is one of the businesses types that have to close by law.

They were advised of this the day before the notice was issued and told they could continue to trade by delivery or click and collect.

They chose to remain open and so a prohibition notice was issued on Thursday, 19 November under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020.

It is important everyone follows the rules, either as businesses or individuals, and plays their part in helping reduce the spread of this virus. The vast majority of businesses are voluntarily complying with the law and we thank them for that.

We understand why business owners and the public get frustrated and confused when they see other types of businesses being allowed to continue trading or selling items that are deemed non-essential.

The Government made the decision on which type of businesses would and would not be allowed to trade and what they would be allowed to sell. We can only enforce the regulations."

Chief Superintendent Paul Moxley, from West Mercia Police, added: "We remain hugely sympathetic to the difficult times that business owners, particularly small and independent businesses, are having to endure.

"None of my officers, and I'm sure no one in Wychavon District Council, joined our chosen professions anticipating that we would have to enforce Government rules such as this however it is the role of both our organisations to ensure that the current legislation is complied with to reduce the opportunities for Covid-19 to spread.

"Throughout the country's response to the pandemic, West Mercia Police's approach has always been to engage with individuals and businesses first and foremost to negate the need for significant intervention wherever possible.

"This shop had already been advised previously by Wychavon District Council that they should not be open within the current restrictions and the shop had already been issued with a Prohibition Notice. Clearly, at the time of the visit, that notice was being breached. Our officers were therefore simply visiting the premises to advise and will report their findings to Wychavon District Council.

"We understand the restrictions can be challenging, and we know this business is well-loved in Droitwich, but the Government legislation is in place to minimise the spread of Covid-19 and to keep us all safe…. we all have a critical part to play in that."

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