Training staff to police smoking ban to cost £29.5m

15 February 2007 by
Training staff to police smoking ban to cost £29.5m

The Government has come under fire for giving local authorities in England £29.5m to train staff to police the smoking ban in bars and restaurants.

Under the scheme, council staff will be able to give on-the-spot £50 fines to individuals and take court action against premises after the ban comes in on 1 July.

They will have the power to enter premises undercover, allowing them to sit among drinkers, and will even be able to photograph and film people.

Ian Gray, policy officer for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and chief trainer for the government course, said he expected most councils would take a "softly, softly approach" at first.

"But there will be some occasions where action has to be taken and I am sure the compliance officers will not shy away from that," he said.

"These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can even film and photograph people to gather evidence, although this may not be appropriate in many cases."

The British Beer and Pub Association described the approach as too "heavy-handed and elaborate", especially when the experience in Scotland is considered.

"In Scotland, there have been just 11 fixed penalty notices issued to premises in the past 10 months, with many councils having issued none at all," a spokesman told the BBC.

Meanwhile, gaming company Rank Group has announced it is closing down nine of its Mecca Bingo clubs in England and Wales and cutting down 230 jobs as it braces for the smoking ban.

Rank maintained that the clubs are being closed down so that it can improve the quality of the clubs' portfolio as the ban comes into force in July. The closure will not have any impact on the company's profits this year.

For more on the smoking ban click here >>

Smoking ban already shaping pub market >>

Association boss attacks late publication of partial smoking ban regulations >>

Marston's to spend £20m on outside smoking areas >>

Government must do more to help licensees with the smoking ban >>

Rank Group sells Hard Rock business >>

By Daniel Thomas

E-mail your comments to Daniel Thomas]( staff to police smoking ban to cost £29.5m) here.

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