MORE than £200,000 has been given to Wiltshire Council to roll out the government’s new Covid Secure Marshal scheme in the county.

The council, which has received £202,000 in funding for the scheme, moved quickly to dispel ideas that the Covid marshals would be used as a tool to enforce the current pandemic rules, however.

The funding for the marshals comes as part of a scheme announced by the government on September 9, to help ensure social distancing, help businesses manage queues, remind people to wear face masks and help to clean frequently touched surfaces.

Under the scheme, funded through a £30m government pot, marshals cannot enforce the rule of law but are intended to take some pressure off police and local authorities.

At Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Cllr Gavin Grant said the marshals must be there to guide and help and not be ‘surrogate untrained, unpaid and unqualified law enforcement’. Cllr Grant also raised concerns over the guidance. He asked: “Have we received the guidance and funding commitment from government or is this another example of announcements are made and sadly the detail doesn’t follow speedily and the money follows even later?”

Leader of the council, Cllr Philip Whitehead responded: “I don’t want anybody acting in a marshal-like way, I want them acting in a support way.

“I don’t know if we have the full details on how and why that can be spent but my aim would be to spend every penny of that without having anybody, in the manner you would described earlier on.”

Council chief executive, Terence Herbert, added: “We have £202,000, we have the guidance, it’s up to local areas to decide how they are best to implement the guidance.

“It’s the policy direction from the cabinet and we’re taking an approach of engagement and education with our residents. “It will be up to me and colleagues to engage with our partners to ensure we have a joined up approach to the implementation of the guidance. “We are all looking to achieve the same outcomes and I’m hoping we will be able to do that.”

Cllr Whitehead said that rather than strict enforcement, the council will be taking an educational approach with the marshal scheme.

He said: “We see it as education, support and advice to make sure that business are doing the best for themselves. “The reaction from businesses and anyone we’ve approach in terms of offering advice on how they could improve the isolation in their premises has always been really well received and going further than we would have suggested in the first place.

“I don’t like the concept of enforcement in this concept. I think I understand the concept in terms of the police but in terms of marshals we’ll be offering business advice and support.”

Cllr Ian Thorn, Lib Dem group leader, echoed Cllr Whitehead’s sentiments. He said: “The last thing we want is people being told what to do. What we need is clear education, very clear guidance and advice, and the people of Wiltshire have been fantastic.”

Cllr Grant proposed a vote to thank council staff for their hard work and highlighted the importance of engaging with town and parish councils in how the scheme will work.