The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said officials are indulging in ‘overzealous enforcement’ of lockdown measures after reports emerged of police and council officers intervening to tell stores what to sell.
Convenience stores are reportedly told not to sell ‘non-essential’ items like Easter eggs.
James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS, said this is a ‘mis-reading of rules’ that brought confusion and distraction to retailers who are busy serving their communities.
“This is overzealous enforcement and a mis-reading of the rules. In the cases where officers have challenged retailers and shoppers in this way, it’s brought confusion, distracted retailers in the busiest weeks of their lives, and increased the interactions between people at a time when the government is trying to minimise them,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s Office has confirmed that retailers are free to sell the items in their stock.
“We have set out which shops can remain open. If a shop is allowed to remain open, then it will of course sell whatever items it has in stock,” The Telegraph quoted an official spokesman of the prime minister as saying.
Lowman asked retailers to contact the ACS with the name of the local authority or police force and officer if they face this issue.
“Our published advice to retailers – that they can sell whatever they would normally be selling – can be relied on by anyone signed up to our assured advice scheme, and we advise any retailer facing this challenge to continue seeking their normal range, and to contact us with the name of the local authority or police force and officer so we can follow up with them.”
New regulations brought in last Thursday give police the power to issue instant £30 fines to people who gather in groups of more than two people or leave their homes without good reason such as for work, food-shopping or exercise.
The measures were introduced to help stop the spread of COVID-19 after thousands of Britons appeared to be ignoring advice on social distancing.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, said they were looking to ensure consistency in the police response as everyone got to grip with the new “unprecedented measures”.
“Our plan is that we will engage with people, we will explain the measures…we will encourage people to go home but then as a very last resort we will enforce,” he told BBC radio.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps said police had a difficult job and were doing it well even if in a few cases police had gone “perhaps a bit further than they should have gone.”
“But in general terms I think the case is that if people help everybody out, including the police, by staying home and the rest of it, then there will be no problems,” he told Sky News.
(With Reuters Inputs)