SHOPKEEPERS who refuse to comply with “draconian” Coronavirus rules could be reported for enforcement action by council Covid inspectors.

Tendring Council said its town centre ambassadors will be a “friendly face” but admitted the staff would follow-up on reports of businesses not following guidelines and work with them to ensure they comply.

Those who do not will then be referred to the council’s environmental health team for enforcement action.

Graham Webb, chairman of Clacton Town Partnership, said town centres shops have struggled enough this year.

“I hope these officers will be using a lot of discretion,” he said.

“The emphasis must be on encouraging people to do the right thing rather than going down the road of enforcement action and fines.

“I think going into Tier 2 was wrong - infection rates are low here.

“The Government doesn’t seem to be looking at its own figures - it’s schools and universities where it appears to be spreading.

“Shops have been a very small part of it and when they open up they forced to abide by draconian measures.

“If they come down too hard on shops it could kill off the town centre, which is already at tipping point.

The council said the two new ambassadors have begun visiting Tendring’s town centres and will “support” businesses to follow Coronavirus regulations.

As well as advising restaurants, pubs, shops and other businesses on the guidelines, the ambassadors will be the council’s “eyes and ears” on the ground and will be able to identify hotspots that might need additional safety measures such as queues or barriers.

The roles are funded by a Government grant and will focus on engagement and education as the team does not have enforcement powers themselves.

Carlo Guglielmi, the council’s deputy leader, said the two ambassadors would be a “friendly face” for businesses and shoppers alike.

“The vast majority of businesses have complied scrupulously with the varying regulations to ensure the safety of their customers, which we are extremely grateful for,” he said.

“Likewise the majority of visitors to our town centres have complied with social distancing rules, mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing.

“However, a handful of businesses have flouted the law while a minority of visitors seem to think the rules don’t apply to them.

“Our ambassadors will help to educate those to ensure we all work together to beat this virus.

“The council will always be very reasonable around enforcement, but where there is a persistent disregard for regulations, we will take adequate action.

“We know that many people will want to hit the streets and catch-up on Christmas shopping once the current restrictions end, and we really want people to support our local shops and restaurants in doing so."

“But please make sure you avoid crowds, follow measures such as wearing masks, queuing and one-way systems, and stay patient, so we do everything we can to avoid harsher restrictions in the future.”