Hounslow's Enforcement Officers Say They are Taking 'Light Approach'
Council has received over a 1,000 Covid-19 related complaints
Throughout this rollercoaster year of lockdowns, Tier changes and stop-start trade for businesses, a team of council officers have been patrolling the streets of Hounslow borough to help traders make sense of what is going on.
The sudden shift into Tier 4 restrictions prompted them to visit more than 60 businesses over the weekend.
In a “light approach” of helping traders know the latest guidelines, one officer Zaheer Kadri, said the biggest issue for businesses is the confusion around what’s allowed and what’s not, in the ever-changing code of coronavirus rules.
“They have been cooperating with us, I think everybody knows the importance of keeping the infection rate down,” he explained.
“I think Tier 4 put people more into shock because of what came with it with this new strain. People have responded honestly, we haven’t had any backlash…
“Of course they are upset but when everyone knows why this Tier 4 has come in, it was more to the confusion of ‘are we essential or not?’”
Over the pandemic Zaheer has been part of the enforcement team where their duties have stretched to coronavirus regulations, on top of other areas including handling noise complaints, anti-social behaviour, waste management and looking after parks and estates.
A typical day will be out patrolling key areas in the borough, visiting businesses to offer advice, doing market inspections and following up complaints.
Working for Hounslow Council over the last 12 years, the former security supervisor said the teams are best suited to handle the new coronavirus as they already have “great rapport” with the businesses through their other work.
“We work with those communities on a day-to-day basis, they know us, they know our faces,” the 39-year-old said.
The Hounslow resident added: “This wouldn’t have worked if we had an outside team coming in to then enforce things. ‘Who are you? What do you want?’ is the first question [businesses would ask]. It would up the ante.”
Working like “bobbies on the beat”, between the team they know the area and local languages which helps overcome issues with some borough businesses.
While Zaheer speaks Punjabi, Hindi and a bit of Arabic, he added: “If I can’t speak the language I’ve got a colleague that can.”
The council’s team have received around 1,200 complaints of Covid rule breaches over the pandemic, and have visited more than 650 businesses.
So far 22 shops have been served prohibition notices for breaching Covid rules, which temporarily bans them from opening, along with other conditions the officers can set.
Zaheer said: “Our approach is one of providing advice and guidance where they can continue the service, or if they break the guidelines and not comply then unfortunately that is when we serve notices or police notices.”
For the father-of-three he feels their work is making a difference on the ground, reassuring residents and giving something back to the community- something he’s wanted to do since leaving school.
The former Heathland School student said: “It was something I wanted to do for my family, for my residents who live here and also for businesses to flourish as well…
“I’m proud [Hounslow] born and bred, born in West Mids, all my children were born in the same hospital. I want a thriving future for my children, I want them to grow up in an area they feel safe, it’s greener, it’s cleaner, they feel proud they can shout about Hounslow.”
Zaheer will be working over the Christmas period and believes the continuing uncertainty will be a challenge for Hounslow’s community, and for businesses trying to make money to feed their families.
But he’s also proud of how residents have risen to the challenge in 2020 helping each other out, relying once again on Londoners’ ‘bulldog spirit’ at a time of crisis.
“That is amazing to see when all the different stakeholders are working together for a better future to help their neighbours,” he said.
“That is what it’s all about working in partnership. The council plays a 20 per cent role in that while the community does the rest.
“It’s really congratulations to the community for coming out and helping each other.”
Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter
December 22, 2020