Local councils should be given the right to close down pubs and other licensed premises who are ‘flouting’ the coronavirus safety guidelines, the Local Government Association has said.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, has called for the introduction of a temporary public health or covid-19 objective in the Licensing Act, to enable them to crack down on businesses that “are not protecting the public during the pandemic.”

Currently, government guidance sets out that licensed premises should voluntarily implement social distancing measures and record the details of people that visit their sites, but the LGA is calling on this to be mandatory and legally enforceable through the Licensing Act.

Councils have recently been given powers to close premises, but these can only be used where there is already a “serious and imminent” risk to public health, and the body has said that extending these powers would mean they could move more quickly in order to prevent outbreaks.

It has also called for licensing laws to be extended to public health grounds, which is currently only covered by general healthy and safety legislation.

“The vast majority of businesses are implementing the necessary measures to protect people’s safety, and councils are working hard to support premises in these efforts,” said Nesil Caliskan, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board. “However, some councils are beginning to see isolated cases where the guidelines are not being followed and they are limited in what they can do to stop it.

“This is clearly a danger to communities, putting people at risk of infection. “It needs to be mandatory for premises to follow this government safety guidance and councils need the right powers to intervene and take action if necessary.

“It does not take long for this virus to spread if allowed. While councils do not want to have to shut anywhere down, business owners need to know that councils have the power to act if local communities are put at risk.”