Proposals to introduce undercover police officers into pub and bars to tackle sexual harassment have been branded “deeply concerning” by a night-time safety group.

The Good Night Out Campaign described the government initiative as an “unworkable scattergun approach”.

In a statement, the group said: “We’ve trained thousands of bar staff to understand and respond to sexual harassment and not a single one has ever said “You know what would really help us feel safer? Undercover police in our workplace.”

The plan to have plain clothes police officers patrol bars and nightclubs to protect women from “predatory” offenders is part of a nationwide pilot of Project Vigilance, a strategy developed by Thames Valley Police.

The government also said it will double its Safer Streets fund to £45m, which provides funding for better lighting and CCTV.

Good Night Out Campaign suggested “spies on the dancefloor” were unwelcome in a sub-sector worst hit by Covid.

The statement added: “People already find it hard to report concerns to clearly identifiable staff and security because of fear of not being believed. The government must listen to the experts in nightlife safety and the women’s sector on the drivers of gendered violence and how to tackle this. Real cultural change comes through workplace training, policies, publicity, customer education and community building.

“There is also an ongoing UK public enquiry into abusive practices in undercover policing, and it’s known that at least 20 officers deceived women into intimate sexual relationships, including fathering children with them.

“The nightlife economy and its workers have been hard hit in the pandemic. They need resources and support to deal with industry challenges including sexual harassment, not spies on the dancefloor.⁠⁠”

⁠⁠Oakman Inns executive chairman Peter Borg-Neal also criticised the initiative, which he said heaped more suspicion on the sector.

“Another pathetic attempt by Gov to deflect from their own failings and blame hospitality. In my pubs if someone harasses someone else we throw them out - we don’t need this intrusion.

“Right up there with pubs being closed whilst thousands caught, & died from Covid, in hospitals.

“When the Government introduced the senseless curfew policy it drove a glut in demand for taxis at 10pm making them harder to find for women going home alone. They didn’t think it through. Pubs did and allowed people to wait inside in defiance of the Governments foolishness.”