OFFICIALS in Bolton have expressed fury over the lack of powers given to local authorities in the fight against coronavirus.

Councils have been told that they do not have any powers to enforce wearing face coverings in certain settings – despite the coverings being a legal requirement.

The revelation came after Barking and Dagenham Council was warned not to take action against retailers whose staff failed to enforce mask-wearing or social distancing.

Despite the fact customers can be fined for failing to wear one, the London authority was told it “did not have power to enforce these guidelines” under the Government’s covid-19 emergency powers.

The latest update came after four warning notices were handed out under the antisocial behaviour legislation to firms failing to follow the guidelines.

Cllr Nick Peel, the labour leader in Bolton, called the latest plot twist a shambles, and warned the restrictions could collapse if no power to enforce them was granted.

He said: “The Government is in danger of seeing its entire range of restrictions unravel if it is not prepared to back them up.

“What a ridiculous situation that councils like Bolton are encouraged to enforce on measures designed to stop the spread of the virus, only to have the Government pull the rug from under them by saying ‘you don’t have the powers to enforce these guidelines and should refrain from doing so’.

“Any right minded person would simply conclude – ‘what’s the point?’.

“Its yet another example of the utter shambles of mixed and confused messages coming from the Government, who appear to be completely out of their depth in the handling of this crisis.”

Bolton Council confirmed that they did not have any power to take action against businesses failing to enforce rules of face coverings.

However, officers would be able to use the Health and Safety legislation to tackle any businesses showing a “general widespread disregard” for the measures put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.