The owner of a Bishop’s Waltham shop has slammed police and council officials after she was accused of trading during lockdown.
Rachel Wells, who runs Tashinga in Bishop’s Waltham, has been operating a click and collect only service during the current lockdown through her website tashinga.co.uk, which is in line with government rules.
But she says over the past 10 days she has been questioned by Bishop’s Waltham’s Community Safety Officer then Winchester City Council’s Environmental Health Department and finally by the police following claims that she was trading as normal.
Rachel says the claims are baseless and she has simply operating a click and collect pre-order service. “How is it right that one small independent shop be under such harassment and scrutiny in the scheme of things?” she says.
“First the Community Safety Officer turned up saying he’d been told I had customers in the shop, then an Environmental Health Officer from Winchester arrived. Then one of his colleagues emailed me and said he had received an allegation about me breaking the rules.
“Finally, police and their licensing officer turned up at my shop to yet again question me about how exactly how I was operating my business.”
In addition to these events, Rachel says the new government rules are very unfair to small shops as larger stores are being allowed to trade normally, taking away trade from smaller ones.
“I’m at a loss as to how the government drew a line over essential and non-essential shops. Supermarkets are fully open, selling electrical goods, gifts, cards and clothes. Marks and Spencer is 80% open at Hedge End selling electrical goods, gifts, cards and clothes.
“Garden centres are open and at this time of year and many are just glorified gift shops. However, gift shops, clothing shops, card shops and book shops are not allowed to open. This apparently is to reduce contacts and people being out of their homes.
“How do they imagine the crowds are going to be controlled come December when, with only three weeks to shop before Christmas, it is likely that all the shops will be open again.
“The government says it wants to save high streets but small shops like mine are getting very little support during this lockdown and as we do 50% of our annual turnover during the critical months of October, November and December, this lockdown is a financial nightmare.”
A spokesperson for Winchester City Council said: “We understand the difficulties Ms Wells and all small business owners in the district face as we they look to protect their income during a second period of national restrictions and in the lead up to Christmas. Following complaints, the council gave advice to Ms Wells that she wasn’t operating in accordance with the Government’s guidance on essential-only retail.
“We have been in contact with businesses in Bishop’s Waltham to underscore the importance of the current restrictions so we can stop the spread of COVID-19 and continue to protect the wellbeing of all residents. We urge all businesses who sell non-essential items to only sell goods and services that have been pre-ordered and in accordance with the legislation and government guidance.”
Hampshire Police have been contacted for comment.