SOME Dorset holiday businesses are continuing to operate – flouting Covid regulations, according to Dorset councillor Andrew Kerby.

He says the situation is frustrating and made worse by the fact that little is being done about it.

“I fail to understand how a five-bed property, with a jacuzzi, can be booked for a weekend…

“Dorset Council has not been proactive enough in identifying rogue businesses,” the Winterborne North councillor told a full online council meeting on Tuesday evening.

He told council colleagues that he continued to be contacted by residents upset about breaches of the rules and pointed out that the police had said that three quarters of those fined for flouting the rules had come from out of the county.

“I find it exasperating that over lockdown and the tier restrictions that a minority of holiday lets and guesthouses are still remaining open for business, in clear breach of COVID measures.  This is wrong and I feel very little seems to be done to enforce those rogue businesses and individuals. Additionally, I believe that many of these ‘rogue’ lets have claimed government grants designed to support closed businesses over the tough lockdowns. This is fraud and is taking funds away from legitimate struggling industries,” he said.

Cllr Kerby said he was also worried that the council was not using the data it held to identify potential fraud around Government grants, which the council administered.

“Upon doing my own research, I have found just how easy it is to book a property online using some well-known national websites, with no questions asked to whether my stay was legitimate. I ask members to join me in condemning those online holidays letting websites, that are still operating and putting the lives of our residents at risk,” he said.

Finance brief holder Cllr Gary Suttle said there were circumstances where hotels, guest houses and campsites could still open, but said it was plain that they could not be used for holidays.

“Sadly we know that there are a small minority of businesses and individuals who don’t think the rules apply to them. Throughout the pandemic Dorset Council’s regulatory officers have been following up complaints and answering business enquiries on closure and permitted safe opening. Our teams have worked alongside the Police, talking to businesses, talking to the public, working hard to ensure compliance and thus keep our residents safe,” he said.

Cllr Suttle said that the council and Stour Valley Poole Partnership had so far paid out grants totalling £143M to Dorset businesses.

“As part of the process the applicants have to go through a strict validation process, to ensure the legitimacy of the claim. But we have taken a belt and braces approach and as part of our follow up are sharing the data with government departments, including HMRC. If there are false grant claimants out there who think you have ‘got away with it’ they shouldn’t be surprised if they hear from us soon,” he said.

Cllr Jill Haynes, portfolio holder for customer and community services, said the majority of Dorset businesses were complying with regulations but she said each time the rules changed there had been complaints from the public, which the council responded to.

"Businesses in Dorset have achieved a high level of compliance although in some cases not without initial resistance," she said.