Boris Johnson’s coronavirus marshals have been dismissed as “Covid Wombles” by the police after it emerged they will have no powers to enforce new restrictions.
Senior officers said they would not have the resources to respond to marshals reporting illegal gatherings of more than six people, because other crimes are now back to pre-lockdown levels.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, briefed chief constables on the marshals plan just 45 minutes before it was announced on television by Boris Johnson, leaving some “baffled” by the idea.
Brian Booth, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation said: “We are snowed under with our usual police work so the real issue for us is one of resourcing. If we are suddenly inundated with calls from members of the public or marshals reporting illegal gatherings what are we going to do?
“The Prime Minister comes out with his statement and he must think we sit around doing nothing. We are being asked to do something that we can’t possibly deliver.
“The best way forward would be to empower public health officials to issue some level of enforcement and only use the police when an issue arose, rather than having marshals reporting breaches to us.”
Another senior police source said: "Are they going to be going out in high-viz jackets with two metre sticks to measure distances between people? It's more Covid Wombles than marshals."
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said rank-and-file officers have been left "absolutely baffled" by the announcement.
He said: “I am all for all the help we can get on people being advised on what they can, and cannot, do.
“We are not for a Big Brother scenario where we are handed lists of people who are purported to have done x, y or z.
"What actually is their role, what are we asking them to do? Are they for parks, are they for enclosed areas? I just don't know, no-one knows. The Prime Minister told everyone as if we all fully understood it."