The breaches involved overstocked storage areas, so that aisles and fire exits were not kept clear, and staff were not given proper training. Poundstretcher pleaded guilty to 16 counts brought by Swindon Borough Council, Wiltshire, three counts by Newbury District Council, Berkshire, and five counts by Lewes Council, Sussex.
Almost half of the fee, £466,666 that Poundstretcher was ordered to pay went to Swindon. The Lewes fine came to £200,000 and related to the chain’s Newhaven high street store. Poundstretcher was fined £333,334 for its health and safety breaches at the Newbury Retail Park store. The 400-strong chain was also ordered to pay court costs of £65,767.74.
Judge Heatherington said, “To blame the local management is not only deeply unattractive, coming from a major employer employing some 6,000 people, but, in my judgment, on the evidence I heard, quite unfair. And it is, in any event, a circular argument – it is part of higher management’s function to see to it that local management is in place and performing to a proper standard. This complacent attitude was highlighted by the way in which senior management, often at director/company secretary level, dealt with requests for interview by enforcing authorities. Whilst, as a matter of strict law, the company may have been entitled not to co-operate, their consistent failure properly to engage with and answer questions spoke volumes as to the company’s attitude towards the role of the enforcing authorities.”
Louise Doughty, Swindon council Service Manager for Health Compliance said, “Poundstretcher has shown a consistent lack of care for its employees through its poor management of health and safety in its stores.”
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