THOUSANDS of people flocked to Bournemouth beach leading to BCP Council declaring a “major incident” after visitors defied advice to stay away.

BCP Council leader Vikki Slade said described the scenes as “shocking” and “irresponsible behaviour”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government had the power to close public areas such as beaches if people flout safety restrictions.

Following confusion over what could be done locally, the role of councils and how they deal with large gatherings, BCP Council communications manager Rachael Mills took to Twitter to clarify the situation.

The thread received a positive response on Twitter and more than 600 likes.

Here we take a look at what can and can’t be done by councils.

Can they close the beaches?

Councils do not have the powers to close public beaches or stop people from coming.

Rachael said: “We can only manage our finite resources as best we can in response.”

Can they close roads?

Councils can’t close roads without giving seven days’ notice.

Can they increase parking fines?

No, parking fine levies are set nationally and can’t be changed. The money received from them can only be used to fund parking enforcement and no other service.

BCP Council is considering "tow away zones" as part of efforts to reduce parking issues during busier periods.

BCP Council leader Vikki Slade has said: “Bournemouth and Poole have never had towaway zones, probably because it would push the impact onto the next road, but that’s the next part of our parking review."

What happened with the toilets?

Toilets were open and “in response to large crowds were kept open for longer.”

Who’s responsible for litter?

We’re all responsible for managing waste but people are urged to take it home.

Rachael said: “Councils provide bins and put extra on when expecting large crowds. They are emptied more frequently too.”

Was alcohol being served?

No council outlets at Bournemouth beach were selling alcohol.

What did the council do last week?

A "major incident" multi-agency emergency response was activated "to co-ordinate resources across the area to tackle the issues".

Last Thursday, BCP Council issued 993 fixed penalty notices for illegally parked cars and collected more than 50 tonnes of waste from the prom and beaches.

Security patrols were also increased and for later into the evening, extra staff were placed at the entrances of car parks.

More civil enforcement officers were also on patrol and for longer.

Visitors were also warned of the “major incident” at Bournemouth seafront and Sandbanks Poole on digital signs on approach roads to the areas.