The store chain Poundstretcher has received a fine of £1 million after three different local authorities brought prosecutions against the chain in relation to a total of 24 separate safety offences over three of its stores.

A branch in Swindon was visited by an environmental health officer (EHO) from the local council in November following a complaint from an employee. The EHO found the warehouse at the site was ''grossly overstocked'' and in a ''chaotic condition''. The local authority charged the branch with 16 offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, with issues including blocked fire exits, failure to keep aisles and walkways clear of obstruction, and failure to train staff. This branch received a total fine of £466,666.

Another store at Newbury Retail Park in Berkshire was charged with three breaches following a visit by an EHO, again after findings that emergency exits had been blocked and excessive stock being dangerously stored. This store received a fine of £333,334.

A final store in Newhaven, East Sussex was also charged with five offences relating to serious overstocking and poor management practices. This store received a fine of £200,000 to bring the total of the fines to the Poundstretcher retailer to £1 million.

The retail chain was sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court. Judge Hetherington commented: ''To blame the local management is not only deeply unattractive, coming from a major employer … but quite unfair. This complacent attitude was highlighted by the way in which senior management dealt with requests for interview by enforcing authorities … 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.''