Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chairman

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From the LGA's Chairman

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Dear Colleague,

This week I’ve been sad to hear of stories of members of the local government family that we have lost to COVID-19. I know all our thoughts are with them, their loved ones and colleagues at this dreadful time. I cannot say enough how thankful we are to each and every councillor, employee and contractor who are going above and beyond right now to support our communities. Whether it be on the frontline in the battle against the virus, or as a cog in the bigger machine that is supporting the wider groups of vulnerable people and keeping our local areas running – you are simply doing an incredibly inspiring job.

We know that, in the weeks and months of the national emergency response, vulnerability may present itself in many different ways. As Michael Gove said this evening, we all have a collective responsibility to provide a “visible hand of friendship at a challenging time”. The Government has produced guidance on the approach agreed to supporting the 1.5 million who are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. However, the breadth and depth of local government’s role at the heart of our communities means many councils are taking a proactive approach to ensuring many more of our residents are safe and well. This includes those experiencing and at risk of homelessness, people in need of care and support, vulnerable children or families and individuals in and at risk of financial hardship or food poverty. Our latest briefing on supporting vulnerable people aims to help councils continue to make progress with this mammoth task. We also hope it will assist the NHS, community and voluntary sector and other partner agencies to understand the vital and far-reaching role and contribution of local government. I hope you find it helpful.

If there are any other issues you think it would be helpful for us to provide further information on, to assist you in your work locally, do continue to email us on Please also continue to liaise with your principal adviser so we can use the intelligence you give us in our discussions with government and in determining how we best support councils.

To provide an example of some of the issues we are raising, many of you have raised concerns about loss of income and issues with cash flow arising from the current situation. Thank you to all of you that have contacted us and provided financial information on income loss. I want to assure you that we are logging all of these issues, as well as raising them with central government on your behalf. We are also developing a template to try and gather more detailed information on cost pressures, losses in income and cash flow issues that you are experiencing, or expect to, as well as some of your ideas for freedoms and flexibilities that will help you at this time. This will help us develop a more evidence-based case to central government.

Below is a summary of some of the developments over the past day or so. These are just a few of the issues that have been on our radar today, and work is ongoing on all the issues you are raising with us as concerns, challenges or opportunities from your areas:

This evening’s press conference

This evening’s press conference was led by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove. He updated on the latest numbers of those who have contracted, and sadly lost their lives, to COVID-19. He said the latest numbers reinforce the need to follow the Government’s social distancing guidelines. Testing will be increased and we will keep stressing the importance of it within social care too. The Government is also to increasing ventilator capacity and the availability of oxygen. This includes buying supplies from oversea and increasing manufacturing at home. The Chancellor announced that he will waive import taxes on vital medical equipment including ventilators, coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing to speed up the delivery of essential items to frontline workers.

Mr Gove also thanked the thousands of dedicated public sector workers. On vulnerable people, he also said we have a responsibility to help not just the 1.5 million medically shielded people, but all those who need help at this time. He said the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, and the Food and Farming Minister, Victoria Prentice, are leading work to coordinate work with local authorities, voluntary groups, retailers and food suppliers to help our neighbours in need.

Stay at home, save lives

Public Health England have released new British Sign Language (BSL) versions of social media resources explaining to households who suspect COVID-19 infection what to do which are now available on their Campaign Resource Centre. In addition, there are also new social distancing animations available.

Funerals, burials and cremation

Public Health England has now published guidance for care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed coronavirus. The guidance includes important information on how to treat the deceased respectfully to maintain dignity while protecting others from the threat of transmission by using PPE appropriate to the activity in a variety of settings. It also includes advice on maintaining social distancing at funeral services and shielding vulnerable individuals from contact with bodies of those who had confirmed or suspected COVID-19. It outlines that mourners are strongly advised not to take part in any rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body of a person who has died from or with symptoms of COVID-19. Faith leaders have been consulted and worked with PHE on the guidance.

Crematoria and cemeteries should now be closed to the public, except for funerals or burials. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 came in to force on the 26 March and apply to any person who is responsible for a crematorium or burial ground including local authorities and private providers.

ATI Cremators, a major supplier of cremators and associated services, have gone in to liquidation. If you have ATI cremators please get in touch using the email and quoting the case number 564 in the subject line of your email.

Some local authorities are in the process of establishing temporary mortuaries in their area, while some areas have already established these facilities in their areas. if you already have experience of procuring this equipment and are able to support other local authorities doing this work, please email the above email address to join our procurement contact list.

COVID-19 cases data

You’ll no doubt have seen some of the PHE data which has been published, about the number of hospital cases of COVID-19. In the main it has focussed on the national picture, so we have now added the data to LG Inform to make it more useful to local authorities.

LG Inform is our really useful tool to help you access up-to-date data about your local area. Developed as part of our sector-led improvement offer, we continually update our reports and data-set to reflect what you tell us would be most helpful to your council.

With this in mind, we have created two COVID-19 reports which, rather than showing only the current data for authorities, show the data over time. We have also combined the information with population data, to create a rate per 100,000 people (to show the authorities with a bigger *proportion* of their population with coronavirus rather than the biggest absolute number). And we show the top ten councils (by total number of cases, as a rate, and by the biggest number on a single day) on a daily basis. 

The two reports are here. I love a chart and a colour coded map for conveying data - I hope you find them helpful:

Adult social care

As you will know, the Coronavirus Act 2020 introduced measures to temporarily ease local authorities’ duties under the Care Act 2014. In the past hour, guidance on this has been published. We are reviewing this and will provide an update on the implications for councils in tomorrow’s bulletins.

Following extensive discussions within the local government community, provider trade associations, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, NHS England and central government departments, we have agreed to publish some new guidance on fees which will be co-badged by the LGA and ADASS. This will address three core areas: the inflationary/NLW uplift which will come into effect tomorrow, temporary extra costs due to COVID-19, and cash flow. We expect to be able to share this tomorrow.

We continue to raise councils’ concerns about the supply and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) to council staff, contractors and care providers. We understand that the Department for Health and Social Care are seeking to clarify the appropriate use, targeting and prioritisation of PPE, model demand and assess the overall supply chain and ensure distribution works. We are consistently sharing and escalating examples of where this isn’t working – please do email us with insights from your areas on

There continue to be discussions at a national level about the preferred solution for collecting data from providers on their resilience levels (morbidity among customers, staffing issues, PPE and other) and on their capacity for new work. It has been agreed that the solution should engage centrally with all providers rather than through local authorities, but the results of the collection will be made available to local authorities. I know this development will create concerns. We will continue to work with ADASS and others to do our utmost to ensure this is beneficial rather than detrimental.

We understand DHSC and PHE are drawing up guidance for providers over infection control, and this will be published very soon. We expect it will be especially relevant for people being discharged from hospital

On indemnities for providers, local authorities may hear from their providers that they are concerned about their exposure to claims due to their operating outside registration requirements, asking staff to work without appropriate PPE, and having to look after a higher dependency group of people. These issues have been raised by their trade associations with DHSC, who are working on this issue taking into account legal advice, and hope to provide clarification in the near future.

Finally, for colleagues working in adult social care, we thought it would be helpful to share an offer of support from the National Care Force. This is a not-for-profit organisation that helps care providers, care homes and councils find local vetted, volunteers using an app. The volunteers help alleviate the pressure on providers and local authorities so they can use their own staff to provide care and support. The volunteers will carry out, predominantly, non-care activities – such as driving, maintenance, running errands, etc.  It is completely free to use by all and only supports volunteering opportunities. National Care Force are currently working with over 1000 providers and have 15,000 volunteers. They would be delighted to hear from other providers and councils. For information and to register go to 

Children and education

The Department for Education has published new guidance that explains what schools should do to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals where the pupil is not attending school. Schools will have been contacted directly by DfE by email today to give them access to codes which they can use to provide £15 per week in gift cards that can be used in supermarkets by eligible families. If local arrangements have already been established and are working well they can continue. We are pleased that the Government has listened to our call for the creation of a national scheme, which we believe should now be extended to cover families over the school holidays.

The Government has today announced that its consultation on “keeping children safe in education: proposed revisions 2020” which was due to close on 21 April has been suspended. The Government has today announced that its consultation on “keeping children safe in education: proposed revisions 2020”, which was due to close on next month, has been suspended.

Hardship fund and welfare support

MHCLG have confirmed that financial allocations for the hardship fund will be with councils on Friday 3 April. A joint discussion with MHCLG, DWP, LGA and councils is taking place on Thursday to work through issues related to the administration of the council tax deduction and ensure these are considered alongside other changes in benefits administration.

The Social Security (Coronavirus) (Further Measures) Regulations 2020 have now been made. On your behalf, we asked for as much upfront support as possible to be provided through the mainstream benefits system to relieve pressures on council services, so we are pleased these measures have been put in place. However, councils will still be providing a wide range of advice and support to people and we will continue to work closely with councils and DWP as the changes are implemented to ensure that councils are able to provide their residents with the advice, support and financial assistance they need.

In addition, the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) Regulations 2020 have also been published.

Domestic abuse

Tackling domestic abuse is an issue that councils take extremely seriously and we are all too aware that vulnerable people may be affected due to the impact of COVID-19. We are working closely with the Government, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, councils and other partners to ensure victims of domestic abuse have access to the support services they need. The Government has already published guidance on support for victims of domestic abuse and domestic abuse safe accommodation provision. Safe Lives has also produced this useful briefing which highlights the key issues for domestic abuse victims in the pandemic.

I should also highlight that Respect, the membership association for domestic violence perpetrator programmes and associated support services, has launched the #NoExcuseforAbuse campaign today. The campaign calls on perpetrators of domestic abuse to get help to manage and change their behaviour, by calling their perpetrator help phoneline. We are supporting this campaign and have also called on neighbours to look out for each other and help to spot signs of domestic abuse during this lockdown period. If you would like further information about this issue, please contact


We are aware that the uprating of local housing allowance rates has not been applied to placements made by councils under their homelessness duties. We have raised the need to urgently amend this with MHCLG and the DWP, as doing so would alleviate some of the extraordinary financial pressures currently facing councils’ homelessness services.

We are expecting guidance from MHCLG to the social housing sector on allocations, which will encourage providers to continue with urgent work which is in the public interest, including letting to homeless and overcrowded households.

Some of you have raised your concerns that caravan parks may be closing, creating the risk of homelessness for permanent residents. Yesterday, we shared guidance from MHCLG which clarified that this should not be the case. Today, the Minister’s letter to caravan park owners has been published in full.

Housing and planning

MHCLG have advised us that they are currently drafting a new permitted development right which will grant permission for facilities necessary to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, for example sites for temporary medical facilities, mortuaries and testing centres. This will be a temporary right for councils and health services. We will update you as soon as these regulations have been laid.

MHCLG have received communication from many councils, as well as the LGA as per my previous Bulletins, regarding the requirement to return Right to Buy receipts to the Government if they are not spent within three years. They have asked us to reassure you that this issue is under consideration and they are working hard to find a solution. We have suggested that they may bring forward the proposals consulted on in 2018 and extend the spend period to five years.

Economy and finances

Yesterday, the Government published version 3 of the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) and Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) Guidance. This version of the guidance has since been removed from the MHCLG website. We are expecting a new version and grant letters to local authorities to be available this evening.

This version included a reference to the Government not accepting deliberate manipulation and fraud - and any business caught falsifying their records to gain additional grant money will face prosecution and any funding issued will be subject to claw back, as may any grants paid in error. Once the new guidance is published, we will review any section on fraud and seek clarification as to what this may mean for councils and businesses in practice.

We understand that area teams in BEIS will start contacting billing authorities to check progress with the payment of grants to businesses. The Government is keen to ensure that the support for businesses routed through local authorities is going to be passed quickly to eligible businesses. Hopefully councils can report readiness in most cases. In the meantime, BEIS has set up an email address for local authority queries on the scheme:

Waste and recycling

We are working with the local authority waste networks and Defra to understand the status of waste collection and disposal services across England during the pandemic. A link to a short online survey has been sent out to local authorities through the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport, the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee networks. The closing date is midday on Friday 2 April with plans for a weekly update. The data from the survey will be used to provide a summary and will not identify individuals or any local authority. Please contact if you have questions about the survey, or any issues you wish to feed into us directly.

Public transport, highways and parking

The Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain have published advice for heavy goods and public services vehicle operators and set out the approach they will adopt in response to COVID-19.


Many councils have expressed concerns that councils are not on the list of employers that are exempt from requests for Emergency Volunteering Leave. The Coronavirus Bill entitles all except exempted employees the right to take unpaid leave of blocks of up to four weeks in a 16-week period to volunteer in skilled healthcare and adult social positions in health and social care settings.

I know many of you feel that councils should be exempt from requests on the basis that council staff that are not already assigned to our COVID-19 response will need to be redeployed soon to such roles or are delivering other vital public services. We are currently working with the Government to address this issue and hope to have definitive news for councils shortly.

We know that many organisations looking to redeploy staff and bring in volunteers have questions about the necessary Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for people who will be working with the vulnerable. Fast track basic checks are available without a fee. The best source of information is the Government FAQ site.

Hotel beds for key workers

The hospitality sector has made over 20,000 beds available around the UK for NHS staff and other vital workers responding to the outbreak. Almost 200 hotels across the country, from national chains to single sites have provided beds to help house key workers being deployed to areas of high need. The offer by UKHospitality is on top of the many thousands already made available by individual hotel companies.

Sport England support package

Sport England have announced a support package of up to £195 million to help the community sport and physical activity sector through the ongoing crisis, in addition to existing government support. The package includes a new £20 million Community Emergency Fund, which is open now for local club and community organisations to bid for grants between £300 and £10,000; a new £5 million fund for existing Sport England partners facing specific and immediate financial difficulty; and £55 million put aside to support the sector during the ongoing period of restrictions; to fund new and innovative ways to keep people active and then, when it is over, to help organisations get back to business and adjust to a different environment. 

Our media response to this funding package recognised the real help this will provide, but highlighted that we remain concerned about the overall gap in support available for charities and trusts, who are unable to access loan support given the tight finances they manage. We urged Sport England to support our lobbying for grant support for these organisations. Councils can also help by relaxing their contracts and reporting requirements, making payments up front, and discussing local flexibilities for their culture and leisure providers

Online tool to help support your residents

Buckinghamshire County Council (which, as of tomorrow will be encompassed into the new Buckinghamshire Council) and the London Borough of Camden have created a re-usable online prototype for people to request support during the crisis. So far it has been used to develop a service for isolated people to request support for such things as obtaining groceries and prescriptions, and dog walking. They tick a relevant box, enter their postcode and are then directed to services close by. The open source code was created in partnership with digital transformation consultancy FutureGov and is available on GitHub for other local authorities to use. FutureGov are available for support.

Emma McGowan, Head of Digital Transformation at Camden Council, and Ben Unsworth, Heed of Digital at Buckinghamshire County Council have written a blog post explaining the above and how this can be utilised by other local authorities.

Digital innovation in health and care

We are supporting councils to make the best use of digital innovation and opportunities to respond to COVID-19, both in the immediate and longer term. We are working closely with NHSX and NHS Digital teams to align guidance and support programmes, and with ADASS to ensure communications and support are coordinated. We are also linking with other key partners such as Socitm, the Care Provider Alliance and the TEC Services Association (TSA).

Councils will be aware of the NHSX and NHS Digital letter to the health and care sector outlining that deadlines for the national data opt-out and data security protection toolkit (DSPT) submissions have been extended to the end of 30 September in light of the pandemic. Rollout of NHSMail and Microsoft Teams is being accelerated for care providers and the guidance on use of technology and information sharing will also be useful to councils at Digital Social Care.

The LGA's own accelerated roll-out of Microsoft Teams should be complete tomorrow to allow quicker and easier links with those of you who have already rolled it out.

NHSX have launched a TechForce19 challenge to technology suppliers to help respond to COVID-19 with funding applications for up to £25,000 each closing on 1 April. The LGA will be part of the interview panel to ensure council issues and needs are represented in the selection process.

A key challenge raised by councils has been to understand and rapidly deploy care technologies to support communities in response to COVID-19. The LGA is collaborating with Rethink Partners to provide practical support to help councils understand technology options and make effective, confident and timely care technology decisions.

For queries on the COVID-19 social care digital response and care technology please email


Alongside our work to push your priorities on the national stage and secure the reforms and innovations you need to make a positive difference in your communities, we are also shining a light on the brilliant work you are doing. I’m constantly inspired by the stories you are sharing on social media of councillors and staff going that extra mile for our residents. Do keep using #ThankYouLocalGov and #CouncilsCan across social media so we can help amplify the good work you are all doing.

And please do continue to email my colleague in our media team to share how your council might be able to help with the very many media requests we are fielding every day. National broadcast and print journalists are looking to interview and film local leaders about your efforts, and the challenges you face. This is a great opportunity to show the nation the crucial role local government is playing, as our fourth emergency service.

I hope this note was helpful. Please do continue to feed in your local priorities – this really does help shape our engagement on your behalf and ensure we are pushing the priorities of all councils (

Best wishes,

Councillor James Jamieson

Chairman, Local Government Association @JGJamieson

Cllr James Jamieson