Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

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Dear Colleague,

With many religious celebrations falling around this time of year, my thoughts are with those unable to mark the occasions with friends and family in their usual way. Today my very best wishes go to everyone commemorating and celebrating Easter this long weekend.  

There has been an increase this week in the number of discussions about how we support our communities and businesses in the next few months and through the economic and social recovery leading to a 'new normal' after the pandemic. It is clear that while you are fully engaged in responding to this emergency, you are in parallel starting to think about what needs to be done to lead your communities through the next phases. We are still waiting to see what the timescales will be for lifting the emergency measures, but it is likely they will remain in place for some time to come.

When we do move into the next phase, alongside a gradual easing of emergency measures, councils will have a key role in shaping what our post-coronavirus Britain will look like. Leaders across the country want to provide the economic and legislative direction needed to help our communities rebuild. I want to reassure you that we are already working on this. The value of local government during the crisis has been immense. I clapped hard for everyone in local government at 8.00pm this evening. And I know I'll be clapping even harder in a year's time acknowledging your leadership beyond the immediate public health crisis.

Today we have continued to pursue with colleagues in Government the immediate priority issues you have raised with us.

We know and recognise the absolute priority is immediate supplies of PPE for the social care workforce and other appropriate key council staff. We continue to raise this with government and have made your concerns known much more widely. Other priorities include making sure there is a comprehensive scheme to compensate councils for the cash flow issues caused by a loss of income and new service pressures; further work to understand the full resource implications of the support councils are providing to vulnerable residents outside of the medically-shielded cohort; and work relating to plans nationally, regionally and locally relating to increased levels of deaths.

If you have any issues facing your services or wider community please do continue to email us on This really does help inform our engagement on your behalf. I am also pleased to say that in response to your questions we have now published a series of FAQs, which will be updated regularly. So far themes include finance and the economy, procurement and PPE, supporting medically shielded people and local communities, as well as excess deaths, with more themes to be added next week. Please 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 can best support councils.

This evening’s announcement

This evening’s press conference was led by the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab in his position deputising for the Prime Minister. He updated on Mr Johnson’s hospital stay with the welcome news that the Prime Minister’s health is improving and he is in good spirits. He then went on to thank all those that have adhered to the stringent social distancing measures in place for the last three weeks, and a thank you to all those looking after our local communities, including NHS staff, but also carers, public servants and volunteers. He ended by announcing that further to today’s COBRA meeting, although the number of confirmed coronavirus cases are starting to suggest a levelling off, the Stay at Home advice will be kept in place and there will be a further update at the end of next week.

Personal protective equipment

Today we have highlighted with the media the desperate need for more PPE for frontline council and care services across the country.

We are aware of the concerns regarding PPE supply particularly with the long bank holiday weekend coming up. Whilst the LRF emergency drop of PPE provides some relief, we are pressing Government to address this immediately and ensure a sustainable supply of PPE to all essential council services as set out in PHE’s PPE guidance.

If you have any specific issues around PPE please do let us know so we can continue to build the body of evidence to help us solve the problem by emailing

The Alzheimer's Society has called on the Government to protect people with dementia and those needing social care. In a letter to the Health Secretary, they called for PPE and more testing for patients being discharged from care homes, as well as staff and residents. The letter states that people living in care homes are extremely vulnerable to contracting the virus and calls for the impact of the virus on care homes to be measured and tackled. They also call for the Government to work with technology companies to introduce arrangements for residents to continue to contact their loved ones.

Remote council meetings

Last week, we were pleased that the Government listened to our calls and introduced new powers for councils to hold public meetings virtually by video or telephone conferencing technology. This was accompanied by temporary removal of the legal requirement for local authorities to hold public meetings in person during the pandemic, enabling councils to make effective and transparent decisions on the delivery of services for residents and ensure that local democracy continues to thrive.

Today, we launched our new Remote Council Meetings Hub, in collaboration with Socitm, Lawyers in Local Government (LLG), National Association of Local Councils (NALC), Centre For Public Scrutiny (CfPS), Association of Democratic Officers (ADSO), as well as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). The hub is a central pool of information, advice and guidance from our partners across local government, and I hope will be useful for your teams. If you have any examples of successfully running remote council meetings, or if you have any questions on the process, please email

The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) has been working on a number of resources to help councils run virtual planning committees. This includes a ‘hints and tips’ guide and accompanying video interview with three councillors on their views of how committees are responding to the present challenges. The planning-related FAQs are also being updated regularly. 

Early release of prisoners

Last Saturday, the Ministry of Justice confirmed that prisoners nearing the end of their sentences will be released in stages on temporary licence, to allow prisons to continue to safely manage vulnerable but higher-risk offenders within the estate. No high-risk offenders, including those convicted of violent or sexual offences, anyone of national security concern or a danger to children, will be considered for release, nor any prisoners who have not served at least half their custodial term. The releases will be phased over time. 

We understand the majority of prisoners identified for early release will be released from 14 April, in a phased approach. No prisoner will be released if they have symptoms of COVID-19, or without housing and health support being in place.

We are working with the MoJ and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to ensure local authorities receive notice of early releases. If you have any queries or concerns, please email

Children and education

The Youth Custody Service (YCS) has been in touch with directors of children’s services to confirm that the recent announcement about the temporary release of eligible prisoners also applies to up to 50 young people in custody. Those whose offences relate to terrorism or are of a violent or sexual nature will not be eligible for release. The YCS is in discussion with local youth offending teams to put in place plans for individual children and young people.

Look out for our media activity tomorrow as part of our continued efforts to ensure councils can focus all their efforts on essential work. We are calling on the Government to pause academisation, which we believe is non-essential during this national emergency. This will ensure council teams can prioritise efforts to help schools and nurseries to remain open over the immediate term, and look ahead to September and ensuring that there are sufficient school places.

Adult social care

Jonathan Marron, Director General at DHSC, has written to all directors of adult social services today to ask them to provide assurance that there are arrangements in place over the Easter bank holiday. Specifically, that they have communicated with local social care providers, including those with self-funded clients only, with details of how to contact and escalate service continuity issues over the bank holiday. He has also asked for assurances that there are sufficient mutual aid arrangements in place for any social care provider experiencing an emergency problem. This should include individual personal assistants. They ask that, through LRFs, all partners are aware of the arrangements.

While the intent is right, some councils have immediately highlighted the dependencies we have on the Government's own machinery right now.  A point we have made this evening back into Government.

Social care data

There have been further discussions between LGA and ADASS with DHSC, the Care Provider Alliance, NHS England and Improvement and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) about Government plans to collate provider data nationally. We are working over the weekend to agree a joint statement about how this will work, which will include councils’ ongoing duties to ensure service continuity and quality. In the meantime, below is a brief update:

Capacity Tracker went live as the sole data return for care homes on Tuesday. Councils can register to use the data.

The CQC data collection for home care will go live on Tuesday next week. Once this is working satisfactorily the intention is to roll this out to non-registered services such as supported living.  

In both cases data collection will include available capacity to take new people, staffing challenges and PPE.

Councils will be asked to switch off their own local data collection processes and using these national collections instead. The LGA with ADASS have already added the data that we need for councils' core purposes. If we find that the national collections are not broad enough, we will ask for amends to be made. We have been promised that councils will get the data in real time so that challenges can be addressed swiftly.

Charities and community groups

I know many of you are increasingly concerned about the long-term viability of our local community, voluntary and charitable organisations that councils and our residents relied on before the Coronavirus crisis and that we will still need to rely on after the crisis. Many of these organisations are also providing vital services and support during the crisis but have been beset with funding and volunteering issues.

The announcement the Chancellor made yesterday that Government would be providing £750 million to ‘frontline charities’ was welcome. £360 million is being directly allocated by government departments to charities and in addition £370 million is being directed to small and medium-size charities, for instance via the National Lottery Community Fund. The BBC is also holding a ‘Big Night In Charity Appeal’ on 23 April, which the Government will be match funding. But there are still real concerns about our very local community and voluntary sector.

As part of our developing suite of case studies, some councils have provided resilience grants and local grants to support the coronavirus response. We are in discussions with the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and are gathering local intelligence and further good practice on issues facing the sustainability of our local community and voluntary sector. If you have any concerns or good practice to share please email

Domestic abuse

From today, people fleeing domestic abuse anywhere in Britain during the COVID-19 restrictions can apply for free train travel to refuge accommodation, through a partnership between train companies and Women’s Aid. The ‘Rail to refuge' scheme lets domestic abuse survivors, and their children, access rail tickets through the member services of Women’s Aid and Imkaan, once they have received an offer of a refuge place.

In addition to the Government guidance on domestic abuse, key resources include:

We are also speaking regularly with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, the Government and domestic abuse organisations to ensure we are doing all we can to tackle domestic abuse. If you have any concerns or questions relating to domestic abuse, please email

Mental wellbeing

The impact on residents' mental health and well-being of self-isolation and social distancing measures is becoming increasingly apparent. To help councils think through their local responses and provide information on useful resources, the LGA and the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) have jointly produced a briefing about public mental health and wellbeing for children, young people, adults and older people during the COVID-19 outbreak. I know that ensuring the wellbeing of residents and staff is uppermost in your minds. I will keep you posted on further work we undertake to support you in this regard. 

Parks and green spaces

As we touched on yesterday council-maintained parks and green spaces continue to play a vital role in our communities’ health and wellbeing. They offer a place in which people can take their one form of exercise a day and are a particular lifeline to our residents without gardens or balconies and in need of a little fresh air. In the run up to the Easter weekend DEFRA has produced social media content that councils are encouraged to share via Twitter and Facebook (login required) to help people continue to use open spaces responsibly.

Economy and supporting businesses

We know councils have been receiving a large volume of requests for advice and support from local businesses about licensing. We have published advice or licensing authorities which is intended to provide a practical resource to help councils, reflecting practices and approaches that are already in use.

This week Kit Malthouse MP has written to chairs of Licensing Committees encouraging authorities to take a pragmatic approach where there is discretion to do so, an approach which is support by the LGA.


You will be aware that councils have to submit a weekly report using the DELTA system to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), containing information on progress of delivery of the Small Business Grant Schemes. These weekly reports include the number of eligible businesses identified, the number of payments made and comments on overall delivery.  BEIS has reported that over 80 per cent of councils have submitted a report this week.  We have heard that some councils have had issues getting registered on the DELTA system, or updating contact details, to enable them to make the weekly return. BEIS has contacted these councils. The return due on Monday 12 April has been extended to 13 April, due to the bank holiday.


We know councils are working hard to maintain business as normal while things are far from normal, but the current uncertainty, stress of new working arrangements and worries about our own and our family’s health can feel overwhelming. On top of this councillors and senior officers are trying to react, cope and plan across a range of issues at a pace that is new to many of us. Colleagues need to look after their own wellbeing as well as that of their teams. In our new blog, Jim McManus, Director of Public Health at Herts County Council, shares his personal experience of learning to be more resilient as a leader.

The National Employers, National Fire Chiefs Council and Fire Brigades Union have today agreed a further tripartite statement, adding two more areas of work to the original agreement reached on 26 March. Firefighters will now be able to assist with face-fitting for masks to be used by frontline NHS and clinical care staff working with Covid-19 patients and with the delivery of PPE to NHS and care facilities.

Gas safety checks

Responding positively to calls from the LGA and councils, the Health and Safety Executive has published further guidance setting out detailed advice on undertaking gas safety checks in a range of scenarios. For example, in households containing residents who fall into the Government’s vulnerable people category, shielded category or who are self-isolating for 14 days. The Gas Safe Register’s website is also a source of other general advice and advice for vulnerable and shielded residents.

Funerals, burials and cremation

The Institute of Cemetery and Crematoria Management (ICCM) continues to provide their Crematorium Technicians Training Scheme during the pandemic. For details of the approach ICCN is adopting or for enquiries please email

Unauthorised encampments

We are working with MHCLG colleagues on supporting councils dealing with unauthorised encampments. If you would like to discuss this issue in more detail, contact my colleague

Revenues and benefits

A number of councils have raised issues and suggestions with us in relation to the administration of benefits and housing support. The Local Authority Partnership, Engagement and Delivery (LA-PED) team in the DWP is logging and resolving issues raised by councils and providing regular bulletins to revenues and benefits teams.

LA-PED is asking councils to ensure arrangements are in place at all times to access and manage their single inbox, so that important DWP messages can be quickly shared with appropriate council staff. The Coronavirus Local Authority Welfare Direct (CLAWD) bulletin is being issued to councils every Monday and ad hoc as required.

At present LA-PED is continuing to receive feedback from some officers that their council is either not receiving their emails, or that they are not seeing emails relevant to their work. If you are aware that your council is either not receiving these communications or they are not being cascaded as appropriate please email

Looking Out For Each Other campaign

At 9.00am on Sunday, 13 April, the Government will launch a ‘Looking Out For Each Other’ campaign. This will focus on how people can help friends, family and neighbours in isolation safely. You can find more information at Colleagues in government have asked that once the campaign has launched, councils support it through own channels.


This weekend we will be supporting national messages in the media for people to follow government social distancing guidelines. And as mentioned above, you will also see stories from us calling for a  pause of school academisation and pushing for a more sustainable supply of PPE equipment to councils.  We will also be promoting your ongoing efforts to get funding out of the door quickly and into the bank accounts of your local businesses. The press releases you are putting out locally are proving invaluable for us in order to shine a light on council efforts in our national media work. Please ensure is receiving them all.

Also keep up the great work using #ThankYouLocalGov and #CouncilsCan across social media so we can help amplify your local stories.

Below is our usual end of the ‘working week’ round up of some of the non-Coronavirus activity of interest this week.

I hope you manage to get some down time this weekend and to enjoy the sunshine as you Stay Home.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd

Round-up of the non-coronavirus announcements from the week

Building safety

On 2 April MHCLG published the results of tests on cladding materials, which make it clear that many high-pressure laminate, timber and metal composite material cladding systems are dangerous and will need to be removed. On 6 April MHCLG wrote to stakeholders, giving more detail on the £1 billion funding for the removal of non-ACM cladding. The letter stated that access to the fund is conditional on pursuing warrantee claims etc and the funding is aimed at private sector leaseholders and social sector landlords who are unable to pay in relation to buildings over 18m only.

Social sector building owners who have already begun ‘prioritising and taking forward’ remediation will not be able to reclaim the funds. MHCLG aim to publish the prospectus for the new Fund in May and open for registrations soon after. The letter also urges councils who have not completed data collection on external wall systems of buildings over 18m to do so as soon as possible. If you have any queries about the fund or issues around the data collection you would like to raise with us please contact

Review of HM Treasury Green Book

In the Budget, the Chancellor announced a review of the HM Treasury’s Green Book, which sets out the Government’s methodology for appraisal and decision making on major investment programmes. This week, in an email to stakeholders, HM Treasury confirmed that the review is still going ahead, and the results will be published alongside the Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn.  Many councils have previously called for a review of the Green Book and in normal circumstance would want to take part but we know that your focus is rightly elsewhere at the moment. We would welcome your views on the Green Book – please contact

Freeports consultation extension

The Government has announced that the Freeports consultation will be extended to close on 13 July 2020, to give stakeholders opportunity to respond and ensure that new Freeports are grounded in local needs and ambitions. In the announcement, government acknowledged the current pressures on key sectors with an interest in this policy, including local government. We welcome this acknowledgement and the LGA has also been engaging with government on the timing of other consultations not directly relating to the current crisis. If you have any queries on the Freeports consultation, please contact