first magazine: COVID-19 bulletin

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'first' is the LGA's monthly membership magazine for our 18,200 councillors and local authority chief executives in England and Wales

Dear Reader,

In response to the coronavirus crisis, we are increasing the frequency of first e-bulletins to help keep you – our elected members – up-to-date, with a round-up of the latest COVID-19 news, guidance and council good practice. I hope you find this useful. If you don’t want to continue receiving the first e-bulletin you can unsubscribe using the links at the end of this email.

This week marks the fourth week since the introduction of social distancing measures. Measures that keep us safe, but which have dramatically reshaped local areas and changed the way we live, work and socialise.

As the Government reviews the scientific evidence before deciding on a continuation of these restrictions, I have been reflecting on the pace and scale of the support councils, with your local partners and communities, have mobilised to help those in need and minimise the spread of infection.

It has been a Herculean effort, of which we should all be proud, but we know that we can achieve even more for our residents if we are trusted to lead on local delivery, and if we have the resources we need to get on with the job.

We need the Government to build on yesterday’s announcement that social care staff and care home residents will be tested, by ensuring adequate, consistent and guaranteed supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) are made available to help those working on the frontline keep safe and well.

We continue to raise with Government on your behalf the issue of support to address cash flow issues and additional costs councils are facing. And, ahead of the country moving into the recovery phase, councils need to be front and centre of the discussions so we can be actively involved in ensuring communities, and our economy, get back onto a firm footing.

We will be using all the channels available to us to push these issues, and our main focus in the coming days will be to raise the challenges around PPE and councils’ financial pressures. The media are always keen to speak to councils particularly affected by both of these issues and your on-the-ground case studies are vital in helping generate national press interest and keeping these issues as high up the news agenda as possible. Please let us know your experiences and if you are keen to take part in any national media by emailing

Through this crisis, the things we major on have always been based on the things you tell us matter most to you. Do please keep sending us your concerns via our dedicated email inbox (, highlight them in your conversations with our regional principal advisers, follow @LGAComms and @LGAnews on Twitter for daily updates, and check our coronavirus hub for the latest government and LGA guidance on everything from business support to volunteers. On your own channels, do continue to share your stories using the hashtags #CouncilsCan and #ThankYouLocalGov – it is great to see what you are all doing locally.

Councillor James Jamieson is LGA Chairman


Social care action plan

Ministers have launched the Government’s Action Plan for Adult Social Care, setting out the four key areas that underpin their approach to supporting social care during the coronavirus pandemic.

These are controlling the spread of infection, supporting the workforce, supporting independence and people at the end of their lives, and responding to individual needs. The plan also explains the steps being taken to address challenges including personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and workforce capacity.

In our public response to the plan, the LGA made clear that councils will need access to additional resources to ensure they can continue to support care providers to deliver care and support to older and disabled people in the coming weeks. 


Tests for care home workers and residents 

Following extensive lobbying from councils, care providers and the LGA, the Government announced yesterday that it will offer testing “for everyone who needs one” in social care settings.

All symptomatic care home residents will be tested, patients discharged from hospital will be tested before going into care homes as a matter of course, and social care staff who need a test will have access to one. Symptomatic social care workers and anyone in their household with symptoms will be prioritised.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is to contact all 30,000 care providers in the coming days to offer tests. The CQC's approach to testing, and adult social care more widely, is set out in their latest news story


More PPE needed by councils and care sector

The LGA has warned that the current arrangements for accessing personal protective equipment (PPE) by councils and care providers are “not fit for purpose” and are failing to provide what is needed on the frontline.

Councils have had to appeal to local businesses, such as beauty salons and tattoo artists,  manufacturers and other organisations to see if they can help supply unused PPE or produce any new equipment such as gloves, aprons, goggles and masks.

The Government continues to distribute priority drops of PPE to local resilience forums alongside rolling out the new online delivery system for social care settings. This follows the publication of the Government’s PPE plan, on 10 April, which focuses on guidance, delivery and future supply.

The LGA continues to lobby for a sustainable supply of appropriate PPE to ensure that vital services can continue and that all frontline staff and residents are kept as safe as possible in the current circumstances.


Meetings with ministers

Local government priorities – personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing, shielding and supporting vulnerable residents, and councils’ finances – were raised by LGA political group leaders and chairs of council groupings at the second Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) COVID-19-focused Local Delivery Board this week.

The councillors in the discussion – which also included MHCLG Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP and ministers Simon Clarke MP (MHCLG), Rebecca Pow MP (Defra) and Jo Churchill MP (DHSC) – were clear about their frustrations regarding PPE and their firm expectation that government will honour its pledge to support councils’ finances through this public health crisis.


Economic impacts of COVID-19

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has produced an initial assessment of the potential impact of COVID-19 on the economy and public finances. Rather than a forecast, it has produced an initial assessment based on a scenario where people’s movement is heavily restricted for three months and would then get back to normal over the next three months.

Under this scenario, public sector borrowing this year would increase by £218 billion relative to the OBR’s March Budget forecast (to reach £273 billion, or around 14 per cent of GDP). Once the crisis has passed and all the policy interventions have unwound, borrowing would fall back relatively quickly to roughly the Budget forecast, but net debt would remain around £260 billion higher by 2024/25.


Vulnerable people and access to food

The Government has announced a £3 million fund for organisations redistributing safe surplus food to those who need it during the outbreak. Food redistribution businesses and charities will be encouraged to bid for grants over the coming month, including those whose volunteer programmes have been affected by social distancing measures or those that cannot access their usual commercial support network.


Councils ‘helping businesses access funding’

The LGA has highlighted how councils have been working ‘at pace’ to identify and contact eligible businesses to support them to apply for government funding since 1 April, and continue to distribute the cash as quickly as possible.

Examples include more than eight in 10 eligible businesses in Telford and Wrekin receiving grant payments of more than £14 million; Oxford City Council distributing £1 million in support to businesses daily; and Stroud District Council distributing £10 million to businesses in just one day.


Deaths outside hospitals

Around 10 per cent of coronavirus deaths occurred outside hospitals – including in care homes – according to the latest Office for National Statistics figures.

The figures, for the week up until 3 April, show there were 6,082 more deaths than expected, compared to the five-year average. Overall, more than a fifth of deaths were registered as relating to COVID-19 (21.2 per cent), rising to nearly half (46.6 per cent) in London.

In response, the LGA has highlighted the severe pressures facing care providers and the desperate need to ensure key issues, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, safe discharge from hospital and funding are urgently prioritised.


Prioritising bin collections

The second weekly survey of the impact of COVID-19 on council waste services shows that core services continue to be maintained. Of those councils completing the survey, 99 per cent are continuing to collect residual waste normally or with only minor disruption, and 98 per cent for recycling collections.

The survey comes after the Government issued new, non-statutory guidance advising that food and residual ‘black bag’ waste should be prioritised over recycling and garden waste to prevent rubbish building up and to protect public health.


LGA calls for suspension of academy conversions

Academy conversions should be suspended to help over-stretched councils focus on supporting schools and nurseries to stay open during the coronavirus crisis.

The LGA is concerned that council time is being spent on 594 academy conversions in the pipeline, undermining local government’s efforts to coordinate sufficient school places for vulnerable children and children of key workers, as well as appropriate space for emergency food and medicine supplies.

The LGA has raised these concerns with the Department for Education and is urging the Government to temporarily suspend this non-essential work.


‘Relax SEND regulations’

The LGA has written to Children’s Minister Vicky Ford MP raising concerns about the time it is taking the Department for Education (DfE) to relax the duties relating to securing special educational provision and health care for children with special needs and disabilities (SEND).

A number of councils are already being challenged by parents of children with education, health and care plan (EHCPs) where timescales are not being adhered to due to staff sickness, the difficulty of getting NHS partners to engage given the challenges they face, and the need to prioritise council resources to respond to COVID-19.

Children and education


Boom in digital library usage

Libraries across some parts of the country have seen an increase in newly registered users of more than 600 per cent since lockdown measures were introduced, the LGA has reported. It called on the Government and publishers to work together to unlock an additional £5 million in investment to enable libraries to increase their capacity to loan more e-books and audiobooks.


NHS ‘diverting local volunteers’

There has been concern that the national campaign to recruit NHS emergency responders – which has already attracted more than 750,000 volunteers to provide support to ‘shielded’ people who are medically vulnerable to COVID-19 – may divert volunteers from existing local voluntary and community services which offer support to anyone who might need help at this time of crisis.

The NHS scheme is not designed to replace or divert resources from those services, but instead is an offer of local provision where this is not in place. For example, in Devon, the chief executive of the council and the accountable officer of the clinical commissioning group (CCG) have agreed that all volunteers will come under the existing coordination arrangements within the local resilience forum, unless there is a specific request from acute hospitals for volunteers to carry out non-clinical tasks.


Councillor guidance

The LGA has published guidance for councillors on community leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, and on how they can help with their council’s response. ‘COVID-19 outbreak: councillor guidance’ highlights the role that individual ward councillors can play in supporting their communities through these difficult times.


Guidance for Welsh councillors

The Welsh LGA has issued guidance for councillors in Wales relating to their role in representing and leading their communities during the COVID-19 crisis.



The LGA has published a series of frequently asked questions (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 planning, public health, support for specific groups, volunteering and an update on deaths management.


Coronavirus cases by council area

Do you want to know how many coronavirus cases there are in your council area – and the proportion of cases you have compared to others? The LGA’s LG Inform COVID-19 cases data reports use published Public Health England data about the number of hospital cases over time, and combine it with population data to create a rate per 100,000 people – showing the councils with a bigger proportion of coronavirus (rather than the biggest number of cases). For more information, see the England overview report and local authority report  (select your county or single tier authority area at the top).


Remote council meetings

The LGA has launched a 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.

Following calls from the LGA to do so, the Government introduced new powers for councils to hold public meetings virtually by video or telephone conferencing technology. The hub will help with this important move, allowing councils to continue to make key decisions safely while remaining open and transparent with residents.


Domestic abuse

Over the Easter weekend, Home Secretary Priti Patel MP launched a new public awareness raising campaign, under the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone. It highlights that anyone at risk of or experiencing domestic abuse is still able to leave their home environment and seek refuge. Councils are encouraged to support the campaign on social media and digital assets are available for the next five days.

Ms Patel also announced that the Home Office is working with charities and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to provide an additional £2 million to immediately bolster domestic abuse helplines and online support. Details of how this funding will be allocated will be available shortly.


Primary school places

The Department for Education (DfE) has written to councils and schools to update them on plans to draft urgent temporary regulatory measures to disapply elements of the School Admission Appeals Code, allowing for school admission appeal hearings to be heard by telephone or video conference, or alternatively for appeals to be decided on the basis of written submissions only. The DfE is also looking to amend the statutory timescales during this time and will be publishing accompanying guidance to provide further support.


Vulnerable people, shielding and volunteering

The NHS Voluntary Responders scheme, to which more than 750,000 people applied, is live and asking health and social care professionals, pharmacists and councils to post requests for help, through the NHS Volunteer Responders referrers’ portal or by calling 0808 196 3382. Social care providers can also make referrals directly if they have an or email address. Otherwise, they can go through their local authority, or seek approval to make referrals (which make take up to 72 hours).

Please let us know how the app is working in your area and send your questions and reports to


Mental wellbeing

The impact on residents' mental health and wellbeing 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.

We also know that our critical council workers are doing an incredible job in incredibly difficult circumstances and we also know that this will take its toll on their wellbeing. The LGA has new information and guidance on our website for councils to support the wellbeing of these staff facing additional pressures and anxieties. 


Community services and public health

NHS England has published the Community Health Services Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). This aims to support community services as they respond to COVID-19. It includes a range of resources, information and guidance for teams on developing operating responses for home visits and in healthcare settings, virtual triage and assessments. It also includes information on supporting the most vulnerable including people with dementia and children and young people. The SOP should be used in conjunction with the discharge guidance and COVID-19 prioritisation within community services document.


Drug and alcohol treatment services

Public Health England has published COVID-19 advice for commissioners and service providers involved in assisting people who are dependent on drugs, alcohol or both. The aim of the guidance is to support the continuity of drug and alcohol treatment services throughout the pandemic, while protecting staff and service users


Looking out for each other

The Government has launched a ‘Looking Out For Each Other’ campaign, focusing on how people can safely help friends, family and neighbours in isolation. Councils have been asked to support the campaign through own media channels and campaign resources are available in Public Health England’s resource centre.


Keeping parks open

The LGA has responded to recent government guidance not to close parks unless it is impossible to maintain social distancing.

Parks are a lifeline for residents and great for physical and mental wellbeing. Before taking a decision to close a park, we would encourage councils to consider how stewarding, signage, markings or one-way systems can be used to make the space safe for residents. We would be keen to hear from councils who are already doing this and are willing to share their work with the sector (please email 


Adult social care

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published guidance for health and social care staff who are caring for, or treating, a person who lacks the relevant mental capacity. The guidance ensures that decision makers are clear about the steps they need to take during the pandemic. It focuses on new scenarios and potential ‘deprivations of liberty’ created by the outbreak.


COVID-19 guidance for employers

Public Health England and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have issued new guidance for businesses and employers on the coronavirus outbreak, including advice on limiting the spread of the virus, sick pay and home working.


Shielding the medically vulnerable

The Government’s FAQs for councils on shielding vulnerable people have now been published online. Resources and information aimed at councils’ role in supporting the wider range of vulnerable people, or people becoming vulnerable during the current crisis, is available on the LGA’s website.


Get creative

Each year in May, the LGA supports the ‘Get Creative Festival’ to shine a light on all the great cultural activity that takes place in local communities. It encourages people to try their hand at something new and creative.

Clearly, this year things will be a little different and so the festival is being launched as an online initiative using the hashtag #GetCreativeAtHome, encouraging organisations and individuals to create, curate or signpost accessible online activities. These can be live online events where participants need to log in or join at a certain time or content that you can take part in at any time, for example ‘how to’ videos. 

If you have activities that you would like to promote, you can list them on the Get Creative Website. There is also a downloadable poster designed by Sir Michael Craig-Martin.


Viability of local charities

Councils are increasingly concerned about the long-term viability of local community, voluntary and charitable organisations that they and their residents relied on before the coronavirus 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 Chancellor’s announcement that the Government would be providing £750 million to ‘frontline charities’ was welcome. 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 the LGA’s 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


Special deliveries support families

Durham County Council’s family service is helping vulnerable children to do creative things with their families during the coronavirus lockdown, by delivering fun packs direct to their door. Each pack includes a fairy door to decorate, drawing and colouring-in materials, playdough, bubbles, card and glue, as well as a list of 100 ideas for things to do, and useful websites for online reading and learning.

The LGA is collating similar examples of how councils are ensuring residents know what community support is available to them; how they are using social media to communicate with residents about the local COVID-19 response; and how they are using their communications channels to recruit community volunteers. To submit your own examples of good communications during the coronavirus crisis, please email