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,

This evening, First Secretary of State, Dominic Raab announced what we all had been expecting – that the social distancing measures currently in place will be extended for another three weeks. It has been, and will be, no easy feat for any of us personally or professionally but I continue to be inspired by the tremendous work that’s being done day in, day out by you and your teams. I know that, however long this lasts, we will always do our utmost to keep our communities safe, well and together.

We continue to raise the priorities of councils on your behalf with a wide range of organisations and at the highest levels of government, to ensure that councils have the resources and finances needed. Before the Coronavirus crisis, addressing the financial pressures facing councils were already a priority. Having delivered an extraordinary and unprecedented range of support for our communities in such a short space of time, I know the issue of immediate funding is at the top of councils’ worry list. Not only funding the current additional work you are undertaking, but also the impact of significant reductions in income. At this week's meeting with the Secretary of State, our politicians strongly made the point about the pressures councils are facing. 

You will have seen the Ministry for Housing, Community and Local Government’s (MHCLG) announcement this afternoon that councils will be allowed to defer £2.6 billion in business rates payments to central government, and £850 million in social care grants will be paid up front this month. These will now all be paid this month, rather than monthly in April, May and June.

These measures will go some way to help with cash-flow as councils grapple with extra costs and demand pressures as a result of the pandemic. We are continuing to push for a commitment from the Government that it will meet the extra costs local authorities face due to COVID-19, to keep normal services running and to ensure that councils are compensated for losses in income.

MHCLG have had a very significant response rate to the survey they issued last week on expenditure, income loss and cash flow issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. They are currently analysing the 320 responses they received yesterday and have asked us to pass on their thanks to you all for your efforts in submitting these returns. I would like to add my sincere thanks too and hope that this will help to support our case for funding. It would be most helpful if authorities could also share their return with us. If you have a return you can share, please email the PDF version to

From next week, the Government plans to highlight councils' progress in the payment of the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant to eligible businesses. All of us have a deep concern about the impact of this crisis on our local businesses and I know each of you will be tracking very closely progress in our councils regarding grant payments. We have questioned the value of publishing council by council figures in this way and highlighted how hard you are all working to get these grants to eligible businesses.

I wanted to let you know that we are currently reviewing our LG Inform COVID-19 Case Tracker reports, which I know have been hugely popular, to allow us to incorporate the recent changes made by Public Health England (PHE) to the way in which the data are presented. Previously, PHE published the number of cases by the date on which it was reported to them. They are now publishing it by the date on which the test took place. Please bear with us whilst we adjust the data and I will make sure to let you know once the reports are back up and running.

As I finish writing I can hear my neighbours preparing their instruments - including bagpipes this week - ready for tonight's clap for carers. I know we'll all be clapping for our amazing local government workforce as well as all those in the NHS.

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. 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.

This evening’s announcement

Today’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by the First Secretary, Dominic Raab. He said that the measures in place are working, but the infection rate still is not as low as it needs to be. An early relaxation of the current measures would damage public health and the economy over a longer period, and therefore the measures will continue for at least the next three weeks.

Mr Raab highlighted five points which the Government needs to be satisfied by to adjust any of the measures which are currently in place:

  1. The NHS needs to be able to cope and must be able to provide sufficient critical care beds and specialist treatment across the UK.
  2. To ensure we have passed the peak, they need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus.
  3. There needs to be reliable data from SAGE that the infection rate is decreasing to manageable levels.
  4. Need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing and PPE, are in hand to ensure supply meets demand.
  5. Any adjustment to the current measures must not risk a second wave of infections that overwhelm the NHS.

Once the Government is satisfied these points are met, they will look to reduce measures which will ensure that public health is protected whilst allowing some economic and social activity to resume. Mr Raab added that there will ‘soon’ be the capacity to test 100,000 people every day, which will help the Government understand the level of infection across the country, and how to change the measures when it's time to do so. He reiterated than any change in the measures will be guided by data and science.

He ended by recognising the impact of the disease on everyone across the country, and highlighted the financial packages brought in to support the economy and those facing financial hardship.

Economy and finances

We understand that from Monday next week, the Government is planning to publish weekly council level figures on the progress councils have made in payments of the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant to eligible businesses. The online reporting system DELTA will now be open for submissions on Fridays and the deadline for submission of the weekly returns has been brought forward on Monday to achieve this. If councils are still having issues accessing DELTA please let BEIS know at, and in the meantime you can send information by email if access to DELTA is a problem.

All of us have a deep concern about the impact of this crisis on our local businesses. Each of us will be tracking very closely progress in our councils regarding grant payments.  Our understanding is that around 30 per cent of the total amount of £12.3 billion has been paid out already, with more than 50 councils paying out over 50 per cent of their indicative allocation. We don’t believe that publishing council by council figures in this way is helpful and we have highlighted problems with the delivery of software, issues with registering for the DELTA system, as well as how hard you are all working to get these grants to eligible businesses whilst minimising potential mis-direction of resources. If you have any other issues or concerns, please let us know by emailing

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Addressing the completely unsatisfactory situation regarding PPE remains a priority. We continue to raise with Ministers and officials all the issues that have been reported to us from councils across the country. In all our discussions we continue to press the urgent need for a sustainable supply of appropriate PPE for every frontline worker who needs it. As I mentioned yesterday, at present we are waiting on updated PPE guidance from Public Health England around social care settings as well as further updates on future local resilience forum PPE drops and the online parallel supply chain.

PPE is an issue across many of the workstreams of local government and there is specific updated guidance on social distancing and PPE in educational and childcare settings. As always, please continue to raise and log any issues around PPE with us at

Adult social care and health

Health Education England is helping to deliver bespoke training modules for staff temporarily switching roles during the crisis, aimed in particular at redeployed staff including health care professionals and care workers. The training, delivered with universities through webinars and podcasts, covers areas including advanced respiratory management and infection control.

Mental health

A couple of weeks ago, I updated you on a £5 million government fund to help voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations in England continue to provide mental health services or provide additional support, at a time of increased demand due to COVID-19. Organisations can now apply for a Coronavirus Mental Health Response grant. Grants of £20,000 or £50,000 are available for projects lasting up to 12 months. Applicants are invited to apply at any time.

It's a fast track assessment process so applications will be assessed every two weeks and applicants will be informed of the outcome within a month of applying. As part of this funding programme, the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) will be administering a fund to support user-led organisations and smaller, unconstituted community organisations.  Details will be available from Monday 20 April on the NSUN website.

Children and education

The Department for Education has published updated guidance for local authorities, early years settings and childminders about childcare provision during the outbreak. The guidance sets out proposals for temporary flexibility on a small number of requirements in the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework. These proposals aim to give providers increased flexibility during this time and are subject to parliamentary agreement. They relate to learning and development requirements, the progress check for two-year-olds, Pediatric First Aid courses for new entrants and qualification levels for ratio requirements. There is also new content on the Government’s position on personal protective equipment for early years staff.

Building safety

You may have seen the pledge from the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, and local leaders from city regions that essential safety work to replace unsafe cladding on high-rise buildings will continue during the COVID-19 emergency. The Government’s sector-specific advice for the construction industry aims to ensure those working on site are given clear information and support to guarantee their own safety as well as limiting the spread of infection. A reminder that, last week, MHCLG wrote to stakeholders, giving more detail on the £1 billion funding for the removal of non-ACM cladding. In this letter, MHCLG urge councils who have not completed data collection on external wall systems of buildings over 18 metres to do so as soon as possible. If you have any queries about cladding removal, the fund or issues around the data collection you would like to raise with us please contact

Housing and planning

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has published an update including information about holding their first digital pilot case either at the end of this month or early next month. They have also started a trial of ‘virtual site visits’ with a small group of inspectors. If a case is deemed suitable for inclusion as part of this pilot, PINS will be contacting the main parties for their views. PINS will review this approach in a few weeks’ time before considering whether to extend the pilot. 

Support offer to councils and local hubs

Giving World is a national charity offering help to local hubs and councils in the response to COVID-19. The charity supplies essentials including shampoo, bedding, nappies, washing powder and warm, clean clothing to the people in the medically shielded groups and other vulnerable people free of cost. They are also providing patients and front-line staff with changes of clothing and personal hygiene products. Please contact Rama Bhalla at for more information or visit their website.

Telecommunications infrastructure

You will have seen the recent headlines about arson attacks on mobile telephone mast sites and other telecommunications infrastructure, which the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has now highlighted as a point of concern. These attacks have been fuelled by a baseless theory linking coronavirus to the 5G network. There is no credible evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus, and DCMS is working to tackle this misinformation and ensure security is maintained. It is asking that councils and residents support them in maintaining the telecommunications networks, at a time when it is vital that these networks run as efficiently as possible, by reporting any incidents of damage and suspicious behaviour to the police immediately. Guidance on telecommunications infrastructure is available on

Death management provisions

We have been asked by several councils about the process and any guidance regarding Schedule 28 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 which relates to measures to address a lack of capacity to transport, store or dispose of bodies.

MHCLG advised today that guidance will be issued shortly setting out how and when the powers set out in the Act will be triggered, and how they should be used by Government and local authorities. We understand the powers will only be triggered in exceptional circumstances after councils and LRFs have exhausted all other measures to increase capacity in their local systems. We will of course share this guidance once it is made available.

Fire service

You may have seen the coverage today of how the fire service have expanded its response to help fight the outbreak. The National Employers, National Fire Chiefs Council and Fire Brigades Union have agreed a further tripartite statement, adding three more areas of work to the original agreement reached on 26 March. Firefighters will now be able to assist with antigen testing, transportation of NHS outpatients to appointments or to receive urgent care and with providing instruction to others on non-blue light ambulance driving.

Pay negotiations

The National Employers for local government have today made final pay offers for the four negotiating groups for which they have responsibility: the main local government workforce, local authority Craftworkers, Chief Executives and Chief Officers. The main local government workforce has been offered improved pay increase of 2.75 per cent from 1 April 2020, plus an additional one day’s leave which would increase the minimum entitlement from 21 to 22 days per year (plus public holidays). This offer would affect over 1 million employees.

The unions have responded asking for further consideration, and National Employers will be reviewing the union’s response before replying. An employer circular has been sent to all council Chief Executives this afternoon that sets out full details of the four offers, as well as the background to this year’s pay negotiations.  Many thanks to the small group of councillors who - with colleagues from the other home nations - take forward these very important and sensitive negotiations.

I hope that you found this note helpful. As ever, if there is anything else you think we should be aware of that you haven’t seen mentioned in these regular updates, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd