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,

Councillors have an essential role to play in supporting and leading our communities and local authorities through the current crisis, and I am extremely grateful for all your hard work in these difficult times.

Councils have stepped up the support they are providing for more than 1.8 million people who are clinically extremely vulnerable as a result of the pandemic. However, the breadth and depth of local government’s role at the heart of our communities means local government is taking a proactive approach to ensuring many more of our residents are safe and well.

This includes the ‘non-shielded’ vulnerable, including 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.

In particular, for some of our residents, the ‘stay home' requirement may exacerbate and escalate domestic abuse. The Government guidance is very clear that the stay-at-home instruction does not apply if anyone needs to leave their home to escape domestic abuse. To help councils provide the right support – and help tackle this horrendous, and mostly hidden, crime – we have published a tackling domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic guide for councils, which includes a range of resources and guidance.

I know all this work may have significant financial implications for councils at a time when you are facing huge drops in your income from fees, charges and other sources. Local government has secured an additional £1.6 billion of un-ringfenced funding, taking the total to help councils cope with this outbreak to £3.2 billion. The Government has also paid over £4 billion of grants early and deferred £2.6 billion of business rates central share payments to aid local authority cash flow issues.

The Secretary of State has reiterated his commitment that councils will get the resources they need to cope with this pandemic. We continue to relay the financial challenges you are facing locally and push for the powers, flexibilities and funding you need to stay focused on leading the local response to the greatest challenge we have faced as a nation for decades.

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. In response to the coronavirus crisis, we are sending these first e-bulletins out more frequently to help keep you informed, and I hope you find them 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.

Councillor James Jamieson is LGA Chairman


Additional £1.6 billion for local government

Councils in England will receive a further £1.6 billion for their response to coronavirus, taking total funding from the Government for the pandemic to more than £3.2 billion. The announcement will also mean another £95 million for Welsh councils. Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick MP has written to all councils praising our ‘unsung heroes’ and reiterated his commitment to providing the resources local government needs.

LGA Chairman James Jamieson said this commitment “needs to be rock solid and consistent so councils can stay focused on leading the local response to the greatest challenge we have faced as a nation for decades”.


Parks and cemeteries

The Government this week wrote to all council leaders about the importance of keeping parks, public spaces and cemeteries open.

The letter includes guidance to councils on managing social distancing requirements while parks are open, as well as updated advice on cemetery access. It recognises the work councils are doing to balance the need to maintain services alongside their wider responsibilities for the health and wellbeing of residents.


Care and health funding divide

The coronavirus crisis proves the artificiality of the funding divide between the NHS and social care, according to a recent research note from the think tank Policy Exchange. ‘Ending the divide’ argues that the Government’s recent promises on social care – cross-party talks and a manifesto pledge that “nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it” – must now be strengthened.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “This report echoes our own calls about how social care should be on an equal footing with the NHS.”


Job retention scheme

The Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme went live this week and received 67,000 applications in the first 30 minutes. HM Revenue and Customs has also published a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: step by step guide for employers

Last Friday the Department for Education published guidance on the use of the scheme by employers in education. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said that businesses will receive their funding within six working days.


Free school meals extension

The Department for Education (DfE) is temporarily extending free school meal eligibility during the pandemic. This includes for some children of families with no recourse to public funds. Full details are available in the DfE’s updated free school meals guidance.


Fly-tipping up

Incidents of fly-tipping have soared since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, according to the ClearWaste app. This is despite almost all councils continuing to collect residual waste and recycling (99 and 97 per cent respectively), according to the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport’s third weekly survey on the impact of COVID-19 on local authority waste services.

The LGA’s Environment Spokesman Cllr David Renard said: “Alongside government, the LGA is looking at exploring ways in which, on a limited basis, recycling centres can be reopened, but until such time as announcements are made we must insist that people keep their waste on household premises.”


‘At risk’ children not in school

Data released this week shows only 5 per cent of vulnerable children are attending school or childcare. Many families report concerns about the public health risks of sending their children to school, and social workers and schools are working together to encourage attendance and maintain oversight of these children.

The LGA is working with colleagues in the Department for Education and with directors of children’s services on monitoring and encouraging the take-up of school places; giving clear national messages to parents of vulnerable pupils about school safety; and spreading best practice in maintaining contact with vulnerable families.


Business support

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published data on the amount of money distributed to small and medium-sized businesses by every local authority in England. These figures will be published weekly, based on councils’ returns. A new 'support finder' tool will help businesses and self-employed people across the UK to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic.


Latest ONS Statistics

Coronavirus-related deaths may have peaked but we have yet to see the “peak of the stress on the social care system”, the LGA has said, in response to the latest Office for National Statistics figures

The figures, for the week up until 10 April, show deaths in England and Wales had nearly doubled, hitting a 20-year high. There were 18,516 deaths – about 7,996 more than the five-year average – with a third registered as relating to COVID-19. Deaths from other causes also rose. Coronavirus accounted for more than half of deaths in London (53.2 per cent), and more than a third (37 per cent) in the West Midlands. The number of deaths in care homes doubled by 2,456 deaths (up 99.4 per cent); and were up by half (51.1 per cent) in private homes (1,392 deaths).


BAME patients face higher death risk

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) patients face a disproportionately higher risk of death from coronavirus, according to new data. NHS England figures reveal that, of the 13,918 patients in hospital who tested positive for Covid-19 up to April 17, 16.2 per cent were of BAME background despite these communities making up only around 13 per cent of the total population. The statistics follow the launch of the Government’s review into why BAME communities are disproportionately vulnerable.


Coronavirus, culture and leisure

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has launched a call for evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on culture, tourism, the voluntary and community sector, broadband, sport and leisure. It is also seeking evidence on the impact of government support packages, including from bodies like Arts Council England and Sport England, on these sectors.

In its response, the LGA will be raising the financial instability of leisure providers, having previously written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, to raise concerns about the sector’s survival in the face of lost income from lockdown closures and ongoing and high-standing costs. We will also be flagging concerns about longer-term support for the visitor economy, which relies on the peak summer season to sustain it through the quieter winter months.

If there are additional issues or statistics you would like us to include in our response, please let us know by emailing


Commercial property purchases

A parliamentary spending watchdog is to investigate local authorities’ commercial investments. The Public Accounts Committee will review council commercial skills and the potential impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on their budgets. The inquiry will also question officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government over how much they monitor commercial activity among local authorities and their exposure to risk. A recent report from the National Audit Office, found that local authorities spent an estimated £6.6 billion on commercial property from 2016 to 2019.


Grenfell Tower Inquiry

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry could resume remotely, organisers have said. The second phase of hearings into the disaster were temporarily suspended last month due to COVID-19. The inquiry has now written to key witnesses and victims with three options for how evidence might continue to be heard. As well as the possibility of carrying on remotely, the inquiry is also considering suspending hearings entirely until social distancing rules are relaxed.


Council pay offer

More than one million council employees have been offered an 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). The National Employers, who negotiate pay on behalf of 350 local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, hope that the unions accept this final offer so that employees – who are providing such critical support to their communities during the current national emergency – can receive a well-deserved pay rise as soon as practicable.


New funding for school places

Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards, confirmed on Monday that £2.2 billion of capital funding will be made available to maintain and improve the condition of schools and to create new school places. More than £1.4 billion of the funding for 2020/21 has now been announced. The package includes £800 million for local authorities, large multi-academy trusts and academy sponsors, dioceses, and other large voluntary aided school groups, to invest in maintaining and improving the condition of their schools. In addition, nearly £750 million has been announced to fund the creation of new school places needed for September 2022.


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.


Support to councils

The LGA is refocusing the support we offer to councils to reflect the issues around the pandemic that you are identifying and sharing. Details of our reshaped support can be found on our website, covering leadership, financial resilience, adult social care, children’s services, workforce capacity and support, procurement, digital connectivity and communications. Our support will keep evolving as your needs change. If you would like to access any aspect of support, or have any suggestions of things you would find helpful, do let your principal adviser know.



The LGA continues to update responses to your most frequently asked questions on our website. This week we have a new section on personal protective equipment (PPE), and additional responses on finance, children and young people, homelessness and housing, and management of deaths.


LG Inform

Our LG Inform reports have been updated to include the latest COVID-19 data from Public Health England, showing the current position for councils and changes over time. The local authority report now shows a map of English authorities over time, and the England overview report contains details of the top 10 councils for lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases.


Domestic abuse

The LGA has published guidance on tackling domestic abuse. It gives a brief overview of domestic abuse and sets out how councils can provide help and support to domestic abuse victims during the COVID-19 pandemic, and tackle perpetrators’ abusive behaviour.

Meanwhile, the Home Office is asking for councils’ help to promote its #YouAreNotAlone campaign, which aims to reassure domestic abuse sufferers that support is available during the coronavirus lockdown. Campaign assets including digital assets, a leaflet and a poster are available to download from the Brandworkz portal. The content includes Welsh translations, and more translations and assets will follow over the coming week. If you have any questions you can get in touch using the campaign’s inbox:


New powers and duties

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, new powers have been introduced for councils, along with amendments to existing legislation. We have released a round-up which summarises these changes, to help you navigate this complex piece of legislation.

This has also been added to our useful subscription service LG Inform Plus, which maintains lists of primary legislation covering all the powers and duties English and Welsh local authorities are responsible for. This system also provides councils with more than one billion data values to help you understand your local areas, make better strategic decisions, streamline resources and improve governance. If you would like more information, please contact


Adult social care

The Department for Health and Social Care has published advice for people who buy care and support through a direct payment. This is relevant for councils, clinical commissioning groups and those who provide care and support. It includes steps that councils should take to support people who use direct payments to purchase care and support. It is accompanied by a Q&A that directly responds to questions and concerns previously raised by direct payment holders, personal assistants, and charities and organisations that support them.


Mental wellbeing of frontline staff

A new resource, Our Frontline, has been launched to support frontline staff under most pressure during these difficult times. Our Frontline is a partnership between Shout, Samaritans, Mind, Hospice UK and The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It offers round-the-clock one-to-one support, by call or text, from trained volunteers, plus resources, tips and ideas to look after your mental health. There is tailored material for staff working in social care, essential roles, the emergency services and health workers.

In addition, the LGA workforce wellbeing pages have advice and guidance for supporting and managing the wellbeing of frontline staff and will be publishing more wellbeing information and support for managers and staff working in social care in the next few days. 


Coronavirus information service

The Government’s useful coronavirus information service on WhatsApp is an automated ‘chatbot’ service which provides the public with answers to the most common questions about coronavirus direct from government. Your residents just need to WhatsApp ‘hi’ to 07860 064422.


Laptops for care leavers

Care leavers and children with social workers will be provided with free laptops and internet access by the Department for Education, if they do not already have them. Councils can order these devices online.


BBC launches learning resource

The BBC has launched its virtual education offer, Bitesize Daily, which offers 14 weeks of curriculum-based learning for kids across the UK. Lessons will be delivered by more than 200 teachers and a host of familiar faces including Professor Brian Cox and Sir David Attenborough.