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,

Today the Government announced an extension of COVID-19 front-line testing for all essential workers, including those working for councils, teachers and early years providers. This is good news for local government and a sign of the Government’s commitment to keeping all front-workers safe.  

With Ramadan starting tonight, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish Ramadan Mubarak to all local government colleagues who are fasting and praying during the most holy month for Muslims. The social distancing measures the nation is adhering to will impact on how Ramadan can be celebrated.

The Muslim Council of Britain has guidance in their #RamadanAtHome pack, and Public Health England has published a helpful blog post. This may be of interest to the communities you serve and to councils as employers as the guidance includes information on supporting your Muslim workforce during this time. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has also written some key points to help communities come together at this time. 

Today is St George’s Day. Celebrations this year are low-key, but for those who choose to, I hope you can still celebrate in your own way. I’m sure like me you showed your appreciation for our nation's amazing workforce through tonight’s ‘Clap for Carers’, broadcast also on BBC1 as part of the 'Big Night In' charity funding drive. 

As part of our re-focused support offer, working with colleagues in SOLACE, we are launching a national programme of coaching and mentoring for those leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic across English local government.

This funded support is aimed specifically at chief executives, directors, and professional leads, as colleagues start to prepare and implement recovery plans. The programme will also seek to capture and share important insights that will help councils now and in the future. 

We recognise that some councils already have support in place, but we know others would appreciate help with making such arrangements. If you would like to find out more please email   

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. 

Today’s/this evening’s announcement(s)  

Today’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock. He was joined by Professor John Newton, Director of Public Health Improvement, Public Health England and Sir Patrick Valance, Chief Scientific Officer. He reiterated the importance of the social distancing measures, and when the Government’s five points are satisfied, they will then move onto a “rigorous” programme of test, track and trace.  

On testing, he stated that capacity has now increased to 51,000 tests a day, and as a result, testing will be expanded to any essential worker in England, including those in schools and education. From tomorrow, any employer of an essential worker, essential workers themselves, or anyone in an essential worker household who needs a test will be able to book an appointment on Test results will be sent out by text and a helpdesk will be available to answer any queries. He added that there are 30 regional test centres so far, and more are being set up across the country. To better understand the outbreak, testing is also being used to find out how many people have already had the disease. On tracing, Mr Hancock stated that the NHS contact tracing app is being trialled and the Government will initially be hiring 18,000 people to support tracing efforts.  We are in discussions with the Government to explore any expectations of councils in the new tracing programme.

Sir Patrick Valance highlighted statistics showing a significant majority of people are not leaving their house other than for the permitted reasons and are avoiding contact with people outside their household. He added that the peak of the disease is heading in the right direction, as the number of people in hospital is either falling or is stable. Deaths are at a plateau and are not coming down slowly. He noted that this will likely change in a couple of weeks, when he hopes there will be a faster decline.   

Professor John Newton explained that there are two types of test, the first is a swab, which will test if you have the virus, and a blood test, which will show if you have already had it. He added that they are confident of meeting the 100,000 tests a day target by the end of next week.  


As mentioned above, from today, testing will include anyone who is an essential worker, including teachers, food delivery drivers or the council workforce. Employers will be able to refer symptomatic essential workers for a test online and those needing a test will be able to request one directly. To run alongside the drive for increased testing will be a national campaign to encourage greater take-up. We will share more information about this as soon as we have it. 

The Government has started a major long-term study to track the spread of COVID-19 in the general population. This will involve antibody testing to help understand levels of immunity, with plans for up to 300,000 people to take part over 12 months.  


You will know from my previous bulletins, and the Ministerial updates at the daily Number 10 Press conferences, that the Government remains keen for councils to maintain access to parks and public spaces. 

Today, the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke, has written to all council leaders to urge councils to keep parks and cemeteries open while managing social distancing requirements. The letter also, rightly, recognises that councils know best the needs of the local people we serve and are trying to strike the right balance between maintaining services and ensuring the wellbeing of our residents. At the moment, we are aware of only a very few councils that have closed all their parks, and two that have closed country parks that require travel by car to access. This is a point we have repeatedly stressed to Ministers and officials. You may wish to share your own position with your local MPs.  

The letter also covers access to cemeteries and other burial grounds. I know that many councils re-opened cemeteries following the Secretary of State’s comments over the weekend. Others were cautious about whether the exact wording of the regulations allowed this. The letter confirms, as I mentioned in yesterday’s bulletin, that the regulations have been amended to provide clarity that burial grounds, cemeteries and grounds surrounding crematoria and gardens of remembrance can all remain open. It also confirms that the relevant regulations do not compel local authorities to keep anything open; maintaining social distancing in all open spaces remains vital.  

Vulnerable people, shielding and access to food  

As flagged in yesterday’s bulletin, government communications will be referring those who need help and have no other means of support, such as through friends or family or community or voluntary groups, to their local councils. We are aware councils are already publicising the huge range of support offers available for those in need.   

We are continuing to work with councils, supermarkets and smaller stores, key charities and government on how best to ensure that everyone has access to essential supplies, including food, and that councils have the data and funding needed to make this work. We will keep you updated as this work progresses but please continue to email with your issues and also your many examples of innovation. 


I know that councils value the vast numbers of people who are volunteering to support vulnerable friends, neighbours and family to cope with COVID-19, whether this is for a national or local organisation. 

The NHS and Royal Voluntary Service have expanded the NHS Volunteer  Responder scheme to increase referrals into the programme. From today vulnerable people and their families will now be able to directly call upon the 600,000 volunteers who have been approved to help those at risk in the community. The scheme is still limited to vulnerable people. They will be able to request help with collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies and a ‘check in and chat’ phone call to help combat isolation and loneliness.   

This is a positive announcement, which builds on councils’ and the LGA’s strong support for the introduction of self-referral. As we said in our response, the national volunteering scheme is an important back-up to councils’ existing and new local volunteering initiatives which are helping communities during this crisis. We continue to work closely with NHS England and the Government to ensure that the most vulnerable people continue to be supported.  

Adult social care 

In a joint statement the Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care, the Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care and the National Guardian for the NHS have urged our health and care workforce to continue to speak up about anything that gets in the way of providing good care. This is of course a good thing, creating healthy working environments in which workers are encouraged to raise concerns, acting on their information and providing feedback. I have no doubt that the sentiments in the statement are ones shared by councillors and senior officers in councils, for all the staff in our teams. 

Together with ADASS we continue to engage with national partners the Care Quality Commission (CQC), NHS England and Improvement, and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to explain the importance of local data from care providers to support good provider relationships and to meet our statutory responsibilities for local care markets. We meet with partners on a weekly basis to review what is happening, as well as weekly calls with regional ADASS chairs. We have agreed a number of criteria that support continued collection of local as well as national data.  We have not reached a position in these national discussions where we could yet recommend the suspension of local collections of data.

Recruitment care campaign 

Making sure people who need a little extra help get the care and protection they need to stay safe and well is a priority for councils and we have always valued the vital role our staff working in these areas play. 

Our own reignited Return to Social Work programme has already recruited and trained dozens of staff, ensuring vulnerable adults and children can continue to receive the essential support that they need. This is in addition to regional recruitment campaigns run by councils themselves. 

DHSC has now launched a new national adult social care recruitment campaign. This ‘Care for Others. Make a Difference’ campaign aims to boost the adult social care workforce in England, as part of a wider plan to attract more staff into the profession. 

Free-to-access e-learning courses and webinars for local authority and care provider staff are also being developed on how to maintain good care in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Key topics will include: safeguarding, person-centred care, dementia, Mental Capacity Act, infection control and supporting care at home to reduce pressure on the NHS. 

In our media response, we reiterated the need for current and returning care professionals to have access to reliable and ongoing supplies of PPE.  

Children and education  

The Department for Education (DfE) has tabled the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, the Early Years Foundation Stage (Learning and Development and Welfare Requirements) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 and the School Admissions (England) (Coronavirus) (Appeals Arrangements) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. The latter follow the publication of Department for Education guidance on school admissions appeals last week. 

The amendments are being made in order to assist those working in children's social care and schools during the pandemic.  

The Regulations follow the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families at DfE, Vicky Ford’s, evidence to the Education Committee yesterday. The session covered a range of issues regarding the impact of coronavirus on councils’ children services, including the availability of PPE, school closures and the role of Ofsted during the current pandemic, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and councils’ statutory duties.  

On the latter, the Minister confirmed that the Government is about to introduce legislation that would give councils more flexibilities on their statutory duties at this unprecedented time as some local authorities and partners would struggle to meet the full range of these duties. This is welcome news and follows the letter from Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of our Children and Young People Board, to the Children’s Minister last week in which she raised concerns about the time it is taking the Department to relax the duties relating to securing special educational provision and health care provision as part of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). We understand the Regulations regarding EHCPs will be laid next week, it would mean that a child or young person’s provision as delivered may differ temporarily from what is set out in their EHCP.  

Adult learners  

As adult learning centres run or commissioned by councils have closed, councils are making resources available for learners remotely. Schools and colleges can access emergency funding to cover unforeseen costs, similar to those that adult education providers are facing, but this funding is not available to providers. We are calling for council-run adult education centres to be given the same level of support and will continue to make the case that adult learning is just as important as other forms of learning, especially as we look to the country’s economic recovery in the months ahead.  

Modern slavery  

In a previous bulletin we alerted councils to the possibility that during work with homeless and other vulnerable people, you or your partners may come across victims of modern slavery during the COVID-19 emergency. There is some useful guidance available online about the signs to spot. Homelessness charity, The Passage, has developed a handbook for staff working with homeless people, The Children’s Society has published a disrupting exploitation booklet and the Home Office has published more general guidance which you may find useful. There are also some useful resources available on Stop the Traffik’s website.


Arts Council England has announced £151,000 worth of funding for library services in England to supplement their budgets for e-books and e-audio material to support their response to the COVID-19 crisis. Each library service will receive £1,000 to spend on items to improve areas of high demand. Library services have reported a 600 per cent increase in membership and take-up of e-resources since the stay at home restrictions started. Library services have responded to this extraordinary demand by flexing budgets and delivering online activities such as children’s rhyme time and book clubs. Whilst this additional funding is welcome, we continue to highlight to Government that libraries require a £5 million funding package to fully meet the increased demand.   

High streets  

The Government has announced plans to temporarily ban the use of statutory demands and winding up orders where a company cannot pay their bills due to the outbreak. This is to help ensure high street shops and other firms do not fall into deeper financial strain. The measures will be included in the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill, which the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, set out earlier this month. 

The Government also plans to lay secondary legislation to provide tenants with more breathing space to pay rent by preventing landlords using Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) unless they are owed 90 days of unpaid rent. The Government has called on tenants to pay rent where they can afford it, or what they can, in recognition of the strains felt by commercial landlords too. 

Local government finances  

As reported in my bulletin yesterday, there were some errors in the data that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published on Monday on the amount of money distributed by each local authority via the Small Business and Retail Leisure and Hospitality Grant scheme. Corrected data was published by BEIS last night. 

Every February MHCLG publishes data on forecasts in business rates due to be collected by authorities for the forthcoming financial year, based on returns to MHCLG known as NNDR1. Yesterday, MHCLG published a supplementary table to its usual set of forecasts for business rates income. The supplementary table on additional reliefs for 2020/21 shows that local authorities in England expect to give an additional £9.7 billion in business rates relief during 2020/21 compared with the figures they originally reported to MHCLG earlier this year. Of this, £9.6 billion is for the expanded retail discount. 

EU Settlement Scheme funding  

EU citizens living in the UK before the end of the transition period (and their family members) need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) to obtain their new UK immigration status, following the UK’s departure from the EU. 

Funding has been set aside for charities and councils to provide face-to-face, online and telephone support to help vulnerable EU citizens apply, including legal support, caseworker services or general advice. In early May the first round of bidding for a further £8 million of funding for 2020/2021 will open, with an extended deadline for submissions due to the current focus on COVID-19. 

If you would like to find out more about the EUSS, the bidding process and how to apply, the Home Office is running a teleconference for councils. Please reserve your place with the Home Office for either 28 April (2-3pm) or 29 April (10-11.30 am), by 12pm on Monday 27 April.

For more information on the grant funding, please see the Contract Finder Notice on GOV.UK or email  


Dealing with this crisis started as a sprint but we know we're taking on an ultra-marathon.  All of us as leaders will be deeply concerned to look after the people we work with and our own wellbeing. The LGA has a range of information and resources on the workforce wellbeing pages of our website. I'd particularly like to draw your attention to an interesting and useful article on resilience. This is a topic that we’ll be working more on in the coming weeks.  

Procurement and management processes  

Colleagues familiar with procurement will be aware that councils are increasingly embedding social value in everything we do. This involves looking beyond the price of each individual contract, and looking at the collective benefit to an organisation, community or society. This could mean thinking about the economic, environmental or societal impact of our purchasing power. Given the unprecedented challenges we all now face, this is even more important. 

The LGA supports, and works closely with, colleagues at the Social Value Portal who, in response to the on-going crisis, have developed a tool which aims to provide a transparent process to help organisations during this time. This can help your teams monitor how bidders and suppliers can contribute to mitigating the effects of COVID-19 and respond to the national emergency. This is in line with the minimum reporting standard known as the ‘National Themes Outcomes and Measures’. It isn’t intended to create an additional burden for businesses, but instead provide some modifications to make the process more flexible and responsive. I hope your teams find it helpful. 


We are gearing up to do some more work in the national media around PPE supplies. Please keep sending us your estimates about your PPE needs and the gap between demand and supply and any examples of how you have had to plug the gap locally. Email We have had a few specific media requests today to run past you. We have been approached by Public Finance Magazine who are keen to speak to councils about the financial challenges they face, let us know if you would like us to put you in touch. The Independent is looking into a few examples of where council keyworkers have been denied COVID-19 testing by Public Health England, despite qualifying under the guidance and being referred by their local authority. If you’ve had any experience of this, do please let us know.   

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

Thank you for everything you are doing to support your residents, communities and businesses.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd