first magazine for councillors and local government | May 2020

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First logo 2019

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

Dear Reader

Like many of your councils, we have been turning our attention to the next phase of dealing with this pandemic – what has been called the recovery stage.

In our conversations with central government we have been clear that local government needs to be front and centre to the planning of the ‘new normal’, and the support our residents, businesses and communities will need to prosper. I will provide an update in next week’s bulletin on some of the work the LGA is undertaking, but we would also be interested to hear about any plans you are developing to help inform our approach and best support you.

This week, the latest official figures included deaths in all settings, including for the first time deaths at care homes and in the wider community where a positive result for COVID-19 had been given. This new method has been outlined in a press release from Public Health England.

The figures on community deaths highlight the scale of the challenge we face. As we have said previously, this is being exacerbated by the fact that some social care staff and other frontline workers still lack the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves and the people they care for.

We are aware that pressure on PPE supplies continues to be extremely high and that councils and local areas continue to expend great effort sourcing their own stocks while we await the establishment of a reliable and sustainable national route.

We have been calling for the Government’s online PPE ordering system to be fully rolled out, a rapid increase in testing, and support to care homes on staffing and equipment. The Government has now extended coronavirus testing to social care workers and residents in care homes, as well as other essential workers, people aged 65-plus, those who cannot work from home, and people with symptoms living with any of the above.

As well as protecting their physical health, I know you also feel a huge sense of responsibility towards the emotional wellbeing of your social care staff, who are working in unimaginably challenging circumstances. The LGA has worked with NHS England and Improvement to produce a comprehensive pack of information to support the wellbeing of managers and staff during this difficult time and ensure our critical services continue to run.

You will also have seen the Government’s announcement of an assurance scheme for the families of health and care workers who have passed away as a result of their frontline role.

The Department for Health and Social Care has confirmed that the scheme will cover the families of full and part-time staff who worked in frontline health, adult and children’s social care roles during the outbreak. Bereaved family members will receive a £60,000 lump sum. Of course, nothing can make up for the loss of a loved one, but this scheme aims to ease some of their financial worries.

On 18 April, the Government announced a further £1.6 billion of non-ringfenced funding for local government to help us deal with the immediate impacts of COVID-19. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has now confirmed how this will be allocated to local authorities and further updates are expected this week.

We continue to press the case that the Government should cover the loss of income local authorities are experiencing due to the pandemic as well all increased costs resulting from our COVID-19 response.

This month’s first magazine should be arriving with you shortly. It includes updates on the key concerns you have raised with us that we are pressing with ministers; looks at how adult education is supporting people in the community; and offers guidance on communicating with residents at this difficult time.

Cllr Andrew Morgan, Leader of the Welsh LGA, writes about how local services remain a constant beacon for us all, while Cllr Cecilia Motley, Chair of the Rural Services Network, looks at the impact of COVID-19 in rural areas.

Other contributors include Cllr Sharon Taylor, Chair of the Cooperative Councils Innovation Network; Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales; and Lord Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote.

As some of this month’s first may already be out of date by the time you receive it, please also check and follow @LGAComms and @LGAnews on Twitter for our latest updates. You can also send us your concerns, inquiries and examples of your work by emailing If you don’t want to continue receiving this first e-bulletin, you can unsubscribe using the links at the end of this email.

Cllr James Jamieson is LGA Chairman

Our top stories:

Man wearing a surgical mask

Fighting your corner

The LGA is your voice on the national stage throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

woman at work

Reshaping our support to councils

The LGA has re-focused its support offer to councils to reflect the issues around the pandemic that you are identifying and sharing with us.

Woman wearing a surgical mask

Community spirit, cooperative solutions

The cooperative councils’ approach of co-designing services with those who are going to use them offers a model both for responding to the pandemic and recovering from it, writes Councillor Sharon Taylor OBE, Chair of the Cooperative Councils’ Innovation Network.

Man shouting at a woman

Improving the response to domestic abuse

Local government plays a pivotal role in the response to domestic abuse, as its effects infiltrate every part of life and our public services, writes Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales.

Abstract image on inequality

The coronavirus and race equality

Lord Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote, warns that the pandemic has uncomfortably exposed a number of societal flaws – including gross racial inequalities that leave some communities more vulnerable, directly and indirectly, to COVID-19 than others.

Party poppers lined up

Measuring electoral volatility

In the absence of by-elections, Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher delve into their data to discuss electoral volatility – which peaked in 1994 when the proportion of seats changing hands reached 45 per cent.


Tests for essential workers

All essential workers in England – and members of their households – will now be eligible for coronavirus tests providing they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Over-65s and their households, as well as those who must leave home to go to work and have symptoms will also be eligible. Anyone working or living in a care home will also be eligible for a test, whether they have symptoms or not. Anyone eligible can book a test using the new ’getting tested’ online portal.

Working with Public Health England, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and ADASS, the Government is piloting the despatch of ‘satellite' test kits directly to care homes across England to enable the testing of residents. So far, 4,760 tests have been delivered to more than 4,300 locations. More than 25,000 care staff have already been tested.

There are now more than 40 drive-through testing sites across the country, and, by the end of the week, 25,000 home testing kits will be available for ordering each day.  A network of mobile testing units is also travelling the country to reach care homes, police stations, prisons and other sites where there is demand for testing. The network is expected to reach more than 70 units by the weekend.

The LGA has reiterated that the Government’s testing regime should also be complemented by making use of existing local knowledge and skills on the ground.


Further delay to PPE for care homes 

The Government has partnered with online marketplace eBay to build a web portal that will allow care homes, pharmacies, GP surgeries and domiciliary carers to order personal protective equipment (PPE) from a dedicated supply chain set up by the NHS and the Armed Forces. In a letter to police forces this week, the Government said the online portal, which was due to launch earlier this month, has been delayed by an additional five weeks.

Recent media coverage has raised questions around whether the public will be expected to use PPE such as face masks as part of any steps to ease lockdown measures. With public health as the priority, the LGA has raised concerns with the Government about the pressure this will put on the already stretched supply of PPE and urged them to clarify guidance on this matter.


Funding allocations published

The latest £1.6 billion allocation of emergency coronavirus funding will be distributed on population size and local authorities’ specific needs, the Government has said. County councils will get 65 per cent, districts 35 per cent, and none of the money will be ring-fenced. Where there are separate fire authorities, a specific share for fire of 3 per cent will be used.

At the time of writing, we are awaiting the detailed letter from the Secretary of State confirming the funding allocations. The delay to the letter does not signal any doubt about the allocations.  The LGA understands that Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP is keen to use the letter to set out some of the Government's priorities and this requires cross-Government agreement.


Phased return to school

Gavin Williamson MP, Secretary of State for Education, confirmed during a virtual presentation to the Education Select Committee that schools and colleges will be opening in a phased manner, depending on the scientific advice. He said it would not be realistic or practical for all pupils to return at once and did not expect this term to be extended into the summer holidays. He promised schools would be given time to properly prepare for pupils’ return.


Rubbish tips to re-open

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP has asked councils to draw up plans over the next two or three weeks to re-open waste and recycling centres. Government guidance will be issued shortly. In our response, the LGA said that councils are keen to open sites as soon as practicable providing councils have staff available and adequate PPE. We also said that the Government would need to clarify its guidance on essential travel and warned that police could be needed to manage traffic queues due to an expected increase in demand.


MPs consider council finances

LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson and Chief Executive Mark Lloyd this week gave evidence to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on councils. They highlighted the vital role councils are playing in delivering PPE and raised the financial implications of the pandemic on councils.

Cllr Jamieson told the committee that while the £3.2 billion the Government has already provided gives councils “breathing space”, the need “could be three or even four times that amount” based on recent financial returns from councils. The LGA will continue to make the case that councils need an additional £10 billion as a result of falling income and rising costs.


Fair funding and business rates

The Fair Funding Review and the move to 75 per cent business rates retention have been deferred and will not be implemented from April 2021. The Government will continue to work with councils on the best approach to the next financial year, including how to treat accumulated business rates growth and the approach to the 2021/22 local government finance settlement.


Tracing contacts

Around 18,000 personnel, including 3,000 health professionals, could be deployed to help suppress the spread of COVID-19, as part of the Government’s contact tracing strategy. Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP said this week that the NHS’s contact tracing mobile phone application will be ready in two or three weeks, and that the Government is aiming to have the required volunteers in place before or by that time.

The LGA continues to make the case that any additional demand of testing, tracing and isolating on existing services will need to be fully funded by central government.


Bereavement package

Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP has announced that families of frontline NHS and social care staff in England who die from coronavirus will be entitled to a £60,000 payment. Care workers are also eligible, and the Government is looking into other groups of key workers and what schemes are already available to them.


Visa extensions for frontline staff

The Home Secretary has announced free, automatic one-year visa extensions for frontline health and care workers, with family members and dependants of healthcare workers who sadly pass away as result of contracting the virus to be offered immediate indefinite leave to remain. The LGA is seeking clarification on whether this announcement also applies to council employees.


Vulnerable children

The Children’s Commissioner for England has published local area profiles of child vulnerability during COVID-19. The LGA has reiterated that councils are working hard to identify children who may be at risk and are liaising with schools and families regarding school attendance.

The Department for Education (DfE) has published guidance on how councils can use their dedicated schools grant (DSG) funding differently in exceptional circumstances during the outbreak, to ensure they have enough places for children of critical workers and vulnerable children

It is also now publishing weekly statistics on school and early years attendance. This week’s statistics show that attendance last week reached around 2 per cent of normal levels. The proportion of vulnerable children attending doubled from 5 per cent the previous week, to 10 per cent.


Refuges running out of space

Dame Vera Baird, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, has told the Justice Select Committee that refuges for victims of domestic violence are running out of space, with many full or effectively closed. Last week, the LGA issued guidance on how to address domestic violence during COVID-19.


Support for SEND

The LGA has raised councils' concerns that school closures, staff sickness and the demand COVID-19 is placing on resources has made it difficult to deliver support for young people with special education needs and disabilities (SEND), as set out in their education, health and care plans. We know this has left some councils open to challenge.

The Coronavirus Act allows for the temporary removal or relaxation of statutory provisions, and we will continue to make the case to the Department for Education that councils require greater flexibility and clarity to continue to support the most vulnerable in locally suitable ways.


Right to Buy reforms

The LGA has warned that deperately-needed social housing could go unbuilt unless councils are granted an extension to the time they are allowed to spend money from Right to Buy sales. We have called on the Government to extend the time councils have to use Right to Buy receipts from three to at least five years. This will give councils more time to spend the money, which is critical if we are to get building the homes the country needs once the coronavirus pandemic passes and recovery begins.


Social Work Together campaign

The LGA has been working with Social Work England on our Social Work Together campaign, which is designed to help councils address the demand for more social workers. The campaign provides an online platform for councils to connect with social workers, with 1,000 of them already signed-up and waiting to speak to councils about vacancies.


VE Day 

The Government has announced a revised programme that will allow members of the public to remember and give thanks to the Second World War generation from the safety of their own homes. To find out more about how they can take part, members of the public can visit a new website which includes educational resources.

The Government is asking for council support in promoting the activities to our communities, by using the #VEDay75 hashtag when sharing activities online via social media.


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.



The LGA continues to update responses to your most frequently asked questions on our website. This week we have new sections on transport, domestic abuse and community safety, with further updates on the topics of support for specific groups, deaths management and children and young people.


Adult social care tracker

The LGA has launched the COVID-19 Adult Social Care Tracker showing the impact that the virus has had on residential and domiciliary care, as reported by care providers. The tracker is hosted on our LG Inform platform, but requires a secure sign-in. Directors of adult social care have been asked to identify those who should have access to the data: please speak to them if you think you need access as well. This tool will be updated daily with the latest data reported by care homes as collected by Capacity Tracker, and from domiciliary care providers collected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It will give councils a quick and easy way to see the latest data by care provider.


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.



The British Red Cross has more than 70,000 emergency response and community reserve volunteers. Their emergency response volunteers are fully trained to provide support in emergency situations at any time, while the community reserve volunteers can help provide basic supplies and maintain connections with vulnerable and isolated people. Any organisation, including councils, can make a request for volunteer support.

Meanwhile, councillors are now able to make requests for help on behalf of their vulnerable residents via the GoodSam app, which is used to request help from the NHS Volunteer Responders. Any councillors wishing to make a request will need to use their email address.


New guidance and testing for care workers

Public Health England (PHE) has published a PPE resource for care workers delivering homecare during the outbreak, and alongside the Department for Health and Social Care has written to the care sector to provide further information on testing for social care staff.


Micro-loan scheme for small businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP has announced a new micro loan scheme to provide access to finance for those in need of smaller loans. Further details, including on the amount businesses can borrow and the eligibility criteria, have been published on the Government's website.


High street support

The Government has introduced new measures to prevent landlords from using statutory demands and winding up orders to collect rent from high street shops during the coronavirus lockdown. 


EU funding guidance

The Government has clarified some of the concerns around current EU funding that many of our communities continue to receive. This includes guidance on what to do if COVID-19 has impacted on the ability to deliver certain projects, such as face-to-face training, and how to repurpose current projects towards local responses to the crisis, such as changing projects to help small and medium-sized enterprises respond to the crisis.


Leisure providers

The future of your leisure providers and the services they deliver continues to be a concern. We continue to raise this with Government. The LGA has now also published an advice note on why there are particular issues for leisure providers, some examples of how councils can and are supporting their local providers and some FAQs agreed with the leisure sector to help accelerate your local conversations. You may also be interested in Community Leisure UK’s latest member survey results on financial reserves in the sector; and UK Active’s four stage strategy to support the recovery of the physical activity sector, which we are supporting.


Training providers and apprenticeships

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has published details of a new post-16 provider relief scheme enabling training providers to recoup lost income as a result of COVID-19. As councils plan how to help residents acquire the skills they need to secure employment in the months ahead, it will be essential that they have access to a strong training provider base.

The Department for Education has launched a Skills Toolkit aimed at furloughed workers, and others that want to take the opportunity to upskill. It has also now enhanced its telephone and online National Careers Service offer for all those seeking careers information, advice and guidance. The LGA has previously raised concerns that training providers do not have the financial security that they need.


NHS ‘help us to help you’ campaign

The NHS is asking councils to help raise awareness of a new campaign to encourage the public to seek the urgent care and treatment they need. New findings show that four in 10 people are too concerned about being a burden on the NHS to seek help from their GP, while data suggests that A&E attendance so far in April has been about 50 per cent lower than this time last year. You can access campaign assets from Public Health England’s campaign resource centre. 


Highways maintenance

The Association of Directors of Economy, Environment, Planning and Transport and the Highways Sector Council have issued new highways advice to enable councils to continue to safely carry out essential highways maintenance during the pandemic. It comes as the Department for Transport has announcement highways maintenance funding allocations for 2020/21.