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,

In my update yesterday, I alerted you to the Government announcement on the allocations of the £1.6 billion in new Government funding to individual local authorities, to help you deal with the immediate impact of COVID-19. The Government also announced a delay to the implementation of the Fair Funding Review and further business rates retention.

At the time of writing, we are awaiting the detailed letter from the Secretary of State confirming the funding allocations. I know councils have a number of questions about this funding, and we are chasing this correspondence. The delay to the letter does not signal any doubt about the allocations.  We understand that Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick,  is keen to use the letter to set out some of the Government's priorities and this requires cross-Government agreement.

The Government has been clear that both the additional and previous funding– £3.2 billion in total – is un-ringfenced to enable you to respond to COVID-19 pressures across all the services you deliver. This was referenced by Robert Jenrick in his recent letter to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee. This letter also mentions the pressures facing councils in adult social care, children’s social care and services helping the most vulnerable such as homeless people. It says that the Chancellor has been clear that public services will get the support they require in this challenging time, and the Government will keep future funding needs under review as the situation develops. As the Government reviews our funding needs, we continue to reiterate the loss of income local authorities are experiencing, the increased costs resulting from our COVID-19 response and the limited level of councils' unearmarked financial reserves.

If you are experiencing any particularly financial challenges, or have any ideas for financial levers you think would help ease those pressures, please share these with us by emailing or liaise with your Principal Adviser. Any issue you raise with us will inform our negotiations with government and support to councils.

As always, we continue to update our website with responses to your most Frequently Asked Questions. 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.

Talking of children, our Chairman has passed on local government's congratulations to the Prime Minister on his and his partner’s happy news following the birth of their first child this morning.

Below is the latest update from the latest happenings in central government and beyond. There have been fewer national announcements and updates today, but I know the pace and scale of the workload in councils as we seek to support our communities through a national emergency will not have slowed down.

Today’s Ministerial updates

Today’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by the First Secretary of State, Dominic Raab. He was joined by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van Tam, and the Medical Director at Public Health England (PHE), Professor Yvonne Doyle, Mr Raab noted that today marks the first day where the death toll published includes 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 PHE this evening. Mr Rabb stated that whilst we are continuing to see evidence of a flattening peak, we are still coming through it.

On the subject of deaths in care homes, Mr Raab stated that controlling the flow of people in and out of care homes remains a challenge and a risk. The Government will continue to focus on disseminating and refining their guidance to support those working in these settings. 

Professor Doyle said that today’s figure for road traffic was the highest for a working day since March 23. This is worrying, she said, and people must continue to stay home to protect the NHS and save lives. Professor Van Tam stated that relaxing the closure of schools is an option currently being discussed.

The First Secretary of State also answered questions on behalf of the Prime Minister in today’s PMQs. Mr Raab and Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, discussed care home deaths, testing and the exit strategy. Sir Keir noted that with the additional number of deaths outside of hospital recorded by the CQC and the ONS, adding that the figure is likely to be an underestimate. Sir Keir also pointed to figures which suggest that while hospital deaths are decreasing, care home deaths are accelerating. Responding, Mr Raab agreed there is a “challenge” in care home settings, but there has been success in reducing community transmission overall. The First Secretary also reiterated the Government’s commitment to increase testing, with the ultimate capacity aim being 250,000 tests-a-day. Finally, he explained that the Government will not be publishing the details of an exit strategy at this stage, and SAGE will be reviewing the evidence next week.

Personal protective equipment

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 whilst we await the establishment of a reliable and sustainable national route.

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, we have 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 with urgency.

I know some councils have queried the ‘use by’ date on some of their PPE stock. In today’s call with chairs of local resilience forums, colleagues from DHSC confirmed that stock is checked by Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive before it is distributed.

Adult social care and health

On Monday, we 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 has 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 (by 11am) 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. We hope this proves to be helpful.

The Chief Executive of NHS England (NHSE), Simon Stevens, has written to health networks on the second stage of the NHS’s response to COVID-19, which we are now entering. This letter was copied to local authority chief executives, directors of adult social care and chairs of local resilience forums (LRFs). Recognising the scale of the challenges faced by councils, LRFs and care providers, the letter includes information on the NHS’s work to support our efforts. This includes ensuring patients discharged to care homes are first tested for COVID-19, training on infection prevention and control, and support for care homes though returning health professionals and public volunteers. The NHS will bring forward from October to May 2020 the national roll out of key elements of the primary and community health service-led Enhanced Health in Care Homes service. Further detail will be set out by NHSE shortly.

The CQC is hoping to publish a list of local authorities operating under Care Act easements later today. This means that the name of any local authority operating under easements will be in the public domain the next working day after they receive their notification. This is likely to attract a lot of attention, certainly in the early days, and we know councils will be proactive in managing their responsibilities for engagement and communication.

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. We are seeking clarification on whether this announcement also applies to council employees.


I know councils have a number of queries relating to the ever-expanding eligibility for, and access to, COVID-19 testing. Our Chairman, Cllr James Jamieson has raised councils’ priorities directly with the Minister with responsibility for this area, Lord Bethell, this evening.

As you will have seen in yesterday’s daily press conference all care home residents and staff in England will be able to access coronavirus tests from today, regardless of whether they have symptoms. People over 65 and those who must leave home to work, as well as those they live with, will also be able to get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19. 

Anyone eligible can book a test using the new ’getting tested’ online portal. Employers can also refer employees through an employer portal, but presently there is a delay of a few days for registration to complete. In the meantime, councils should encourage symptomatic employees to book a test through the self-registration 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. Over 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 above letter from Simon Stevens to councils references that, in regards to DHSC designing and establishing its new ‘Test, Track and Trace’ service, that the leadership and resourcing of local authority public health departments will be vital.

Colleagues in Welsh authorities will be aware that Wales are applying their own eligibility criteria.

Children and education

The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, confirmed today 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.

Mr Williamson outlined his main concerns on the impact on children and young people including, safeguarding at-risk children and young people, educational poverty and a growing digital divide for children. The Committee also questioned Mr Williamson on wider issues beyond COVID-19, including the Department’s review of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The Secretary of State confirmed that the outbreak had delayed the publication of the review and said that ensuring the system was right for children and young people with SEND was critical.

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. This also includes information on how the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme interacts with the new flexible funding arrangements. The guidance also confirms that eligibility for the two-year-old childcare offer has been extended to children in families with no recourse to public funds. Following representations from the LGA, the DfE has confirmed councils will be reimbursed for fulfilling this commitment.

The DfE is 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.

Employment and skills

Yesterday we shared information about Department for Education (DfE) free Skills Toolkit for furloughed workers and those interested in learning new skills. It has also now enhanced its telephone and online National Careers Service offer for all those seeking careers information, advice and guidance. Alongside this, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) issued online advice for jobseekers and employers, reminding us of its Find A Job website, and has provided stakeholder packs about their Jobseekers and Employers campaigns which you may want to use locally.

Access to food

We continue to work with Defra to enable councils to offer priority access to supermarket delivery slots for vulnerable people as part of your phenomenal work to support vulnerable groups in your communities, and hope to share positive news on that soon. The Government are also updating their website for vulnerable people which will reflect the range of support available to individuals, and will point people who have no other options and need emergency support to their council. We understand the new website will be live later tonight or tomorrow and we will provide a further update once it is publicly accessible.


I know councils have been overwhelmed with the generosity and support shown by the many thousands of people who have volunteered to help vulnerable people in their communities. Our informal intelligence from councils, charities and voluntary organisations across the country about voluntary sector capacity strongly suggests that there is no shortage of volunteers to support vulnerable people in the community. However, if you are experiencing a shortage of volunteers in your area, the British Red Cross have over 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.

We’ve been regularly updating you on improvements and extensions to the GoodSam app, which is used to request help from the NHS Volunteer Responders. Councillors are now able to make requests for help on behalf of their vulnerable residents. Any councillors wishing to make a request will need to use their email address.

Leisure providers 

We know that the future of your leisure providers and the services they deliver continues to be a concern. We continue to raise this with Government.

We have 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.

Museums and libraries funding

A reminder that the deadline to apply for Arts Council England emergency response funding is midday 30 April. Eligible council-run museums and libraries, where activity helps deliver the universal library offers, can apply for the funding.

The Art Fund is also consulting on how it can redesign its funding and support programmes to help museums through COVID-19, including council museums. They currently have very few responses from council museums, so your officers may wish to respond before the survey closes tomorrow.

VE Day

You will have seen my note yesterday on the May Day Bank Holiday and the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day on 8 May. The Government has today 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 keen to ensure that as many people as possible across the nation are made aware of the plans and are asking for council support in promoting the activities to your communities. They are asking we all use the #VEDay75 hashtag when sharing activities online via social media. I know many councils have their own virtual plans to commemorate the occasion locally, which we will amplify on our own social media channels (@LGAComms and @LGAculturesport).


Create to Connect is a month-long set of creative challenges to do at home, established by 64 Million Artists. They’ve created free downloadable activity packs for community leaders, teachers and families to run challenges locally. The Get Creative Festival also normally takes place in May and has moved online this year with #GetCreativeAtHome. Over 200 participatory activities are now listed on the website, including the biggest life drawing class ever, and a new series of online masterclasses by leading artists including Sir Antony Gormley and features artist Clare Twomey. The official campaign will launch on 4 May – council communications, culture, and library teams may wish to promote it to your local residents.

Local Government Pension Scheme investments

In some news away from the pandemic, today a Supreme Court judgement found against the Government in relation to the investments of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). The case was in relation to the Government’s powers to direct the investments of the LGPS in particular by prohibiting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against foreign nations and UK defence industries contrary to UK foreign policy or UK defence policy. The Court found by a majority that the Government had acted beyond its power to direct the LGPS on the approach to investment decisions by seeking to direct the decisions themselves. It effectively says that government can direct local authority pension funds as to the approach they take when making investment decisions, but not direct what investments should or should not be made.

We have always supported the position that investments decisions are, and should continue to be, a matter for the relevant LGPS authority and we therefore welcome the clarification provide by this judgement. Links to the judgement and a summary can be found on the home page of

I hope you continue to find these regular updates helpful, as you and your teams seek to navigate the very many announcements and updates from central government and others. Thanks to the councillors and officers who have provided such positive feedback about these updates. We really do appreciate your comments and share them with our team. If there is anything else you think the LGA can be helping with, please do let us know (

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd