first magazine: COVID-19 bulletin

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

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

Supporting you, in your role leading the response to COVID-19 in your councils, continues to be a key priority for us. We have this week launched an online forum for councillors – a safe space for members to talk among their peers as they would usually, but virtually.

All councillors across England and Wales can join the group, where they can seek and share ideas and good practice, and network and support each other during COVID-19 and beyond. The online community is accessed on the Knowledge Hub (KHub), the UK’s largest digital platform for public service collaboration. Councillors can sign up with their council email address.

We also continue to build a diverse, current and informative range of case studies as we aim to help you navigate this changing environment, while showcasing some of the important work being carried out by the local government family.

Our latest case studies include your contributions on how you are effectively delivering grants to local businesses, mitigating the risk of infections in care homes, supporting shielded groups of people, communicating social distancing measures and using digital solutions to innovate. You can help us add to this collection by sending your examples of council-led good practice to Please include an outline of the work taking place and names of the councils (and where applicable, partners) involved.

In recent weeks, councils have created new services to support vulnerable people, ensured schools are kept open for the children of key workers, got over 90 per cent of rough sleepers off the streets and into safe accommodation and ensured 98 per cent of kerbside waste and recycling collections have continued as usual.

We have effectively led our communities during the emergency response, and we now need to be empowered to support our communities as we tackle the social and economic task ahead.

You will have seen the media coverage of the Government’s increased focus on the next phase of its response to the pandemic, and the speculation about what that may look like. With the Prime Minister expected to announce the country’s next steps on Sunday, we have stepped up our efforts to reiterate the leading role councils can, and should, play in planning the incremental easing of stay-at-home measures, and the support our residents, businesses and communities will need to prosper.

As the Government draws up this new advice for businesses and residents that will inevitably be required for any new measures, we are making sure they understand the implications for councils and what support we need from central government. As every area is different, we will be clear that this should be a council-led response – as we know what works best for our villages, towns and cities.

We are continuing to press the Government for a commitment that it will meet all the financial challenges you are facing due to the additional demands created by COVID-19, including any additional costs and losses of income related to the coming months and not just immediate challenges. We are also pushing for councils to have the funding, powers and flexibilities you need to lead your communities, including in the longer term. This is something we are amplifying on our social media channels, as we promote how the Government can ensure #CouncilsCan play their full part in tackling the unprecedented social and economic task ahead.

I hope you find time to rest over the bank holiday weekend and can mark ‘Victory in Europe’ day tomorrow in your own, safe, way. I know councils across the country are helping residents find new ways to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE day in the absence of the usual street parties and events (see below). Please share your pictures and videos on social media using the hashtag #StayAtHomeParty.

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


PPE delays

The new ‘Clipper’ system for delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to care workers will not be nationally available for at least another fortnight, the LGA understands. In an update this week to MPs, Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP said that the service is being piloted in 1,300 settings, many of which are care homes. Mr Jenrick added that the national rollout could take three more weeks to launch as the Government wants to undertake further testing and improvements to the service.

The LGA continues to push for the online system to be fully rolled out as soon as possible, so that councils and care providers can directly request and ensure that critical protective equipment gets to those who desperately need it. 


Test, track and trace

An NHS contact-tracing mobile application that could alert users who have come into contact with someone showing coronavirus symptoms is being trialled on the Isle of Wight. If the trial proves successful, there could be a nationwide roll-out.

Following another pilot, this week testing will be made available to all symptomatic residents in care homes. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been contacting care homes to offer them the opportunity to order a testing kit, and then placing this order for them. Once processed, the home receives their results directly. Council workers are also now eligible for tests.

The LGA is calling for any national plans by government to track and trace COVID-19 to build on councils’ existing local knowledge and skills on the ground, given our experience with local services such as environmental health, public health (including sexual health services) and infection control nurses.


Funding raised at PMQs

At Prime Minister’s Questions this week, LGA Vice-President Mike Amesbury MP (Lab, Weaver Vale) and Lillian Greenwood MP (Lab, Nottingham South) both highlighted the hard work of council staff across the country throughout the crisis, but also expressed concern that council budgets are being stretched despite the additional £3.2 billion funding from central government.

They asked the Prime Minister whether he could guarantee that the Government will cover all the costs incurred by councils in their response to the pandemic. Mr Johnson acknowledged the increased demand and pressure councils are facing and pointed to the initial funding the Government provided to local authorities

At Wednesday’s Number 10 press conference, led by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP, the regional press noted that some councils are finding that the £3.2 billion is not covering the costs they have already incurred. Mr Jenrick said he believed this funding is enough to cover the initial costs of the crisis. However, he added that he will be working with councils to ensure further costs of the crisis – such as economic disruption after the lockdown has been lifted – will be accounted for, and councils will be supported through this difficult period.


Waste and recycling 

The Government has published non-statutory guidance to local authorities on reopening household waste and recycling centres during the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance sets out the Government’s view on the need for recycling centres to open and what constitutes a reasonable journey. Importantly, the guidance notes that opening a recycling centre is a decision for individual local authorities.

Analysis from the fifth weekly survey into the impact of COVID-19 on local authority waste services shows that councils continue to provide the waste and recycling services that keep our communities running. However, there are reports of some local authorities (around 6 per cent) experiencing difficulties with putting collected recyclable materials into the market due to limits on the amounts some ‘offtakers’ (organisations that take away materials to recycle, repurpose or sell on) are able to accept. The LGA is raising these issues with central government.


Health inequalities

Evidence suggests that there is an association between ethnicity and the incidence of COVID-19 and adverse health outcomes more generally. Arising from this are concerns that healthcare and other key workers who belong to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups may be particularly at risk. The Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) is undertaking a rapid evidence review to evaluate plausible associations in the general population and people working in health and social care. Alongside this, Birmingham City Council and Lewisham Council have announced a joint review to gather insights on health inequalities within Black African and Caribbean communities in the two areas, asking ‘how do we break the cycle of inequality?’.

People in the poorest parts of England are dying from COVID-19 at twice the rate of those in the richest areas, according to new analysis from the Office for National Statistics. Public Health England (PHE) has launched a review to establish more robust data on the factors impacting the number of cases and health outcomes for different groups within the population. It will analyse how different factors – including ethnicity, gender, obesity and homelessness – can impact on people’s health outcomes from COVID-19. The LGA is taking part in the review and PHE plans to publish its findings later this month.


£76m for abuse victims

The Government has pledged £76 million to support the vulnerable during the coronavirus lockdown. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said the new funding would help vulnerable children and victims of domestic violence and modern slavery. Domestic abuse victims in England will be given priority for council housing, he also announced. The LGA has produced a resource for councils on tackling domestic abuse during the pandemic.


New homelessness taskforce

Dame Louise Casey is to lead a new taskforce advising the Government on the next steps of the emergency response to support vulnerable rough sleepers during the pandemic. Getting homeless people and rough sleepers off the streets during this outbreak has been a monumental effort by councils, with the Government recognising that 90 per cent of rough sleepers have now been offered safe accommodation.

Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman said: “Getting homeless people and rough sleepers off the streets has been a monumental effort by councils. They stand ready to work with Dame Louise Casey on a national plan to move them into safe housing after emergency measures are lifted. This must ensure they also have access to wider support they might need for substance dependency and help with benefits, skills and getting work.”


Vulnerable people and access to food

The consumer group Which? has warned that some vulnerable people are unable to access the food and basic supplies they need. The LGA’s response promoted councils’ efforts to protect those most vulnerable to the virus and to deliver food and supplies to those in the shielded group, as well as our support for the wider group of vulnerable people.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has provided a list of the current offers from commercial organisations, like supermarkets, that may assist councils supporting vulnerable people get access to food outside the shielded group identified by the NHS as clinically vulnerable. And the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed that councils will be receiving further datasets to inform their work supporting the shielded group, including data on where deliveries have been made, attempted or are planned.


Care home deaths

The latest official figures on deaths from COVID-19 in the community show that in the week to 1 May, a further 2,044 people died from the virus in care homes in England, bringing the total to 6,391 deaths since 10 April.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “This appalling loss of life in our care homes and communities is another stark reminder of just how much more must be done to protect our most elderly and vulnerable. Social care is the frontline in the fight against coronavirus and we need to do all we can to shield people in care homes and those receiving care in their own homes.”


New youth fund

The Youth Endowment Fund has launched a new £6.5 million fund to help support vulnerable children at risk of youth violence during the coronavirus emergency. Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “We are pleased this funding is being targeted towards vulnerable children at risk of youth violence and those at risk under the current social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines. Children’s social care referrals have fallen by more than half in some areas since stay-at-home guidance was issued, which is a serious concern.”


Leisure providers missing out on support

The LGA is warning that gyms and leisure providers face a crisis point as many aren’t eligible for the Government’s support packages. It has written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Oliver Dowden MP, calling for the Government to ensure leisure trusts have access to key funding to safeguard services.

It says leisure providers – many of whom are charities – must be able to access the new £750 million grant-based package for the charity and social enterprise sector. Local authorities are responsible for a third of swimming pools, 31 per cent of grass pitches,13 per cent of sports halls, and almost a fifth of all health and fitness facilities. The LGA’s advice note sets out how councils can immediately support leisure providers.


Surge in child protection referrals predicted

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield has said resources will be needed for councils and schools to meet the needs of thousands of pupils who are facing heightened risk during the UK's coronavirus lockdown when abuse and neglect is more likely to go unnoticed. Child protection referrals have plummeted by more than 50 per cent in some areas of England since the start of April.

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: "Councils are working with their partners and communities to try to identify children who may be at risk, and putting in place plans so that if referrals spike when children return to school, they are able to ensure children and families get the right help quickly. The impact of the pandemic on some children will be far-reaching, and it will be essential that the right services are there to support them."


Business support 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published its weekly update on the amount of funding distributed through the Small Business Grants Fund scheme and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund by each council. As of 3 May, £8.6 billion has been paid out to over 697,000 properties. This represents 70 per cent of the total allocation and 73 per cent of the total number of properties identified by councils as eligible to receive the grants.  


'Bounce back' loans for small businesses

The Government launched its Bounce Back Loan scheme on Monday, providing government-backed loans of up to £50,000 for small businesses, including sole traders. During the first 24 hours of the scheme the seven largest lenders approved 69,000 applications. The Government will cover the cost of fees and interest usually applied to businesses for the first 12 months.


VE Day 75

Councils across the country are helping residents find new ways to celebrate the 75th anniversary of ‘Victory in Europe’ day tomorrow (8 May). The LGA is encouraging all households to commemorate the occasion and share pictures and videos on social media using the hashtag #StayAtHomeParty. The COVID-19 outbreak means that there will be no street parties, parades or concerts this year.

There is lots of advice, tips and downloads available online for people to be able to take part from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Many councils have also developed their own toolkits and plans to celebrate locally. Wiltshire Council has uploaded a tooklit online, available to all residents, and Melton Borough Council is encouraging residents to commemorate VE Day by taking part in a ‘best dressed window’ competition – decorating their homes in red, white and blue with bunting and posters. 


Building safety

The leaders of 25 councils have pledged to ensure vital building safety improvements continue during the pandemic, where this can be done safely, to ensure the safety of those living in high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding is prioritised. They join the regional mayors who previously committed to the statement. The Government has provided sector specific guidance on how to apply social distancing in the workplace in England. Where work continues on-site, detailed guidance is available from the Construction Leadership Council on further reducing the risk, including measures for maintaining high standards of hygiene.


Rates revaluation deferred

The Government has announced that the next revaluation of business rates will no longer take place in 20201. It confirmed its commitment to more frequent revaluations but wants to provide more certainty to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As it currently stands, a revaluation would be required by law in 2022.

The Government also reaffirmed its commitment to a fundamental review of business rates with a view to reducing the overall burden on businesses, improving the current business rates system and considering more fundamental changes in the medium to long term. The terms of reference for this review were published alongside the Chancellor’s Budget in March. The Government intends to publish a call for evidence in the coming months, and the LGA will be seeking your views to help shape its submission to the review.


Special needs children ‘missing out’

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who do not have an education, health and care plan (EHCP) risk missing out on the provision they need, especially in mainstream schools that are under financial pressure, according to a report by the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee. Around 1.3 million children in England are recorded as having SEND, but only around 20 per cent have EHCPs, which set out what support they should receive, the report says.

In response, Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said councils had seen a near 50 per cent rise in children with EHCPs, adding: “The Government must use its planned review of the SEND system to ensure it works effectively for everyone. This must be accompanied by sufficient long-term funding for councils and the powers to hold partners to account for their work to support children and young people with SEND.”


Councils rev up UK bonds market

A group of 30 councils – including Westminster and Barnsley councils – are to group together to issue three bonds this year through the UK Municipal Bonds Agency (UKMBA). It comes two months after the UKMBA, set up with investments from 52 councils and the LGA, issued its first ever bond.


Pothole-related breakdowns up 64 per cent

Vehicle breakdowns caused by potholes increased by nearly two-thirds during the first three months of 2020, new figures suggest. Cllr David Renard, LGA Transport Spokesman, warned that local roads are “deteriorating at a faster rate than can be repaired by councils”. He called for devolved infrastructure and transport budgets to ensure funding is allocated in advance for five years.


Adult social care

Working with the Better Care Support Team and Emergency Care Improvement Support Team, we have developed a joint offer of support to local health and care partners around the enhanced discharge arrangements. The offer covers briefings, advice, webinars and good practice guides as well as bespoke support to help councils, care providers and health partners with implementing any aspects of the discharge arrangements, assess impact of implementation or address challenges. These slides show more detail and how to access the support.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has launched a new app for the adult social care workforce. This aims to act as a single digital hub for social care workers to access relevant updates, guidance, support and discounts from their phone.

DHSC also plans to publish new mental wellbeing guidance which will include bespoke advice for care workers. We have worked with NHS England and Improvement to produce a comprehensive pack of information to support the wellbeing of social care managers and staff during this difficult time.


Children and education

The Department for Education (DfE) has now published updated guidance for children’s social care to reflect amendments to regulations, as well as a number of pieces of guidance for schools and education leaders on subjects including remote learning in education, adapting teaching practice and the curriculum for remote education and; supporting the wellbeing of primary school pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The full list of guidance published can be found on the DfE website.


Workplace social distancing

The Government has published updated guidance for employers on social distancing in the workplace during COVID-19. The guidance provides tailored advice for different scenarios as an example of how social distancing and other measures might be implemented by employers in England to help protect their workforce and customers while continuing to trade. More workplace guidance is expected next week.


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 updated our FAQs on personal protective equipment (PPE).


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.


Communications support

The LGA has produced a range of tools and case studies to help councils improve their COVID-19 communications with residents. Recent updates to our communications hub include community support (Staffordshire County Council’s emergency food parcel scheme and Redbridge Council’s coronavirus information hub); and resident communications (Medway Council thanks residents, partners and staff, Leicestershire County Council’s ‘can your waste wait?’ campaign, Braintree District Council’s heroes campaign, and the Derbyshire Spirit campaign).



The Government has confirmed today that parents who are normally eligible for 30 hours free childcare or tax-free childcare will remain eligible for these entitlements during the summer term even if their income falls below the usual requirement due to COVID-19. Councils have also been asked to extend the validity dates on 30 hours codes received by parents who are critical workers during the summer term so that those who are eligible can still access the childcare offer even if they missed their reconfirmation date or application deadline of 31 March 2020.


Funerals, burials and cremations

The LGA has launched a new webpage which brings together guidance and resources related to death management, registration services and coroner services . One of the resources is a new flowchart which outlines the current death registration process and highlights the changes made to the process by the Coronavirus Act.

The Environment Agency has published new guidance for protecting groundwater when developing or expanding cemeteries during COVID-19. According to the guidance, local authorities do not need to apply for an environmental permit for a new cemetery development or the expansion of an existing site. The guidance will apply until 31 October 2020.



Networks of hackers are targeting organisations responding to the pandemic by deploying COVID-19 related scams, ministers have said. The Government is working with the targets and potential targets of these attacks to make sure they are aware of the cyber threat against them. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and the US Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency have published a joint warning about these and advice for local government, health care bodies and pharmaceutical bodies. 


Counter-terrorism campaign

There have been some concerns about an increased risk of individuals being drawn into violent extremism or terrorism as a result of measures to tackle the pandemic. Counter-terrorism police have launched a campaign to ensure that those who might be vulnerable get the support they need. The ‘‘Let's Talk About It” website has advice on what signs to look out for and how to access help, as well as guidance on staying safe online.


NHS Reset campaign

The NHS has launched a new campaign, NHS Reset, aiming to re-envisage the future of health and care post COVID-19. The campaign aims to lead the public debate on what the health and care system should look like in the future. They are encouraging local partners to join this conversation and share their own learnings and experience. The fact that the NHS Confederation is positioning this as across health and care, despite the title, is welcome and we will be discussing with them how we might work together to develop this in our shared interests.