Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

11 May 2020

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Dear Colleague,

I’m sure you will have joined the nation in tuning into last night’s address by the Prime Minister setting out the Government’s plans for the next phase of tackling the pandemic, and then spent much of today working out the implications for your communities. In his address the Prime Minister set out some information on the Government’s conditional roadmap to reopening society, which has been elaborated on today in a 60-page document setting out how and when the UK will adjust its response to the crisis.

In our media response we highlighted once again how councils’ role as leaders of place during this pandemic has been vital. With an unprecedented scale of economic, environmental and community challenges facing our nation, you will be at the forefront of the next phase to support the national efforts to defeat the virus.

We continue to share local government’s perspective as we engage on your behalf with Ministers and officials in central Government. If you think we should be raising a particular issue, please let us know by emailing or get in touch with your Principal Adviser. We would also be grateful if you could share with us any innovative ways you are preparing for the next phase of the response, as we are looking to build up our catalogue of good council practice to help local authorities navigate this changing environment.

Below is our usual summary of the latest developments from the past few days, which includes some further information on the easing of ‘stay at home’ measures under the usual headers. Of course, as further advice and guidance materialises over the next few days we will communicate this to you in these regular updates:

The next phase 

As you will have seen, for the next phase the Government has set out a stepped approach to lifting the emergency measures. From Wednesday people in England will be allowed to spend more leisure time outside, provided they comply with social distancing guidelines. In a bid to kickstart the economy, the Prime Minister said anyone who cannot work from home should be encouraged to return to work. From Wednesday, food retailers and food markets, hardware stores, garden centres and certain other retailers can remain open.

Day trips to outdoor open space, in a private vehicle, are permitted but people leaving their home to stay at another home for a holiday or other purpose is not allowed. This includes visiting second homes.

From 1 June at the earliest, there could be a phased reopening of shops and some primary aged pupils and children in early years settings could return to school, with thought also being given to how years 10 and 12 can return to school. From 4 July, some hospitality businesses and other public places could reopen “but only if supported by science”. A new COVID-19 Alert System with five levels is to govern how quickly restrictions can be eased.

We are expecting the Government to issue COVID-19 secure guidance for public spaces shortly, and also further guidance on the approach that will be taken to phasing, including which businesses will be covered in each phase and the timeframes involved.

The following has been published today to provide advice on the updated measures:

We expect further guidance to be published in the coming days, which is likely to include official advice that a visit to household waste and recycling centres is an appropriate reason to travel. This follows many councils re-opening their sites this morning. We also understand that the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 will be amended in the coming days to reflect the latest measures.

On enforcement, the fines for breaking the rules will be £100 (£50 if paid early, compared to £60/£30 previously). We are in contact with organisations including the Office for Product Safety and Standards regarding revised enforcement guidance for councils as the current restrictions begin to be eased. We understand that it is not currently the plan for councils to check compliance with the new 14 day isolation period for inbound travellers.

Ministerial announcements

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. He was joined by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance. The Prime Minister began by referring to the Government’s new COVID alert level system, which will see the level of social distancing measures in place determined by the rate of infection (R) and the number of COVID-19 cases. Mr Johnson then discussed the three steps that will see the UK move from level four to level three of the alert system over the coming months, of which the first will begin on Wednesday, should the rate of infection and number of cases continue to decrease.

This first step will see people who cannot work from home speak to their employer about returning to work. People will be able to exercise outdoors for as long as they like and are permitted to meet one person from outside their household outdoors provided they stay two metres apart. The Prime Minister then took questions from members of the public and media.

Of course, the major announcements from the long weekend were contained in the Prime Ministerial address on Sunday evening.  Mr Johnson also updated on the next steps in the efforts against COVID-19 in an address to MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon.

Saturday’s press conference was led by the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps. He warned of the capacity constraints facing our public transport services which he said would only be at 10 per cent of standard capacity to allow for social distancing. He updated on funding and announced a series of measures to promote walking and cycling in our communities – you can read more in the ‘public transport’ section below.

Friday’s press conference was led by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice. He updated that more than a million food parcels have been delivered to the ‘shielded’ people in the extremely clinically vulnerable category, who have also been offered priority supermarket delivery slots. Mr Eustice also announced £16 million in funding to support charities feeding some of the most vulnerable. You can read more in the ‘vulnerable people’ section below.

Test, track and trace

In a positive response to the calls of councils and the LGA, Ministers have asked local directors of public health to take charge of COVID-19 testing in English care homes. Further details of this process has been set out in a letter from the Care Minister, Helen Whately, to councils.

This is an important recognition of the local knowledge and expertise of local government’s public health teams. Yesterday we called on Government to go a step further and share crucial tracing data with councils, to help ensure vital national efforts to track and trace coronavirus succeed. This was covered in a page lead on contact tracing in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday (may be behind the 'paywall').

The new online portal for care homes to arrange COVID-19 testing has now been launched. All symptomatic and asymptomatic care home staff and residents in England are now eligible for testing. Testing will be prioritised for care homes that look after the over 65s.

Meanwhile, Baroness Dido Harding has been appointed to lead the programme of testing and tracing as part of the Government’s ongoing response to COVID-19. Our initial discussions with Baroness Harding about the need to root approaches in local communities have been well-received.  We expect more news about her proposed approach shortly and will, of course, keep you updated.

Personal protective equipment

The Government has announced that it is ramping up its efforts to both procure and produce personal protective equipment (PPE). New collaborations with companies mean that NHS and social care staff in the UK are set to receive millions of items of personal protective equipment over the coming months.

In the Government’s roadmap published today, it states “the Government is stepping in to support supply and distribution of PPE to the care sector, delivering essential supplies to care homes, hospices, residential rehabs and community care organisations”. We are not aware at this time of the specific detail on how the delivery of PPE is expected to change and will seek clarity on this as a matter of urgency. Until further advice is received, we will continue to call for the Government’s online PPE ordering system to be fully operational as soon as possible, so that councils and care providers can directly request that critical protective equipment gets to the frontline where it is desperately needed. Please do keep us in touch with the picture from your local area so we can continue to feed this in to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Additionally, quality remains a concern. The Government has sent an urgent alert to recall 15.8 million protective goggles due to safety concerns. We also warned that councils have recorded a 40 per cent increase in reported scams since the start of the national emergency, with officers continuing to seize illegal and shoddy PPE products – including more than half a million substandard face masks by one council alone.

Face coverings

The latest guidance includes official advice that, where people can, they should wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing is not possible and where they will come into contact with people they do not normally meet. The advice is that this is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example on public transport or in some shops. The Government has today published information on wearing face coverings, which includes step-by-step guidance outlining how people can make a simple cloth face cloth using either a t-shirt or cotton fabric. Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of two or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary school age children fitting them unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

It is very clear that a ‘face covering’ is not the same as surgical masks or respirators, and that scarce PPE should be reserved for those who need it in the workplace such as health and care workers.

Adult social care

The Government’s ‘recovery strategy’ includes welcome recognition of the “extraordinary efforts” of health and social care workers and of the need to continue to bolster these services. The strategy covers a number of key issues facing social care that are covered elsewhere in this bulletin, including PPE supply and testing.

Deaths of adult social care staff

The latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that social care workers are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than healthcare workers. This data  include COVID-19 related deaths, broken down by occupation. As we said in our media response, these shocking figures are another tragic reminder about the essential need for our vital social care workers to be fully protected and equipped to look after themselves, as well as our most elderly and vulnerable residents.

DHSC has today sent a letter asking employers (including councils) to inform them if a care worker has sadly died as a result of COVID-19. They would like the information where deaths have already occurred, and if there are any further deaths. The process involves a request to send details of the name of the deceased person, their job role, the name of their employer, names of local authority(s) in which they worked, their date of death and whether COVID-19 is confirmed or suspected to

Employers are encouraged to inform the family, friends or colleagues of the care worker who has died that they are submitting this information. There is no legal duty on employers to submit this information to DHSC, but by submitting this information, DHSC will be able to report the deaths of workers in social care more accurately.

DHSC is clear that they will continue to engage with local government and care providers to give the opportunity for appropriate commemorative actions to be taken, depending on the family and employer’s wishes. Collecting information on the deaths of care workers will help them to do this, but is only the first step, and they expect to update councils on further steps to support employers and families in due course.

Please note that this process is distinct from the Government’s new NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020. The Life Assurance Scheme will be administered by the NHS Business Services Authority, and further information will be shared shortly. This process is also distinct from reporting processes required in health and safety law. All providers of adult social care who are employers must report COVID-19 workplace deaths that meet the criteria published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in its guidance ‘RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19’. This relates to employers’ duties under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013, known as ‘RIDDOR’.

If you have any queries regarding this process, please send them to

Media enquiries on discharges to care homes

The Sunday Times is researching the numbers of people in the UK who have been transferred from hospitals to care homes every month from January 2019 to April 2020. Your communications teams may have received an email asking for any local data you might hold. We are talking to the journalist to try and understand more about the story they are planning. In some of our recent conversations with its sister title, The Times, journalists have been exploring the suggestion that councils may have moved people from hospitals into care homes when they are not sure if it is safe, as a result of the need to alleviate pressure on the NHS. Of course, our communications will make clear that it is the NHS that is requiring councils to quickly move people from hospitals to care homes. It would helpful to know how and if you have responded to the Sunday Times. Please email and we will keep you updated on anything we find out.

Vulnerable people

The Government is clear that those who are deemed ‘clinically vulnerable’ should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household.  Those who are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ should continue shielding measures to keep themselves safe by staying at home and avoiding all contact with others, except for essential medical treatment or support.

On Saturday, the Government announced £16 million in funding to support charities feeding some of the most vulnerable. This includes refuges, homeless shelters and rehabilitation services, with the programme being led by the charities FareShare and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). This government press release includes a reference to councils offering support and advice to those who do not have friends or family nearby to help. This government press release includes a reference to councils offering support and advice to those who do not have friends or family nearby to help.


You may recall that the Government has secured a number of priority online delivery slots with Tesco and Iceland for the non-shielded vulnerable cohort. This is in addition to the existing work underway for the shielded population. Defra have this week launched a trial system with 15 councils, and are looking for another 35 to test the second phase which they hope to commence in the week beginning 18 May. This will be focusing on testing a semi-automated system to gain access to the online platform to allow councils to refer people for a delivery slot. Following successful running of this phase, Defra are expecting to roll out to all other interested councils over the remainder of May.

Defra have developed an online form which you can use to register your interest, stating whether you wish to join the second phase of the trial, or the general rollout. If you have any questions about this, please contact the Department directly by emailing

Defra have also confirmed that the document I shared last week, which captures available commercial food offers in one place, is now available and being updated online.

Children and education

The Government’s recovery strategy sets out that schools should prepare to begin to open for more children from 1 June. From this point, they expect children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller class sizes. Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face-to-face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, to support their continued remote, home learning.

To complement this, the DfE has this evening published updated guidance for schools and other educational settings. This includes information on how educational and childcare settings should prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020. They have also published some answers to frequently asked questions from parents and carers and guidance on issues including school transport, attendance, remote education and free school meals.

Along with our Chairman, Cllr James Jamieson, I discussed the Government's goals with the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, this afternoon. He is intent on continuing the discussion about this very important aspect of the Government's plans with us in the coming weeks. The Department of Education will also engage closely with schools and early years providers to develop further detail and guidance on how schools should facilitate the Government's ambition for all primary school children to spend some time in school before the summer if feasible, a proposal which will be kept under review.

Children will not be required to wear face coverings (more above) at school, with children under the age of two in early years settings told not to wear them at all. Further advice on protective measures in schools will be published in the coming weeks.

Ofsted has published new guidance for local authorities and registered providers on fast-tracking applications to register as children’s homes services.

The Minister of State for Security, James Brokenshire, has written to technology companies to ask for their support a campaign to help keep children safe online in this rapidly changing environment. He has asked that they share key trends and insights that they are seeing at this time, as well as information on the safeguards and protective measures they are putting in place.

Public transport, highways and parking

This weekend, the Government encouraged the public to continue to work from home if they can. For those who need to travel to work the Government have urged them to consider more active ways to travel like walking and cycling to relieve pressure on public transport. To do this, the Government has set out a plan to reallocate road space to help encourage this form of travel to work. Local authorities will have a key role to play in this and the Government has made guidance for councils available.

The Government is keen to encourage cycling and walking through new infrastructure such as pop-up bike lanes, protected space for cyclists, wider pavements, safer junctions and bus-only corridors. This will be supported by a £250 million emergency active travel fund. This is the first stage of a £2 billion investment, as part of the £5 billion in previously announced funding for cycling and buses. We expect that the initial allocations will be done on a formula allocation, however this is yet to be confirmed.

The Government’s drive to encourage people to choose greener forms of transport also includes bringing forward the e-scooter trials from next year to next month, with the trial being launched in the West Midlands. All areas in the country can also now apply to host a trial.

Drivers will be encouraged to purchase electric vehicles with an extra £10 million being committed to the on street residential chargepoint scheme which will allow councils to install new devices.

Apps are also being developed which will help people track transport capacity and advise on alternative modes of travel.

We responded to these announcements to say that we are pleased the Government has announced measures to allow councils to help the country transition to the new way we will need to travel around, including to and from work.

Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, has launched a new Space to Move tool. Space to Move is a map-based website which invites people to feedback on temporary, local changes to road layout that support walking and cycling which affect them. It is a UK-wide tool which collects local level data. Councils may find it helpful to gather feedback on any changes they make as a result of this weekend’s announcements.

Phased approach to return to work 

As expected, the Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy takes a cautious, gradual approach to opening more workplaces from 13 May. As set out in the section on transport above, people are urged to walk, cycle and use cars rather than public transport to get to work where possible.

The plan stresses that as soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new ‘COVID-19 Secure’ guidelines, which were published this evening. These guidelines include measures that were unlikely to be effective when the virus was so widespread that full stay-at-home measures were required, but that may now have some effect as the public increase the number of social contacts. This includes, for example, advising the use of face coverings in enclosed public areas where social distancing is not always possible.

There are also eight guides to cover a range of different types of work. These cover construction, factories, homes, research facilities, offices, restaurants offering takeaway of delivery, shops and vehicles.

The core guidance around work in this phase is that:

  • For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible. This will help minimise the number of social contacts across the country and therefore keep transmissions as low as possible. People who are able to work at home make it possible for people who have to attend workplaces in person to do so while minimising the risk of overcrowding on transport and in public places.
  • All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and non-essential retail, which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed.
  • People are advised to reduce the number of people they spend time with in a work setting. Employers are encouraged to support this where possible by changing shift patterns and rotas accordingly. More information may be forthcoming in the guidance due to be issued later this week.

As mentioned above, shielded groups must of course remain shielded and the wider group of vulnerable people including pregnant women and those with pre-existing chronic conditions such as diabetes, which will include many staff, should continue to stay at home as much as possible.

We will be working out the full implications of this guidance on councils in your role as employers, and will be providing further updates in the coming days.

Mental Health Act

In response to COVID-19, CQC is prioritising complaints about the Mental Health Act from or about people who are currently detained on an inpatient ward in hospital in order to focus on protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable people. All other Mental Health Act complaints – new or existing – will be reviewed, but may be paused during the coronavirus outbreak. CQC will continue to share this information with their inspection teams as part of their regulatory and monitoring work. 

Domestic abuse

Charities can now bid for a share of the £10 million in funding to support victims of domestic abuse that was announced by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, last week. This funding is part of a £76 million package of government support for the most vulnerable in society, including those affected by domestic abuse. Only charities providing domestic abuse safe accommodation (including refuges) in England can apply for this funding. The full prospectus is available here. The deadlines for submitting bids are 21 May 2020.

Today’s Government’s guidance on staying alert and safe confirms there are a number of reasons people may need to leave home during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those escaping risk of harm. The guidance states that a person may also leave or be outside of their home in order to access other critical public services, such as social services and support provided to victims (among other services).

The LGA’s guide on tackling domestic abuse during the pandemic has now been updated to reflect the new funding announcements and the Government’s updated guidance.

Culture, hospitality, tourism and leisure

Today’s announcements of the recovery strategy make it clear that most leisure and hospitality businesses, including leisure centres, will need to wait until ‘step 3’ before they reopen.

The exceptions are outdoor facilities like golf courses, tennis courts and basketball courts, which - as of Wednesday 13 May - can safely be reopened for people to exercise with members of their household, or up to one person outside their household while keeping two metres apart at all times. However, playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment must remain closed and unused.

The LGA is working with government agencies and hospitality membership associations to develop plans for reopening these sectors safely, and providing reassurance to the public about returning to those experiences.

Local government finances

As I mentioned in my bulletin on Thursday, the Public Accounts Committee are conducting an inquiry on local authority commercial investments. The inquiry follows a National Audit Office report which highlighted a £6.6 billion estimated local authority spend on commercial property from 2016/17 to 2018/19. In his evidence to the Committee this afternoon, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA Resources Board said councils invest commercially for a variety of reasons, including to shape local places through regeneration. He added that councils undertake such investments to address some of the financial challenges they have faced over the past decade and that many of these challenges are still in place. Cllr Watts cautioned against making it more difficult for councils to borrow, including through the Public Works Loan Board which could significantly impact their ability to deliver housing for local communities. The PAC will be putting the issues raised in today’s session as well as other information received from MPs and councils to MHCLG officials on Friday.

The Committee also posed a number of questions about the impact of COVID-19 on council finances. Cllr Watts welcomed the £3.2 billion worth of funding received from Government but added that current evidence suggests that councils would need three to four times this amount to fully address the cost pressures arising from the pandemic. The Committee were sympathetic about the need for councils to have greater certainty on their funding.

Government’s data requirements from councils

Since this emergency response began, we have been lobbying for central government departments to reduce the burden on authorities caused by routine data collections. As a result, all bodies responsible for data collections itemised in the latest Single Data List (SDL) have reviewed them and many have been paused or cancelled outright. Only those deemed to be essential to the conduct of government business, or to contribute to the Government’s COVID-19 response will be continued. We are continuing to make representations where we come across any collections underway which do not appear to meet those criteria, and so please share with us any examples you have, via

Procurement and supply chain

The Government issued guidance at the end of last week that may be of interest to your procurement teams and contract managers. The guidance outlines a number of recommendations on contractual behaviour where it may be impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. In summary, the Government is strongly encouraging everyone involved in new or ongoing contracts to act responsibly and fairly in the national interest in performing and enforcing their contracts, to support the emergency response and to protect jobs and the economy.

Town and parish councils

Parish, town and community councils provide valuable support to their communities at the most local level. The National Association of Local Councils has produced a document including 40 case studies of action and initiatives taken at parish and town council level to support their communities during the COVID-19 crisis. This may be of interest to councils who work with parish and town councils in your areas.

Parliament this week

We continue to promote councils’ efforts and to press for the powers, flexibilities and funding you need to support your communities in our engagement with MPs and Peers.

We briefed MPs ahead of today’s general debate on COVID-19 to call on the Treasury to build on its support for councils so far, by providing local government with adequate funding to ensure our financial position remains viable.

MPs and Peers are also considering homelessness this week, with the Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Luke Hall today giving evidence to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee about the impact of COVID-19 on homelessness and the private rented sector and on Thursday, Peers will be debating housing and homelessness support after the pandemic. We will be briefing Peers ahead of this to highlight the important work of councils in getting 90 per cent of rough sleepers off the streets and into safe accommodation. Finally, we will also brief Peers ahead of a debate on food supply and security in the UK in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elsewhere in our parliamentary activity this week, the team will be finalising our submissions to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry on ‘remediation of buildings with dangerous cladding’, the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry on ‘online harms’ and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee inquiry on ‘flooding’.

I hope this summary was helpful, as you seek to navigate all the latest information. Of course, we will be spending the next few days working out the full implications of the new and proposed measures on local government. That will involve resolving your queries and concerns with central government, working out how best we can support you and negotiate for what you tell us will help you support your communities.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd