Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

15 May 2020

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Dear Colleague,

It has been another hectic week for local government, as we all seek to put the necessary measures in place to implement the relaxing of the stay at home measures and plan for what that may look like in the coming weeks. In particular, I know carefully preparing for the proposed re-opening of early years settings and schools for some classes from 1 June – if the infection data backs this up at that point – is something that is preoccupying councils and schools’ time. It is also making parents and staff particularly anxious, and we have been making the case that plans to reopen educational settings must focus on reassuring parents that it will be safe for children to return. Education union leaders have today met with the Chief Medical Officer and other experts to hear the reasons for this, and we joined this call. This SAGE evidence has now been published. We have been pushing for councils to have the powers to take action, including potentially closing provision where testing indicates clusters of new COVID-19 cases.  Cllr Judith Blake, the Chair of our Children and Young People Board, has been making these points in her media appearances today.

Given the leading role council services – including children’s services, adult social care, homelessness support and services that support the most vulnerable – are playing at the forefront of tackling the pandemic, it is vital that they are sufficiently and sustainably funded. The extra funding councils have secured from the Government so far will be helpful, and the Secretary of State has promised that councils will get all the resources you need to cope with this pandemic. This commitment must be rock-solid and include the full cost to councils of meeting COVID-19 pressures and to keep services running normally, and compensation for all lost income. We estimate this could be up to four times the funding allocated so far. We have been working closely with the Sunday Times this week, alongside some of your councils, on the need for this to be explicitly guaranteed by the Government and demonstrated with ongoing and consistent funding in the weeks and months ahead. Hopefully this will result in some good coverage this weekend to support our negotiations.

On finances, a quick reminder that the Government’s second round of the COVID-19 financial management information survey closes at 11pm tonight.

I hope you have a peaceful weekend planned. Given the change in the Government’s advice which means day trips to outdoor open spaces in private vehicles are now permitted, I know many councils representing coastal and tourist hotspots are concerned that many members of the public may descend on your areas over coming weekends. This could particularly be the case if the weather stays fine and sunny. This poses a particular challenge for those councils responsible for beach safety, as the new measures also permit swimming in either lakes or the sea providing social distancing is observed and allows all forms of water sports on open water. However, given that the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) has suspended lifeguard provision and there are currently no lifeguards on the 240 beaches that it normally patrols, visitors are advised not to enter the water where no lifeguard provision is present and to read safety information provided locally.

Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week, with a particular theme around kindness. I know councils have a lot planned given our dual roles as employers and community leaders. You can read more about our range of resources and our webinar to support your work below.

Given our increasing workload and responsibilities as we seek to get to grips with the pace and scale of this unprecedented crisis, it is particularly important for senior colleagues in councils to take time to look after our own wellbeing. A recent blog on leadership resilience by Jim McManus, Director of Public Health at Hertfordshire County Council, may be of interest to colleagues. We have also interviewed Jim and will share the video through @LGAComms. His ‘top tips to managers’ may be of particular interest – and he will be speaking at next week’s webinar (more on that below). The coaching and mentoring support offer we have developed with Solace may also be of interest in bridging any professional gaps or challenges you are facing with capacity and expertise during this time.

Below is our usual update on the latest happenings of interest to local government, as well as on our activity on your behalf:

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock. He was joined by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, and NHS Medical Director, Dr Nikita Kanani.

On care homes, the Health Secretary said that residents and staff in England, whether they have symptoms or not, will be tested between now and early June. The Government has set up a digital service to enable care homes to apply online for testing kits and an additional £600 million will be made available to councils to help control the infection.

Mr Hancock said that two-thirds of care homes no longer have outbreaks and the number of care home deaths have halved. He added that the Government is putting in place a named clinical lead for every care home in England. The lead will assess residents and support care homes with clinical advice, which Mr Hancock says is the most intense support and scrutiny care homes have ever received. Councils will also be required to conduct regular reviews into care homes, and care homes will themselves now be required to provide timely and accurate data to enable local and national government to support them.

You can read more about the Government’s plans in the ‘adult social care’ section below.

Mr Hancock said the pandemic has acted as a “catalyst” for bringing together health and social care in their “common mission” to care for people.

On the R number, Dr Jenny Harries added that for the first time the Government has published the latest ‘R’ number range for the UK. This ‘R’ reproduction number is the average number of secondary infections produced by 1 infected person. This is currently 0.7-1.0. In the coming weeks and months, the 'R' number will be updated every week on the Government Office for Science website.

Adult social care

The Care Homes Resilience Plan and £600 million in new funding to councils to support infection control in care homes was the focus of this evening’s Number 10 Press Conference. The announcement set out the support the government has or is putting in place to support care homes, particularly in relation to PPE and testing, as well as that available from councils and the NHS.

The announcement also detailed how the local resilience plans will assure Ministers that care homes are getting the support they need. As we highlighted yesterday, the local plans are also an opportunity to demonstrate the excellent work being done with care providers and between local authorities and the NHS while also identifying the financial and operational challenges (some beyond our control), in managing staff groups and residents to keep them safe. The plans will include a data return, and care home providers are required to provide a timely flow of data to enable government to challenge or act. Comprehensive information is vital to support better local planning and action. 

We know that some of these new measures will need ongoing funding and resources beyond what has already been made available to councils and providers. It is therefore good news that Government has committed to working with councils on future funding support, but we have continued to stress that this needs to be made available as soon as possible to help meet increasing demand and costs. We have been clear that other aspects of care homes which councils do not have direct control over, such as the long-term future of the care home market, need to be met by the Government. 

Our Care and Health Improvement Programme can offer support to you in undertaking your review of support and facilitating local conversations, as well as to advise and input into webinars and other advice. 

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics sadly show there were 12,526 deaths of care home residents involving COVID-19 between 2 March and 1 May. This provides a further painful reminder of how many older and vulnerable people have lost their lives to this dreadful virus, and how social care is on the frontline against the spread of infection. While we have started to see some encouraging signs that infection rates and fatalities are falling, we need to continue doing all we can to shield those in our care homes and those who receive care in their own homes. This is why the LGA is continuing to call for the online PPE ordering system to be fully operational as soon as possible and for councils to receive vital and up-to-date data as part of the new contact tracing programme.

Meanwhile, in healthcare, NHS England has sent out a roadmap to safely bring back routine operations. Over the coming weeks patients who need important planned procedures – including surgery - will begin to be scheduled for that care, with specialists prioritising those with the most urgent clinical need. They will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days and be clear of any symptoms before being admitted. Testing will also be increasingly offered to those waiting to be admitted, to provide further certainty for patients and staff that they are COVID-free.

Schools re-opening

We know that you remain concerned about how schools will be able to impose strict social distancing measures.  This is particularly the case with younger and more vulnerable children, which poses a potential threat to staff and other children’s families if they take the virus home with them. Listening to concerns raised by the LGA and others, the Department for Education (DfE) has now published an overview of scientific advice on Covid-19, which draws on information from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and its sub-group the Children’s Task and Finish Working Group, as well as the broader advice from engagement with Public Health England.

In our media release published today, we are pressing for some schools to be able to take their own decisions about reopening - in consultation with their councils. For example, in communities where there is higher risk, such as those with a high proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents. We are also asking for councils to be given powers to close schools with new clusters of COVID-19 to further ensure the safety of students, teachers and their families.

I know that making sure that councils have a role in safely reopening schools is something that is shared by many councils, with more 1000 councillors signing a statement from the National Education Union today. This statement also calls for greater support for local authorities to help vulnerable families and for free school meals to be provided throughout the school holidays. These are points we have repeatedly been raising with Ministers and officials at the DfE.

The Department for Education has issued guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of PPE. This includes information on where PPE is required, effective infection protection and control, testing and guidance for specific settings.

A planning guide for primary schools has also been issued to help school leaders prepare to open their schools for more pupils during the coronavirus outbreak. The guidance covers a whole range of topics, from preparing the school site and reviewing staffing plans, to practical steps to reducing risk and managing pupil and staff wellbeing and mental health.

Children's Services

A new survey from the NSPCC reveals that over a quarter of adults are unsure where to seek help about suspected child abuse, despite worries about the heightened risks to young people during the pandemic. A nationwide campaign is encouraging people to report any concerns to the NSPCC helpline, which will be passed to councils where relevant.

We continue to share your concerns about the falling referrals to children’s social care. In our conversations with central government and our parliamentary and media activity, we have promoted councils’ efforts to identify children who may be at risk and to put in place plans to ensure that if referrals spike when children return to school, they are able to ensure children and families get the right help quickly. We are also calling for councils to receive the funding needed to support children, young people and families both during the current phase of the crisis, and through the recovery period.


A number of you have recently contacted us to raise concerns about a possible relaxation of the Government’s initial commitment to ensuring that everyone sleeping rough and in high-risk accommodation is safely accommodated. This issue was also raised in a media story published yesterday and MHCLG have responded to reiterate their position that councils should continue to provide safe accommodation for those who need it. They assert that any suggestion funding is being withdrawn is incorrect.

We have asked the Government to provide urgent clarity to all councils on the current status of the “everyone in” policy (in particular for those who have been accommodated above and beyond statutory duties). We are also asking for re-clarification of the Government’s commitment to fully recompense councils for the ongoing costs of accommodation and associated support and clarity on the time period to which the funding commitment applies.

In the longer-term, we want to work with the Government, and Dame Louise Casey’s new taskforce, to establish a national plan to move rough sleepers currently being housed in temporary accommodation into long-term, 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.

Test, track and trace

You will have seen the announcement that Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, has been asked to lead a part of the new integrated national and local “test, track and trace” programme. This aims to ensure that there are effective connections between the national programme, local government and local systems, including democratic oversight of local plans. Whilst this is a significant challenge, it is a great opportunity for local government to be represented in the design stage. Local capacity, especially public health, working with the NHS, Environmental Health and other local services to support people self-isolating and manage outbreaks will be crucial.

Tom brings the local government and place perspective into the implementation plan so these arrangements make sense on the ground as part of the wider workings across councils, health and the voluntary sector. Joining up local, regional and national responses is essential to have effective outbreak management plans given it is vital to the successful and sustained easing of lockdown restrictions. The role of directors of public health in ensuring this works locally will be key, given they work across local and regional systems with councils, NHS and Public Health England. Tom is keen to encourage that outbreak planning becomes everyone’s responsibility through this next phase.

Tom is already engaging with colleagues and building on the excellent work to date of the Association Directors of Public Health (ADPH), Solace, ADASS, Chief Environmental Health Officers Group and other professional associations. His role is part of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), but involves working right across Government, providing other opportunities to influence how policy works in practice. Tom is particularly interested in your perspective about how best to use local outbreak plans as a way of bringing a more integrated approach to testing, tracing and containment, with good public engagement, so that there is a proactive approach to minimising the effect of outbreaks on local health and economic wellbeing. Tom is also interested in your perspective on data sharing, the quality of surveillance between national agencies and local councils, and how the local testing programme could be joined up more effectively.

We are providing some support to Tom in his role which sits alongside his continuing duties in Leeds. Tom is in the process of establishing a Leader-chaired advisory group. At this early stage, please do drop Tom a note if you have any particular ideas you want to feed in – please email and we can pass this onto him. I will keep you updated through our LGA updates.

Businesses re-opening

Businesses planning to reopen under the latest government guidance are being warned that hot and cold water systems left inactive for several weeks can increase the risk of Legionnaire’s disease. We teamed up with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health to support its press release urging businesses to carry out vital safety processes to their water systems before reopening.

Local government finances

HM Treasury have been consulting on the arrangements for local authorities to borrow from the Public Works Loans Board (PLWB). Members of our Resources Board considered our response earlier this week and highlighted several problems with the proposals, as well as calling for some immediate changes to help councils with cash flow in the COVID-19 crisis and for the consultation to be extended. Under the proposals it will be harder for councils to borrow from PWLB to fund priority capital schemes (such as for housing) and it will place PWLB officials in the position of adjudicating decisions that are a matter for elected councillors. Today HM Treasury have announced that they are pushing back the consultation deadline by two months to 31 July. We will call on the Treasury to use the extension to work with councils to develop more helpful approaches given the challenges our country now faces.

Council workforce

The National Joint Council for local government services has today issued a further circular containing updates on issues related to COVID-19; the government’s recovery guidance; abuse of employees; working at home tax relief; and annual leave.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week. We have collated a range of resources on promoting good mental wellbeing and tackling isolation on our COVID-19 web hub (the ‘mental health’ drop down). This includes the guide we have jointly produced with the Association of Directors of Public Health on the public mental health and wellbeing issues arising from the outbreak, and our pack of wellbeing information to support the wellbeing of social care staff during this time, produced jointly with NHS England. There is also a range of resources from the Government and organisations including Carers UK, the Children’s Society, Mind, Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society.

On Thursday 21 May we will also be hosting a webinar on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our communities during COVID-19. To help councils think through their local responses, this webinar will explore the public mental health and wellbeing impacts of COVID-19 across the life course and share how councils are working with partners to support people’s mental health and wellbeing both in this immediate phase and looking ahead to recovery. Speakers include Cllr Teresa Heritage, Vice-Chairman, LGA Children and Young People Board, Professor Jim McManus, Director of Public Health, Hertfordshire County Council, Vice-President, Association of Directors of Public Health and Kadra Abdinasir, Head of Children and Young People’s Mental Health, Centre for Mental Health Peer Power Experts. You can book your place on the Zoom webinar, which is free to all councils and Government Departments, on the LGA website.

If you have any issues facing your services or wider community, please do continue to email us on This really does help inform our engagement on your behalf. Please also continue to liaise with your Principal Adviser so we can use the intelligence you give us in our discussions with government and in determining how we best support councils.

Please also keep an eye on @LGAComms and @LGANews where we will be pushing out information and resources as well as our communications activity on your behalf.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd

Round up of the non-coronavirus activity from the week

Review of HM Treasury Green Book

In the Budget, the Chancellor announced a review of the HM Treasury’s Green Book, which sets out the Government’s methodology for appraisal and decision making on major investment programmes. It is anticipated that the results will be published alongside the Comprehensive Spending Review. Last week the Treasury ran virtual workshops with interested experts from different parts of the public sector. We have spoken to the Treasury and they will also be running a workshop specifically for local government in early June. If you would be interested in taking part or have views to feed into the review, please contact

Flu vaccine 2020/21

NHS England and NHS Improvement have published a joint letter providing details of which groups are eligible for the flu vaccination this autumn, and sets out actions that can be taken now to prepare this autumn’s vaccination campaign. The flu immunisation programme will be more important than ever as we are likely to have COVID-19 and influenza running in parallel from autumn onwards. Please contact for further information.

Local government pay

The Youth and Community Trade Unions have submitted a pay claim for a 10 per cent increase on all pay points for 2020 and the removal of the bottom two pay points on the pay spine for these employees. In addition, the claim includes elements around work life balance. We are now undertaking a consultation of local authorities on this and will respond to the Unions next month.