Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Deputy Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Deputy Chief Executive

26 May 2020

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Dear Colleague,

I hope you all managed to take some time to enjoy the good weather over the bank holiday weekend. As Mark mentioned last week, he is taking some much-needed time off over the half-term break, so, I will be sending our daily updates to you this week.

It was a busy bank holiday weekend once again, with many announcements as the Government continues to set out plans to restart the economy whilst the current social distancing measures remain in place. Of course, councils will have a central role in this process as our communities and economies begin to open once again in the coming weeks.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister set out plans for reopening our high streets, with non-essential retail set to reopen next month. This will happen in two phases, with outdoor markets and car showrooms set to reopen from 1 June, and other non-essential retail to follow on 15 June. We know that finances are a major concern to all of you and making sure our local businesses are safe to open comes at a cost. Therefore, it was positive to see that this announcement came with financial support through The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund, with £50 million allocated to councils across England. A more detailed update can be found below.

The Prime Minister also confirmed over the weekend that schools, colleges and nurseries across England are on track to open to more children from 1 June. We were pleased to see the Prime Minister acknowledge that some schools may not be able to open by the date proposed by Government. This issue has been raised by many of you in recent weeks. It is welcome that the Government accepts that councils and schools must make the safety of children, their families and staff the top priority. A more detailed update on education is included below.

Of course, the reopening of high streets and schools is dependent on whether the Government’s five tests for easing measures will be met. The Government is due to review the current measures by Thursday of this week, when it is expected they will confirm whether or not this next phase can begin. We will of course update you once we hear more from the Government on this matter.

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.

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by the Secretary of State for Health and Adult Social Care, Matt Hancock. He was joined by Professor John Newton, Co-ordinator of the National Testing Effort. On the Government’s testing programme, Professor Newton said that the number of deaths occurring in hospitals and care homes is declining. The peak in care homes occurred later than in hospitals and was smaller. In total, 28.3 per cent of deaths have occurred in care homes.

Mr Hancock said that in future we may have local lockdowns where there are local flare-ups of the virus as "all different areas will have different considerations". On PPE, Mr Hancock announced that the Government has signed contracts to manufacture two billion items of PPE in the UK, as well as an additional 3.7 billion gloves. Mr Hancock also announced a new clinical trial for selected NHS patients for an antiviral drug called Remdesivir. There have already been some promising results, Mr Hancock said, and it has shown to shorten recovery time by approximately four days.

The Number 10 press conferences held over the weekend were used to announce details of the proposed reopening of non-essential retail, schools and transport funding. Detailed updates on these topics are covered in the relevant sections below.

The next phase

This weekend, the Prime Minister announced that non-essential retail will reopen next month, with outdoor markets and car showrooms able to reopen from 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, electronics, tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met and businesses follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines. A decision will be made as part of the formal review into the current measures that is expected by Thursday.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) announced that The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund is providing £50 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to councils across England to support the safe reopening of high streets and other commercial areas. MHCLG has published guidance that provides details of the activities that can be supported through the fund and an overview of how it will be administered, as well as key ERDF contractual requirements. Measures include new signs, street markings and temporary barriers. Councils will also be able to use this money to develop local marketing campaigns to explain the changes to the public and reassure them that their high streets and other commercial areas are safe.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published further guidance on how businesses can reopen and operate safely to protect their staff and customers. There is a toolkit available with digital assets, which has been updated to include a new shops video. BEIS is asking councils to share this content with businesses in their area so they have the information and resources they need to reopen and operate safely.

Children and education

This weekend, the Prime Minister confirmed that schools, colleges and nurseries across England remain on track to open to more children from 1 June if the Government’s five tests are met by Thursday 28 May. However, he also acknowledged that some schools may not be able to reopen by that date and committed the Government to continuing to work with councils to ensure any schools experiencing difficulties are able to open as soon as possible.

Settings have remained open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers throughout the pandemic and it is suggested that primary schools should welcome back children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, while nurseries and other early years providers will begin welcoming back children of all ages. Secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges have also been asked to provide face-to-face contact for Year 10, Year 12 and equivalent 16-19 further education students to help them prepare for exams next year. It is expected this will begin from 15 June.

Along with this announcement the Government published a ‘planning guide for early years and childcare settings’ to provide information and support for all early years providers in England as they prepare to welcome children back next month, a ‘planning guide for primary schools’ to help school leaders prepare and decide arrangements for more children returning to school, and guidance for secondary school provision to support the phased return of secondary school pupils.

Further to Friday’s publication of SAGE papers relating to the opening of schools to more pupils, the Government has published an explanatory note which provides guidance on interpreting the results, the main assumptions made in the analysis and the limitations of the modelling.

Adult social care

On Friday, we updated you on preparations for care home support plans. Later that evening, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issued its circular on the grant conditions for the £600 million that was announced on 13 May to support adult social care providers. The circular was sent only to council leaders, so there may be variability on when it reached chief executives, directors of adult social services, directors of public health and chief financial officers.

The circular confirms that 75 per cent of the grant should be passported through to care homes as quickly as possible and 25 per cent should be retained for both more targeted support to care homes and for other social care providers. The grant will be transferred in two tranches and is to cover two months costs. The funding is conditional on providers completing the national tracker.

DHSC today launched a new recruitment platform, Join Social Care, to speed up adult social care recruitment. Join Social Care is intended to make it easier for care providers to reach people in their local area by allowing candidates to record a video interview and access free training supported by Skills for Care before starting employment.

Registered providers are then able to search for candidates in their local area, view their video interviews before starting DBS checks and training processes and make conditional offers making recruitment more streamlined during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

On Saturday, the Government also published home care guidance for registered providers, social care staff, local authorities and commissioners who support and deliver care to people in their own homes, including supported living settings in England.

COVID-19 ONS figures

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics released today show that deaths involving COVID-19 as a percentage of all deaths in care homes decreased to 37.2 per cent in the week to 15 May, compared with 39.2 per cent in the previous week. In our response we said councils wanted to play their full part in the national effort to overcome COVID-19. We reiterated the need for Government to share with councils up-to-date data on where the outbreaks are happening as part of the contact tracing programme. We also said it was crucial the Government’s online PPE ordering system is fully operational as soon as possible, so councils and care providers can directly request that critical protective equipment gets to the frontline.

Test, track and trace

It was announced on Friday that councils will be required to put together local outbreak control plans to support the national rollout of the test and trace service. On Friday evening council chief executives and directors of public health should have received a briefing note and communication package on this subject. If you have not received a copy, please let us know by emailing and we can share this with you.

Local outbreak plans put councils at the very heart of the next phase of the national response to COVID-19. Councils have a massive role to play in our ability to reopen society and live with the virus.  It is testament to the wealth of local knowledge and expertise that exists across the country. In June, every part of the country will need to develop their local outbreak control plan in collaboration with local partners. The announcement was coupled with a £300 million fund to develop and roll out these plans.


This weekend, the Government announced that 6,000 new supported homes will be provided as part of a commitment to end rough sleeping. Although this news is welcome and will help councils to protect their most vulnerable residents beyond the COVID-19 crisis, we made the case that clarity is still needed from Government on what additional practical support will be available to councils to help them move people out of hotels and temporary accommodation and into housing. We continue to call for the Government to allow councils to keep 100 per cent of receipts from Right to Buy sales and are asking them to extend the deadline to spend the money to at least five years to allow councils to get on with the job of building new homes that people in their areas desperately need.

Dame Louise Casey – the head of the COVID-19 rough sleeping taskforce – has today called on communities, businesses, charities and faith groups, to join forces and help the new Rough Sleeping Taskforce. Of course, we know that this is already happening across many of your local areas, with YHA, YMCA and universities having already offered temporary accommodation for people as they leave the hotels and move towards more permanent housing.

Public transport

Over the weekend, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP announced that £283 million will be introduced to protect and increase transport services. The funding – £254 million for buses and £29 million for trams and light rail – is intended to allow people travelling to hospitals, supermarkets or their place of work to get to their destination safely and quickly, while helping ensure there is enough space for them to observe social distancing guidelines. We responded to this welcome news for local communities and highlighted the crucial role councils continue to play in ensuring vital services continue during this pandemic. We continue to advocate for councils to be given long-term, devolved infrastructure and public transport budgets that would allow them to further demonstrate how they can deliver widespread improvements and efficiencies to local transport services.

Access to food

As previously mentioned, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will be a launching a toolkit of communications resources tomorrow. DEFRA’s communications will use existing text on the GOV.UK page which points people to councils if urgent help is needed and no other means of support is available. This may result in an increase in the number of people contacting council helplines. DEFRA are keen to work with councils to monitor any impacts so if you see a significant increase in contacts, please let us know through

Also shared with your communication leads, their resources aim to supplement local work councils are already undertaking on access to food for vulnerable people outside the ‘shielded group’. DEFRA will also be working with four charities – Scope, MIND, Age UK and RNIB – and councils will no doubt agree a planned approach to communication with relevant partners locally.

In order to supplement local activity, councils can continue to register their interest in DEFRA’s referral scheme providing supermarket slots to non-shielded vulnerable people via an online form. Their commercial food delivery service options will continue to be updated. We will continue to push for a joined-up approach across shielded and non-shielded vulnerable groups.

Business support

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has updated its Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund (LADGF) guidance. Businesses which are eligible for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme Self-Employed Income support scheme (SEISS), (which provides a capped taxable grant of 80 per cent of average monthly trading profits for the self-employed), are now eligible to apply for the LADGF; this is a change from the previous version of the guidance.

COVID-19 Workforce survey 

It’s that time again when we ask councils to complete the fortnightly COVID-19 Workforce survey. The first set of survey results showed the way councils have redeployed staff, managed absence and engaged in workforce testing to keep key services running has been exemplary given the level of challenges faced.  The survey has been sent to HR leads and is open until 5pm tomorrow (Wednesday 27 May) and I would encourage all colleagues to ensure this survey is completed. The greater the participation, the better we can support councils and engage with Government. It also supports our case for Government departments to limit their own data collection exercises.

Fire workforce

To support the fire service in expanding its response to the COVID-19 situation, the National Employers, National Fire Chiefs’ Council and Fire Brigades Union reached an agreement to enable introduction of a number of wide-ranging additional work activities where needed at local level. They have been reviewing aspects of operation of the Agreement and are finalising that work. However, in the interim, that agreement has been extended to 2 June.

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

The Government’s Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme is now live on GOV.UK. Employers with fewer than 250 employees can now claim for Coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). They can also speak to their tax agent about making claims on their behalf. The repayment will cover up to two weeks of the applicable rate of SSP. For more information on eligibility and how to make a claim please visit GOV.UK

Best wishes,

Sarah Pickup
Deputy Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Sarah Pickup