Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

8 June 2020

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Dear Colleague,

The start of the new week brings the start of new rules to govern the restrictions facing society. From today, the majority of people arriving in the UK will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and will face fines of up to £1,000 if they do not comply. This applies to people arriving by plane, ferry or train including UK nationals. There are some very limited exemptions, including road haulage workers crossing the border, medical professionals providing essential care and arrivals from the Republic of Ireland. Meanwhile, on the easing of measures, dentists in England are able to reopen from today.

As we continue to work through the COVID-19 response and plan for the next phase, which you might call recovery, renewal or reset, there is much we can learn from our work in recent weeks and months. Looking at residents’ satisfaction with the support offered to them, their families and their communities – alongside their confidence in the messages they are receiving from local and central government, and their views on post-lockdown recovery – will provide valuable information to help guide our work into the next phase.

For this reason, we have undertaken a public poll to look at residents’ views on how councils have supported their communities and their response to COVID-19. This insight, based on a poll which ran from 15 – 22 May, is intended to complement local intelligence and the work you are doing at a local level. We will be conducting this poll on a monthly basis, and I’m pleased to be sharing the first set of results with you today.

We found that most people are satisfied with the way their local council is supporting them, their household and local community during the pandemic. Roughly half of people said their local council is keeping them informed about COVID-19, and most said they trust the information they are receiving from their local council. Local NHS trusts are said to be managing the pandemic particularly well, followed by local communities, local councils, local businesses, and charities and local support groups.

A third think their local council/councillor is best placed to help their local area recover after the lockdown is over, with the same proportion thinking central government is in the best position. Confidence in local businesses putting residents’ interests first in helping local areas recover is highest among those polled, and confidence in the UK government doing the same is the lowest. I hope that the full report is of interest and useful for you.

As always, if you think we can support you in any way as we move into this next phase – either to help your work on the ground or lobby on your behalf on the national stage – please do get in touch by emailing You can also liaise with your regional Principal Adviser.

Below is our usual update from the key developments over the past three days:

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. He was joined by David Pearson, Chair of the National COVID-19 Social Care Support Taskforce. As announced today, David will lead a new social care task force “to drive [the Government's] COVID action plan further”. He is well known in the local government and adult social care sectors. He spent 34 years working for Nottinghamshire County Council before retiring as a Director of Adult Social Services in January 2019. He is currently Chair of Nottinghamshire's Integrated Care System. He was president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) in 2014/15.

Mr Hancock highlighted that it is Carers Week, and gave his thanks to paid and unpaid carers across the country. The Secretary of State highlighted that the number of positive cases is the lowest since the end of March, and highlighted that the R is below 1 in all regions. 55 deaths were recorded yesterday, which is also the lowest since the 21 March. He added that there were no recorded deaths in London hospitals or in Scotland.

Mr Hancock confirmed there has been a 79 per cent fall in deaths from the peak of the crisis in care homes. He said that the National COVID-19 Social Care Support taskforce, which David Pearson will Chair, will oversee delivery for part of the next phase for the plan for social care. He said that the taskforce would ensure care homes will have the support, the training and resources they need to control the virus.

On testing, he confirmed that the target to ensure that all care home residents and staff got a test regardless of whether they were symptomatic, has been met. He added that the tests so far do not show a significant rise in the number of positive cases in care homes. He went on to announce that all remaining working-age adult care homes in England will be able to order the whole care home testing service for residents and staff. You can read more about this below.

On the taskforce, Mr Pearson said that he had been reading care home resilience plans which have been submitted by local authorities, working with care providers, directors of public health and directors of adult social care. He noted the plans highlighted the hard work going on locally to ensure the right support and resources are provided to people who need it. He added that the focus of the taskforce will be to stop infection whilst trying to ensure the wellbeing of those who receive care and support.

Test and trace

On Friday evening, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) wrote to directors of adult social services and directors of public health to notify them of an extension to the eligibility for whole care home testing. This included a fact sheet on the approach for residents and staff. More than 50,000 test kits are now being sent out to care homes and, as of yesterday (Sunday 7 June), the eligibility has been extended to include all adult care homes, in addition to the care homes for older people tested to date. This means whole care home testing is now possible in adult care homes catering for adults with learning disabilities or mental health issues, physical disabilities, acquired brain injuries and other categories for younger adults under 65 years of age. These homes will be able to register for testing for all residents and asymptomatic staff through the digital portal. DHSC is hoping to expand testing further in the near future to other care settings including supported living. The Government is also taking advice from SAGE on re-testing in care homes. 

This follows the Government stating that they have met their target of offering a test kit to every care home supporting those over the age of 65 or those with dementia. They had committed to achieving this before 6 June.

Local outbreak plans

Chief Executives will have received an earlier note from me sharing details of a call this Wednesday, 10 June, at 11.30am where we will have the opportunity to hear from Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, about his work for the 'contain' part of the Government's strategy. He will update on the latest position on local outbreak planning, and take your questions. This has also been shared with your director of public health.

Adult social care

Following the Grant Conditions Circular issued on 29 May, on Friday evening, DHSC released additional information in the form of FAQs intended to help answer some of the most frequent questions they have received about the Infection Control Fund.

DHSC has today published guidance to help people who buy care and support through a direct payment to know how and when they can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to furlough employees during the coronavirus outbreak. The guidance includes examples of when direct payment holders may or may not choose to use the scheme.

On Saturday, Age UK released a report on the extra costs faced by some care home residents for providing their care during the pandemic. The charity said that residents who pay their own fees are facing extra costs to cover personal protective equipment (PPE) and rising staff costs. In our media response, we highlighted the hard work that is being undertaken by councils to ensure they can support care providers throughout the pandemic, including through extra financial support. We called for the long-term reform of adult social care to ensure its future financial sustainability.

Personal protective equipment

Last week saw two announcements increasing the use of face coverings which included requirements for all staff and visitors to wear face coverings in hospital and face coverings becoming mandatory to anyone using public transport as of 15 June. We are aware that whilst PPE supplies have improved, they are still very real concerns about the sustainable supply of PPE for our workforces. It remains critical that medical grade PPE is prioritised for staff and that these recent announcements do not put additional pressure on the critical supply of PPE to the workforce.

New information has been released on the online PPE portal, detailing who can use it and when it should be used. The portal is now only operating as an emergency top up system with users being invited to register and limited to one order per week. This is disappointing as originally the portal was suggested as forming a key element of the PPE supply route. We have fed back your concerns to the Government and continue to lobby for them to ensure that there is a robust and sustainable supply of PPE.

If the recent announcements have made any changes to your PPE supply or you would like to report any other issues around PPE please do get in touch by emailing You can also liaise with your regional Principal Adviser.

The shielded group

On Friday, DHSC sent an email to clinical groups and patient groups to update them on the process for communicating changes to the list of people identified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ (known as the ‘shielded’ group). Councils had expressed concerns that some patients recently receiving a text message regarding support from the National Shielding Service being withdrawn before a conversation with their clinician had taken place.

Following a review of procedures, DHSC have confirmed that a person who is no longer deemed clinically extremely vulnerable, for example because their condition has changed, should be informed by their GP or specialist clinician that they are being removed from the Shielded Patient List and are no longer advised to shield before any changes are made to their patient records (which in turn triggers a change in the individual's access to the Government support programme). Clinicians have been provided with updated advice on this and on the importance of good communication with patients.

People who are advised they do not need to shield will no longer be provided with Government support, though they will continue to be eligible for supermarket priority slots and will be encouraged to contact the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme if they need support with collecting shopping, medicine or other essential suppliers. Next week, DHSC will send out letters to a small number of patients who have recently been removed from the Shielded Patient List and were receiving food boxes from the National Shielding Service to provide them with this advice.

The Government has announced that it will review the shielding policy in the week commencing 15 June, after which DHSC plans to write to all individuals on the Shielded Patient List with information about next steps on shielding advice and the support that will be available to them after this date. Patients identified as clinically extremely vulnerable between now and the review will receive a letter advising them to shield until 30 June, awaiting the outcome of the review, and encouraging them to register their support needs.

With councils on the Shielding Stakeholder Engagement Forum, we are continuing to engage with MHCLG and Defra on ongoing issues with the shielding programme, including data requests to councils and issues with food parcel quality. This also involves discussing the future of the shielding programme alongside ongoing support for other vulnerable groups. We are stressing the need for a fully funded, more localised system co-designed with local government, based on effective data flows and shared risk; promoting independence and being more closely linked to developing work of local outbreak planning.

Places of worship

As you may have seen from the news yesterday, from Monday 15 June places of worship will be permitted to reopen for individual prayer. MHCLG’s Places of Worship Taskforce has worked with representatives of the major faiths to ensure this can be done safely and in line with social distancing guidelines.

New guidance will be published shortly which will recommend the thorough cleaning of shared spaces, hand cleansing at entry and exit and asking worshippers to bring their own items such as a prayer mat or religious text instead of sharing or using communal ones. Places of worship still have discretion over when they consider it safe to open and may decide to remain closed or reopen at a slower pace if they wish.

Under the existing regulations, funerals are allowed in places of worship where it is possible to do so safely. They may also open for ministers of religion to film or record a service for broadcast, for the hosting of essential voluntary activities such as homeless services, for registered early years and childcare providers and for blood donation sessions. Other gatherings and services, including baptisms and weddings, are not permitted.

We will share the new guidance once it is published. As you will be aware, councils are the enforcing authority for the Health and Safety at Work Act for places of worship, and may therefore receive queries from trustees, faith leaders or community groups to support reopening. We are continuing to highlight to the Government the capacity constraints on environmental health services in proactive supporting safe reopening, alongside their other duties.

Mental health support in schools

The Department for Education has announced that new online resources will be provided to schools and colleges to boost mental health support for staff and pupils. For pupils, this will include videos, webinars and teaching materials to help to foster conversations about mental health and grants to charities to support the development of young people’s resilience and tackle bullying. For staff, a pilot project in partnership with the Education Support Partnership will focus on teachers' and leaders' mental health, providing online peer-support and telephone supervision from experts to around 250 school leaders.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

You will have received an email today from the Home Office outlining improved funding for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) and UASC care leavers. We have been lobbying for increased funding to support UASC care leavers for some time now. We are therefore pleased to see that the pressure on councils, and the valuable role we play in supporting children starting a life in the UK, have been formally recognised in the announcement and that additional funding has been provided. This additional funding should also make it easier for the councils who want to play their part in supporting these children to feel more able to step forward and support other areas with large numbers of unaccompanied children and care leavers. 

The new arrangements increase the funding contribution for UASC care leavers to £240 per care leaver per week, remove reduced rates for legacy case claims, and remove the first 25 Care Leavers’ rule which prevented local authorities from claiming for the first 25 equivalent care leavers in their care. There is also a targeted increase of 25 per cent to the funding contribution for all UASC in those local authorities supporting UASC at, or in excess of, 0.07 per cent of their child population.

You may be aware that the National Transfer Scheme has not been working well for some time now and councils with the greatest pressures remain in need of help from other areas. We will continue to work with Government and council representatives, including the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, to ensure all UASC receive the care and support they need and to understand the impacts on all councils of asylum across all ages.

New parents and babies

During this time of uncertainty, pregnancy can understandably add further stress. Our new webinar aims to explore how new families can be supported during this time, and particularly how health and social care professionals can be alert to the potential risk factors, work with other agencies and have a plan in place to ensure new babies do not remain invisible to services. Our webinar, ‘The Invisible Children’ – babies born during COVID-19 will explore the impact of lack of face-to-face care, isolation, remote support, mothers’ concerns and reluctance to seek help and normal medical and social intervention. It will take place on Zoom on Tuesday 16 June, 10.30am-11.45am.


Yesterday, MHCLG announced allocations for £6 million of funding for frontline homelessness charities. The funding, which had originally been announced on 14 May, has been allocated to a total of 132 charities in England, and is part of a broader government funding package for the voluntary and community sector.

Accommodation providers

The guidance for those providing hotel and other accommodation in England was updated on Friday. The advice now includes guidance on guests self-isolating as required by law, on people with symptoms staying in accommodation, on hotels on opening their grounds, an updated list of those that hotels and other accommodation providers may provide services to and updated guidance for hotels serving food.

Public transport

Following on from the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) letter of 28 May to local transport authorities (LTAs) regarding the COVID-19 Bus Service Support Grant (CBSSG) Restart Scheme, the Department is collecting information on how LTA CBSSG funding allocation has been used.

Based on the information received from LTAs, DfT may modify the formula for distributing funding to LTAs for supporting tendered services over the period from 9 June – 3 August, and the guidance to LTAs for how they can use their funding allocations to support tendered services. A final payment to LTAs for the CBSSG scheme for the period 12 May – 8 June will be made shortly.

The DfT survey closes at 5pm on Friday 19 June. If you would like to submit any other information to DfT for consideration that is not covered in the survey, or if you have any questions about the survey, please contact As part of the grant conditions for the LTA CBSSG funding, LTAs are required to publish on their websites information on the services that the funding was used to support. Information used to respond to this survey can be used by LTAs in their online publications.

As a reminder, DfT is also allowing local transport authorities to use some, or all, of their funding allocations from the £30 million Funding for Supported Bus Services in 2020/21 as part of the Better Deal for Bus Users to retain or restore bus services affected by COVID-19. Any LTAs who have not yet submitted a statement of intent should do so by 5pm on 26 June to

Finally, the DfT has also published guidance on the information that transport operators must provide to passengers, and how to provide it, under the Public Health (Information for Passengers Travelling to England) Regulations 2020.

Reopening high streets

An FAQ document has been added to the guidance to help councils and partners to deliver activities supported through the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund. This provides £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. This previously published guidance 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. 

Business closure guidance

The revised Government guidance on business closures was published by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on Friday night. I know that many councils had heard from outdoor cinemas which were anticipating running screenings in the coming weeks, however this guidance makes it clear that this is not allowed at this stage.

Zoos and nature reserves

The Government’s guidance on accessing green spaces safely was updated at the weekend. This aims to provide clarity for zoos and other businesses that keep animals not normally domesticated in England. At the moment, these must remain closed under the Regulations. Nature reserves may open if the guidance on exhibiting animals and the risk of visitors gathering at a particular animal or attraction are reduced.

Council buildings

Next week, we expect MHCLG to publish guidance on the re-opening of council buildings. This would include town halls, and community facilities (i.e. community centres, village halls, and other multi-use community facilities). Of course, as the bodies with environmental health responsibilities, and as enforcing authorities for the Health and Safety at Work Act, and recent experts in social distancing measures, councils are all too familiar with the requirements to keep people safe and well. These are points we will make to those working on the proposed guidance.

Charity and third sector funding

The Government has announced £200 million funding for small and medium-sized charities and social enterprises in England, to support these organisations to continue the vital support that they provide to people during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is to help maintain and enhance services for vulnerable people affected by the current crisis and to support organisations experiencing income disruption and/or increased demand. The fund is being distributed by the National Lottery Community Fund, with full details of how to apply available on their website.

Loan sharks

As the number of people claiming benefits has risen across the country, we warned over that weekend that people should avoid turning to ruthless loan sharks to make up for a loss of income during the COVID-19 crisis. I know you have all been urging your residents to steer clear of illegal money lenders who typically charge sky-high interest rates, rely on extortion, rarely issue paperwork and are likely to plunge them into worse debt for a longer period.

In our media activity, we called for tougher sentences for loan sharks and encouraged anyone experiencing money problems to contact their local council and partner organisations such as credit unions who are developing better financial support for households with debt and repayment worries. We continue to ask the Government to ensure that local authorities have the necessary funding to support those in need.

Member code of conduct consultation

The measures that have been introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 have changed the way councils work, introducing remote meetings and decision-making processes as everyday occurrences. With more communication taking place remotely and online between councillors and residents, particularly through social media, there may be more difficult and heated discussions as some seek to express their fear and frustrations. However, abuse, threatening and intimidatory communication will always be unacceptable.

As recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report into Local Government Ethical Standards we are updating our Model Member Code of Conduct. To make sure the code reflects these new ways of working, maintains the high standards councillors hold themselves to and is fit-for-purpose, please take a few moments to share your views by completing our consultation questionnaire, until Monday 17 August. We welcome contributions from individual councillors and officers, as well as from councils.

This follows on from an event on Civility in Public Life at the end of last year and three workshops earlier this year. Please email if you have any queries.

UK Municipal Bonds Agency webinar

With uncertainty about the future operation of the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) and the possibility of changes to the UK sovereign debt rating, there is a strong case for acting now to take advantage of local government lending opportunities. Our webinar on Tuesday 16 June at 12 noon will provide information about the current opportunity to borrow funds as part of the UK Municipal Bonds Agency’s (UKMBA) upcoming transaction.

The UKMBA aims to offer another (less costly) alternative source of lending for councils to sit alongside the PWLB and allow councils to diversify their borrowing. The UKMBA is working to assemble three pooled bonds of short, mid and long-term maturity. This means that even councils with a modest borrowing requirement can access the bond market. We aim to have the first of these bonds in the market in September.

The webinar will provide an opportunity to hear details about the upcoming transactions and the simplified process for taking part in issuing these bond issues. We will also be interested to hear from you about any current or future borrowing requirements that your authority or a group of authorities have, and about your thoughts on the types of bond issues that might meet your needs, for example, Green Bonds. If you would like to participate in the webinar or have any questions please email


We have agreed with the local government unions another joint circular to assist councils with local discussions around the treatment of the quarantine period for those employees returning from overseas while this provision is in place. We continue to work with trade unions to produce joint guidance, where we can, to assist councils with a range of other issues including the process of returning to the workplace for those who are not able to work from home.

Deliveries for health and care staff

On Saturday, it was announced that the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme is extending its support to frontline health and social care staff. From today, NHS volunteer responders will now carry out socially-distanced tasks including helping with delivering food and shopping and dropping off personal medication to frontline staff at their homes. It is intended that this will protect vulnerable residents by allowing health and social care workers to make fewer journeys and come into contact with fewer people. In our media response, we welcomed the extension of the scheme which will enable health and social care staff to continue to do what they do best.

Parliament this week

In our parliamentary activity this week, our Deputy Chief Executive, Sarah Pickup, will be giving evidence to the House of Lords Public Services Committee inquiry on the lessons from coronavirus from a public services perspective. Wednesday’s session will focus on whether the crisis has encouraged collaboration among health, care and community services and whether there are lessons to be learnt for regulators and commissioners. Elsewhere in the Committee corridors, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee will held a session today with the Minister for Housing, Christopher Pincher MP, on the long-term delivery of social and affordable rented housing. On Tuesday, a representative Suffolk County Council will be appearing before the Health and Social Care Committee as part of its inquiry on social care workforce and funding.

There are also a series of debates taking place in the Lords including on the planning system, the sustainability of the pre-school sector and the LGA's role in promoting economic recovery. These provide a great opportunity for us to promote the outstanding work you are doing, and build a cross-party consensus around the funding and flexibilities you need to deliver the best for your communities.

Hoping, as always, that this briefing helps support your vital work with your communities and businesses.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd