Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

9 June 2020

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Dear Colleague,

As had been suggested by the media in recent days, Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson made a statement in Parliament this afternoon on schools re-opening, confirming that all primary school years in England would not return before the end of term in July. The Secretary of State paid tribute to all staff working in education, childcare and children’s services, thanking them for their huge efforts in working to support children and young people.

The Secretary of State also confirmed that from Monday 15 June, secondary school pupils in Year 10 and 12 will get some face-to-face support. Mr Williamson said that the Government would continue to follow the scientific advice and pursue a safe phased return, adding that he hoped all children would return by September. It was also confirmed that exams will take place next year.

Mr Williamson said that he would like to see schools who have the capacity welcome back children in smaller class sizes, but only if they are able to do so. In our media response, we stressed that whilst councils want all children to return to school, it is imperative that pupils return to school only when it is safe for them to do so and schools are best placed to make those decisions based on their own individual circumstances.

The Government also today announced a new voluntary COVID-19 study to assess and monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 among pre-school, primary and secondary school pupils and teachers. The initial phase will collect data from up to 100 schools from across England, with results available over the summer. A second phase is intended for September. The study, conducted by Public Health England (PHE), is intended to add to data on antibody and virus prevalence that is already being collected through national surveillance programmes and other studies.

Today the Department for Education (DfE) also published attendance data for education and early years settings during the coronavirus outbreak, as of 4 June. This data showed that 52 per cent of schools that normally educate nursery, reception or years 1 or 6 pupils had welcomed back at least one of those year groups.

On a more personal note, I wanted to share with you the very sad news of the sudden death of my colleague Andrew Campbell. I know that many of you have known and worked with Andrew over the years and will be saddened by this news. Andrew spent much of his career working as a civil servant specialising in local and regional government. He served as Director General, Finance and Corporate Services Group at the Department for Communities & Local Government from 2013 to 2015. After that, he joined us at the LGA where he led our work on local growth and more recently, Andrew played an integral part in supporting local government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our thoughts and condolences are with Andrew’s wife, Jackie, and their family and friends.

As always, 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 Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma. He was joined by Sarah Albon, the Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive.

On the data slides, he said that there has been some regional variation in people hospitalised with COVID-19 but all areas are broadly following a similar pattern. The total number of deaths stands at 40,883. The current 7-day rolling average of deaths stands at 216. Up to 29 May, the Office for National Statistics reported 50,107 deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. This includes cases without a positive test, and suspected cases. Since the start of the outbreak, 62 per cent of COVID-19 registered deaths have occurred in hospitals and 31 per cent in care homes.

He then focused his update on the reopening of the economy and particularly the retail sector, highlighting the package of support the Government has put in place to support businesses. Given the current number of COVID-19 cases, the ‘R’ rate, and the Government's assessment of progress against the 'five tests', more businesses can reopen in a phased manner. Retail outlets can reopen their doors from Monday 15 June while adhering to the Government’s COVID-secure guidelines (published 25 May). All shops must undertake a risk assessment and display a notice to their customers to communicate they have read and understood this guidance. If a shop reopens without putting in place the necessary measures, steps can be taken to remedy this including enforcement action. Mr Sharma stated that local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive regularly carry out checks and respond to queries from the public about risks in the workplace.

As soon as the Government can, they will publish further secure guidance for businesses currently unable to reopen. This includes restaurants, pubs, bars, hairdressers and barbers, nail salons and other related services. There is currently no date for these to reopen but, according to the Government’s roadmap, this could take place on 4 July at the earliest.

Finally, Mr Sharma updated that this week he is chairing five new working groups convening businesses, their representative groups and academics to explore the recovery and feed into the Government’s work.

NHS Test and Trace

All chief executives should have today received a letter from Tom Riordan and Sarah-Jane Marsh, providing details of an interactive data dashboard for colleagues in Local Government, Directors of Public Health and Clinical Commissioning Groups. It combines three data sources: NHS Digital’s COVID-19 National Testing Programme database, the consolidated data covering the National Testing Programme and the 111/999 data about the rate of calls relating to COVID-19.

This will allow colleagues to view anonymised data on the total number of tests conducted, as well the total number of positive tests, including an “n”-day rolling average figure (e.g. the last seven days) at council level. All data concerning COVID-testing of individuals will be anonymised. It is intended that this dashboard will be further enhanced in the coming days and weeks to include care home data, 111 online data and potentially information at the level of 'Super Output Areas'. Access details and restrictions are in the letter sent to chief executives.

Talking of Tom Riordan, a reminder that chief executives and directors of public health have the opportunity to hear from him and members of his wider team during Wednesday's webinar starting at 11.30am. They will give an update on the latest position on local outbreak planning, and take your questions.

COVID-19 ONS figures

The latest ONS figures on coronavirus deaths were published this morning and show that deaths involving COVID-19 as a percentage of all deaths in care homes decreased to 28.2 per cent in the week to 29 May, compared with 32.5 per cent in the previous week. Whilst this decrease is of course encouraging, it is worrying to see that the total number of excess deaths in care homes remains higher than the five-year average, leaving some of our most vulnerable residents at risk.

In our media response, we stated that councils are doing everything they can to protect these residents, as well as those receiving care in their own homes. We called for greater information sharing with councils on where outbreaks are happening to complement councils’ existing plans for care homes, as part of the NHS test and trace programme. We will be working closely with the new National COVID-19 Social Care Support Taskforce to tackle these issues and help guide social care through this current crisis and beyond.

Data reports

The LGA has a new and updated suite of publicly available reports using COVID-19 data. New reports have been made available and previous reports have been substantially improved.

The local authority report gives a quick view of cases for a selected council and comparison group. The England overview gives data for all councils in England including the top ten councils. The weekly deaths report gives a summary of Office for National Statistics (ONS) weekly deaths data. The care homes report focuses on deaths in care homes in particular. The vulnerable groups report gives estimates of local population sizes likely to be vulnerable to COVID-19. The area characteristics report compares case rates to other factors at a local area level, such as deprivation. We hope you find them useful, and please feel free to pass any feedback to

Adult social care

In yesterday’s bulletin, I updated you on the news that the National COVID-19 Social Care Support Taskforce will be led by former ADASS President David Pearson. The taskforce will focus on stopping infection whilst trying to ensure the wellbeing of all people who receive care and support, whether they live in care homes or at home. In our media response, we welcomed the news of David’s appointment, and the taskforce’s commitment to people working in all care settings receiving the support, training and resources they need. This is also a real opportunity to tackle persistent issues, including the recruitment and retention of staff.

NHSE/I has published guidance on after-care needs of those recovering from COVID-19. This guidance, published first on Friday, aims to support primary care and community health services to meet the immediate and longer-term care needs of patients discharged following an acute episode of COVID-19, by describing the typical expected health care needs of these patients.

This week is Carers Week, an annual awareness campaign to recognise the vital contribution made by unpaid carers across the UK. Carers Week is run by Carers UK and five other major charities: Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness. A research report has been published which has found that there are an additional 4.5 million unpaid carers in the UK since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Health and Wellbeing Boards

During the week of 11 May, we undertook some rapid research with a sample of 15 Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB) Chairs from around the country. The report from this rapid review is a valuable commentary on the evolving nature of the HWBs as they review and re-assert their system leadership role during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also inform the development of the health and wellbeing system improvement offer, starting with the new HWB reset tool, a simple resource to support HWB Chairs move into the next stage of COVID-19.

Welfare support

To support those who are struggling with their finances due to COVID-19, the Government has announced an extra £37.8 million support package for debt advice providers. The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), will oversee the allocation of the funds, including to charities, for debt advice and other money guidance services.


The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has published the second round of its Coronavirus Operational Response Survey, exploring how councils and housing associations are coping with the pandemic.

It reports that social housing providers are still maintaining services, such as emergency repairs and key health and safety checks during this time, and that some of the challenges the sector is facing have begun to ease. Backlogs of routine repairs and some safety checks continue to rise, given the challenges providers face with accessing properties and receiving reduced reporting of repairs. Social housing landlords responsible for care and support settings are reporting that they are continuing to maintain safe staffing levels and essential services.

As the regulator says, this is testament to the “flexible and agile” approaches councils and other providers have been able to take, including by introducing remote working, redeploying staff, increasing communication with tenants and planning for recovery.

Electoral canvass

The Government today announced new measures for this year’s annual electoral canvass to address the challenges posed by COVID-19. The measures include amending the final date for this year’s revised registers to be published, extending it from 1 December 2020 to February 2021 to allow council staff more time to complete canvassing and maintain the accuracy of their registers. In addition, the Government will amend its Parliamentary Constituencies Bill to allow for the upcoming, independent boundary review to be based on data from a verified version of electoral registers from March 2020 - and not from 1 December 2020.

The next boundary review is set in law to begin in early 2021 and, as a rule, proposes updated and equalised UK parliamentary constituencies based on electoral registers as of 1 December 2020 - after the annual canvass is usually completed. The measure announced today will enable the four independent Boundary Commissions - on a one-off-basis - to use alternative data, from before government restrictions were put in place to tackle the pandemic. This removes any risk of using data potentially affected by the impacts of COVID-19 - ensuring the review is based on the most accurate reflection of the UK electorate available. The Government has worked with the Office for National Statistics, who will collate (and ultimately publish) official data on the number of electors in all four nations as of the beginning of March 2020.


Tomorrow, 10 June, is the deadline for workers to be furloughed by their employer for the first time. While the HMRC application can take place up to 31 July, the actual furloughing must start ahead of that date. There are some anomalies in the rules around this deadline in how it applies for example to maternity leave returnees which we have raised with Government. Government is committed to providing further guidance on the next stages of the job retention scheme on Friday. The workforce data survey, the latest edition of which is with your HR leads for completion, indicates that while some councils are utilising the scheme, as expected, overall use by councils is low. We have produced some guidance for councils to support the wellbeing of furloughed staff as part of a wider suite of workforce wellbeing support.

Non COVID-19 stories

Procurement fraud

Yesterday, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published its review into risks of fraud and corruption in local government procurement. The review sets out practical examples and case studies showcasing how councils can strengthen their processes and implement prevention measures. This report complements our Counter Fraud Hub and we will aim to adapt and implement its recommendations through our sector-led improvement workstreams.

I hope this summary was helpful. As always, if there are any issues you think we should be aware of, either to raise on your behalf or to help support your vital work, please email or get in touch with your Principal Adviser.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd