Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

12 June 2020

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Dear Colleague,

You will have seen the news that the UK’s economy shrank by 20.4 per cent in April. According to the Office for National Statistics, this “historic” fall – the biggest the UK has ever seen – affected virtually all areas of activity. Education, health, pubs, the manufacturing industry, car sales, construction and housebuilding saw particularly significant reductions.

It is with this in mind, that central and local government are exploring the ways we can ensure our communities and businesses recover in the weeks and months ahead, as we move away from the initial response period. From Monday, all non-essential retail businesses can reopen provided social distancing can be followed. As more people slowly return to their places of work, face coverings will be required on public transport. They will also be worn by all staff and visitors in NHS settings. In education, the Government expects pupils from years 10 and 11 to return to some face-to-face contact in schools. And, as we ease gradually towards more usual life in our communities, places of worship will be permitted to open for individual prayer from tomorrow. New guidance on this has been published by MHCLG today.

As the economic, environmental and social impact of the pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, the recovery will similarly need to be widespread. Social distancing has meant that people’s worlds have got more local – and so the solutions to the next stage must be local too. It is only councils who have the necessary local insights, expertise and experience to lead this work. We know that our role in managing town, village and city centres, green spaces, transport hubs, the planning system and infrastructure will be central to stabilising our national and local economies in the coming months, as people slowly return to their places of work and education. This is alongside our vital work supporting our residents in need, through our work in adult social care, children’s services, homelessness support and assisting those in financial hardship.

We are ready to play our part, but we can do even more if we have the devolved powers, enhanced flexibilities and sustainable funding to drive economic growth and ensure every resident and business benefits from the next stage. As we make this case on your behalf, just a reminder that MHCLG has now formally opened the June round of its financial management information survey, with a deadline of 11pm, 19 June. This is a tight turnaround, similar to the deadline given for the May round of the survey. We will receive your returns in the form they are submitted to Government and the information you provide will be vital as we work to unlock a further package of measures to help you manage the financial impact of COVID-19.

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps. He was joined by Professor Stephen Powis, the National Medical Director for NHS England, and Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail.  

The Transport Secretary began by reminding the nation that, from Monday, it is mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport. Under the Public Health Act those not following the rules could be fined and transport operators will be able to refuse entry to people who do not wear face coverings, although a “gentle approach” to enforcement would be taken over the first several days, Mr Shapps added. Volunteers will also be on hand to guide people during their journey.  

High streets

The MHCLG backed High Streets Task Force has launched a number of tools and resources to help local leadership in the reopening and recovery of their town centres. This includes COVID recovery guidance and resources on: reopening safely; online training on priorities for high street vitality and viability; check-lists, data and intelligence on managing and improving town and city centres; and, a webinar series on the Routemap to Transformation (starting on 19 June). Councils can also opt-in to receive weekly email updates. Further support will be developed over the coming weeks, including high streets dashboards for individual towns, training courses on developing place leadership, further webinars on data and understanding place sentiment and some direct support on town centre transformation for specific towns identified with need.

Right to Buy receipts

In response to the COVID-19 situation, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has temporarily relaxed the rules to use Right to Buy receipts. Local authorities will be allowed additional time to incur expenditure, following our calls for an extension. They will have an additional six months (until 31 December 2020) to spend receipts that are due to be spent by end of June 2020, and an additional three months to spend receipts that are due to be spent by the end of September 2020. While continue to push for a longer extension, this will go some way to allowing councils more time to replace these homes, and provide desperately-needed social homes to those who need them.

No Recourse to Public Funds

If you tuned into Radio 4 this morning you may have heard two of the LGA’s spokespeople, Cllr David Renard and Cllr Darren Rodwell, featuring on the Today Programme to discuss our call for the suspension of No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) during the COVID-19 crisis. This follows high numbers of people with NRPF approaching councils for support during the pandemic. You will know that NRPF is a condition government places on some individuals as a result of their immigration status, and removes their access to welfare benefits. We want to work with the Government and the current review led by Dame Louise Casey, on behalf of councils, to provide greater clarity and funding for councils’ responsibilities for all those who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status. Our calls were also reported by the Guardian.

Removal of statues

We know councils across the country are currently receiving calls for changes to the names of estates and streets and the removal of statues - alongside objections to such proposals. Building cohesive communities is central to councils’ role as leaders of place. Whether or not a proposed change takes place, councils want to ensure community cohesion is maintained and enhanced as a result. We have produced an advice note to help councils work to ensure all sections of the community feel heard by decision-makers and each other. We hope you find this helpful.

The LGA stands with all of our councils in the UK, and across the world, in all of your work to tackle racism which has no place in our communities and lives.

Test, trace and contain

Further to the letter councils received on Wednesday on the distribution and allocation of the £300 million to support councils’ efforts with testing and tracing, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has now published the grant determination, allocations and conditions.

In a press release, DHSC has praised the “exemplary” and “hugely important” role councils are playing in the efforts to respond to the virus. It confirms that data on the spread of the virus will be shared with local authorities through the Joint Biosecurity Centre to inform local outbreak planning, so your teams understand how the virus is moving. A new National Local Government Advisory Board has also been established to work with NHS Test and Trace which will share best practice between communities across the country. This work is being led by a group of 11 local authorities, representing rural and urban areas, who have volunteered to help localise planning.

We are aware that emails to NHS Digital to register to access the pillar 2 testing dashboard (one of the routes to securing swab testing for the wider population) are sometimes getting an automatic reply which suggests requests will be dealt with in five weeks. This has been raised with NHS colleagues who we understand are seeking to amend this default response urgently, but have given reassurance that requests will be processed urgently.

This week we launched a new Testing, Contact Tracing and Outbreak Management K-hub. This knowledge hub is intended to provide information specifically targeted at councils. It serves as a document library, an area for best practice examples, and provides information on the LGA’s support offer and webinars. If you have any questions, you can contact our team supporting the efforts to contain the virus on

The R rate

You may have seen the media coverage of the latest data from the Government Office for Science on the regional COVID-19 reproduction rate, known as the ‘R’ rate. This figure is crucial in guiding the Government's gradual relaxation of the restrictions facing society. The 'R' rate tells us if the epidemic is getting bigger (>1) or smaller (<1), but not how large it is, and therefore should not be used as the sole indicator of the current threat posed by an epidemic. Care also needs to be taken when interpreting the data, at a local level, as the number can fluctuate significantly from week to week and even a fairly small outbreak can see it rise sharply.

According to these latest figures, the latest number range for the 'R' rate in the UK is 0.7-0.9. Breaking this figure down regionally, the top of the range for the East of England is 0.9. For all other regions the top of the range is 1 except for the South West with a top of the range figure of 1.1. The Group suggest the most likely estimate in regions is in the middle of the range.

Adult social care

ADASS has published the results of a survey that offers significant insight into the response in adult social care to the pandemic. The survey found that, prior to the outbreak, there were fewer care providers handing back contracts or closing, compared to the same period last year. But since the outbreak, extra costs due to PPE and staffing have clearly had a serious impact. We responded to the survey results and highlighted our own commissioned research which suggests that providers face extra costs of £6.6 billion by the end of September this year.

Today, the National Audit Office launched their report on readying the NHS and social care in England for COVID-19. The report focuses on the fundamental role and importance of adult social care during this pandemic, as well as contributing to the wider debate on what lessons should be learned from this entire experience. We responded to the report and highlighted our calls for a long-term, sustainable funding solution for adult social care. The media coverage of this report referenced our view that pandemic has emphasised the need for a long-term funding solution to be in put in place for social care, and our calls for certainty about how it will continue to operate and be paid for in the future.

As we come to the end of Carers Week, Age UK have also shared their analysis that over one million carers aged 70 and over have taken on an increased burden of responsibility during the pandemic. In our response we highlighted the important contribution of unpaid carers to the care system.


NHS England has asked us to share details of their NHS Volunteer Responders scheme and how it can be utilised to support children and young people. Many families still have children not yet back at school and some have individuals who are shielding or self-isolating. Professionals can now help these families with practical support to get their groceries or medication picked up and delivered to their homes through the scheme. Help can be requested with collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies and a ‘check in and chat’ phone call to help combat isolation and loneliness.   

At any one time as many as 350,000 volunteer responders are ‘on duty’ to take referrals for support from the NHS, councils, social care providers, and more recently other organisations such as charities, the police and fire services. Professionals can request support for families using the online portal or by calling: 0808 196 3382.

Referrers to this support are now also able to make ‘bulk’ referrals using the Goodsam app. This means that someone from a council, adult social care provider, pharmacy or GP surgery can refer several requests for support at the same time, rather than having to enter them all individually. They can also encourage families to access the support directly through self-referrals; by calling 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm) they can be put in touch with a volunteer nearby. Further information for referrers can be found online.

NHS England and the Royal Voluntary Service will be holding a webinar on the NHS Volunteer Responders programme for local authorities and social care providers on Tuesday 23 June at 1pm. To join on the day, please click on the following link: Join Microsoft Teams Meeting (Dial in (audio only): +44 20 3855 4234; Conference ID: 590 921 567#)

Local government finances

CIPFA has issued temporary additional guidance for council chief finance officers who might be considering issuing a Section 114 report on their council’s financial position. Section 114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 places a duty on a council’s chief finance officer (Section 151 officer) to report to the full council if, in the words of the Act, it appears to them that the council’s expenditure in any year is likely to exceed its resources.

The financial impact of COVID-19, which has been substantial and sudden, has raised concerns that without adequate government support councils may have to take action to reduce expenditure to avoid finding themselves in this position. While we continue to push Government for additional funding and financial flexibilities that build on the billions of pounds in funding councils have already successfully secured, and know that MHCLG and the Treasury are hearing our case, it is more difficult for chief finance officers to judge and advise councils about whether reductions to spending must be made if a Section 114 report is to be avoided.

CIPFA’s guidance provides extra information for chief finance officers considering this step and, in particular, suggests that they should make sure they have spoken to MHCLG at an early stage to advise them of the possibility of a Section 114 report. It makes sense for chief finance officers to do this in the light of the Government’s ongoing consideration of the financial impact of COVID-19 on councils and the possibility of further announcements.


The National Joint Council for local government services has issued further guidance on COVID-19 workforce issues concerning return to work, test and trace and the requirement to self-isolate prior to admission to hospital.

Scams Awareness Fortnight

You will have seen that we have warned that some councils have recorded a 40 per cent increase in reported scams during the pandemic. With this in mind, I know councils continue to urge residents to stay vigilant against ruthless criminals using the crisis to exploit vulnerable residents and trick people - either online, door-to-door, by phone, text or email – into buying goods or services that do not exist.

Next week marks the start of Citizens Advice Scams Awareness Fortnight which focuses on raising awareness of the scams that have emerged as a result of the outbreak.There are resources available to promote the campaign on Citizens Advice website. The National Trading Standards Scams Team has also developed a social media pack which includes suggested text for councils’ social media posts. They can also be contacted by emailing

HMRC phishing scam

On the issue of scams, we have been alerted to a new phishing scam designed to steal personal and financial details from self-employed workers using the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Victims are informed via SMS that they may be eligible for a tax refund and are redirected to a website that looks like the official HMRC site but is designed to gather personal and financial information. I know councils often use their social media challenges to alert their residents to scams and fraudsters, so you may wish to remind people that HRMC will never send notifications of a tax rebate or ask that personal or payment information be disclosed by email or text message. The National Cyber Security Centre has further information on dealing with, and reporting, suspicious messages of this kind.

Good council practice

Our good practice webpage grows ever larger with examples of the amazing work that councils have carried out in response to COVID-19. Among the new additions this week are items on adult services commissioning, maintaining staff wellbeing while working online, the use of data to identify vulnerable groups and unmet need and support provided to businesses, including funding for businesses who require support to maintain safe social distancing and hygiene measures.

Please continue to send your good practice examples to  As we enter this next phase of managing the COVID-19 outbreak and its implications, our current emphasis is on examples that apply to the current context – in particular, those with a renewal/recovery focus. I hope you will continue to find this collection helpful as you plan your own council’s responses to COVID-19.

I hope this end of the week update on the latest COVID-activity was helpful. With next week's reopening of non-essential retail it's inevitably going to be a busy week you and your teams.  Hopefully you'll get some downtime over the weekend ahead of then. We don’t expect to send out a bulletin over the weekend but will, of course, communicate any urgent matters to you that can’t wait until Monday. In the meantime, do give us a follow on Twitter if you haven’t already (@LGAComms and @LGANews).  As usual on a Friday, below are a few additional items of interest to local government on some other issues.

Round up of the non-coronavirus activity from the week

Building safety

Today the House of Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee published a report that identifies that, ahead of the third anniversary on Sunday of the appalling fire at Grenfell Tower, there are still 2,000 high rise residential buildings with some form of dangerous cladding. In our response we agreed that the remediation of dangerous buildings, in the private sector is proceeding too slowly. We repeated our calls for government to act on non-ACM dangerous cladding and highlighted that the fund announced in the Budget, although positive, is insufficient. The £15 billion figure the Committee puts on the cost of addressing all fire safety defects in every high-risk residential building is a horrifying indictment of the failed building safety system in this country. We have stated that this is a crisis resulting from decades of inadequate building safety regulation which needs to be addressed in a cost-effective manner.

Meanwhile, on the specific issue of finding out the truth as to why the disaster at Grenfell happened, this week it was confirmed that the second phase of the Inquiry will resume on 6 July.

EU Exit and Imports

The Government has today updated their proposals to control imports from January 2021 in light of the COVID-19 crisis. From January 2021, controls will apply to all goods. Traders will be able to delay submission of full customs declarations and payments by six months, with the exception of controlled goods which will need a full declaration from January. All products from animal origins will need health certification and documentation checks from April. From July 2021, all traders will make declarations and pay tariffs at the time of importation. The Government intends to provide an additional £50 million to support new border infrastructure and will undertake engagement over the next month to develop a Border Operating Model by mid-July. We will continue to make councils aware of any engagement at a local authority level. We will also continue to work with the Border Force and raise councils' concerns about staffing capacity and new infrastructure needs.

Local government pay 

GMB has confirmed that it will be consulting without a recommendation on whether the Employers’ final pay offer should be accepted or rejected. Its consultation will run to the end of July (as will UNISON’s, which is consulting on the same basis). Unite’s consultation (with a recommendation to reject) runs through to mid-August, so a conclusion to this year’s pay round is unlikely until the end of August at the earliest (assuming all three unions are able to reach a joint position on whether to accept the offer).

LGA green webinars

The LGA has organised an online workshop with the Business Services Association on ‘Greening Procurement’. This will explore the climate emergency and how local government and businesses can work together on meeting local carbon reduction goals. We will discuss how local government is working towards a sustainable economic recovery, how businesses and voluntary organisations can help and how we can incorporate sustainability in our supply chains. The workshop will take place 2.30-4.00pm on Wednesday 24th June, via Microsoft Teams. Please email if you would like to attend.

A reminder that, on Thursday next week, we will also be hosting a webinar on decarbonising transport after COVID-19. Information is on the same link above.

Waste management

Working on behalf of the LGA, Local Partnerships has published the ninth annual regional review on efficiencies delivered in waste management. The 2020 annual review explores efficiencies achieved by local authorities in waste and resource management in the South West region. In common with authorities across the UK, they continue to face testing times as resources are reduced but service expectations remain high. Based on authorities that participated in this review, innovation in the South West has delivered savings and generated additional income in excess of £22 million per annum. The report provides examples that will enable others to benefit from best practice developed from authority experiences. The executive summary and full report can be found here. For more information please contact

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd