Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

16 June 2020

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Dear Colleague,

As we all seek to do our utmost to minimise the spread of infection, it is vital to understand more about how and why the virus may impact different communities in different ways. Back in April, Public Health England (PHE) was asked to investigate the disparities in risk and outcomes of COVID-19, including the impact on people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. Today PHE has submitted their report, which has gathered insights from more than 4,000 people representing BAME communities and highlights that work still needs to be done to ensure people from BAME groups are not disproportionately affected by the virus. This report confirms that the impact of COVID-19 has replicated and exposed existing health inequalities in these communities and in some cases, increased them. Worryingly, there is clearly an association between belonging to some ethnic groups and the likelihood of testing positive and dying with COVID-19.

This is backed up by the data that shows the highest age standardised diagnosis rates of COVID-19 per 100,000 population were in people of black ethnic groups, and the lowest were in people of white ethnic groups. After accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death when compared to people of white British ethnicity. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black ethnicity had between 10 and 50 per cent higher risk of death when compared to white British.

On suggestions for change, the stakeholders engaged have called for further work on the socio-economic, occupational, cultural and structural factors (including racism, discrimination and stigma) influencing COVID-19 outcomes in BAME groups, both within and outside the health sector. It includes a series of recommendations including on research and data, policy change and improvements to communications, particularly around public messaging campaigns.

Specifically on local government, the report praises the work of councils in supporting vulnerable people, particularly in responding to the challenges of the crisis. It recognises the financial pressures we face, in terms of both wider funding and public health reductions which impact on our vital prevention work, and calls for greater resources to “meet the growing and pervasive needs that will emerge post-COVID”. It suggests that local government officials (including public health teams) have a unique opportunity to provide advocacy for vulnerable groups and to tackle racism and discrimination within the health and care system, including improving diversity leadership at all levels. It recommends that local government (and other public sector bodies) improve access, experience and outcomes in services used by BAME communities.

As fairness, equality and social justice flows through everything local government does, we know councils are wholly committed to ensuring that no one in their communities is left behind or cannot be supported to combat the effects of this dreadful virus. We will join you in looking carefully at these important recommendations, and at what more can be done to make sure the lessons of this report are learnt from and acted upon.

You may have seen the reports that the Managing Director of Dartford Borough Council, Graham Harris, very sadly passed away last week after suffering from a heart attack. Graham was an experienced public servant and had worked at the council for more than 30 years, serving in the top job for almost 20 of them. He also played his part in supporting the wider local government family, through his role here at the LGA as an officer peer sharing his insights and wisdom in helping other councils to improve and innovate. Our thoughts are with his loved ones and colleagues at this difficult time.

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. He was joined by Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, and Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health at the University of Oxford.

The Prime Minister began the press conference by announcing what he called the biggest scientific breakthrough for treating COVID-19. He thanked British scientists and the NHS after clinical trials demonstrated that a steroid called Dexamethasone was successful in reducing the severity of COVID-19 cases. You can read more about this trial below.

In an answer to a question from a journalist, he confirmed that the Department for International Development would be merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Ministers are aiming to set up the new joint department - called the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office - by September.

Free school meals

You will have seen the news that children eligible for free school meals in term-time in England will now get a six-week voucher to support them during the summer holidays. This follows a campaign led by the Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford. This is a positive development that will help ensure children in need are provided for in these unprecedented times. The pandemic has shown that listening and working together can lead to policies that have positive outcomes for our most vulnerable communities, including children and young people from low-income families.

No young person should have to go hungry and ensuring vulnerable pupils, including those on free school meals and with special educational needs and disabilities, are provided for is a top priority for councils and schools. We know there are more than 1.3 million young people entitled to free school meals and the number of families in need is likely to be much greater as the impact of the pandemic has forced thousands of families into financial insecurity. In our own media response we said that councils will continue to work with schools, families and the Government to ensure that children and young people receive the support they need.


New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that the number of workers on UK payrolls fell by more than 600,000 between March and May this year. Meanwhile, the number of people claiming work-related benefits - which includes people who are unemployed - was up 126 per cent to 2.8 million. The ONS says that the full effect on employment will not be felt until wage support schemes end in October. Separate HMRC figures reveal that 9.1 million workers are having their wages paid through the Government’s furlough scheme.

Taken together, these figures are very worrying for local economies and illustrate the importance of councils being empowered to develop post-COVID economic recovery options that ensure every region of the country can benefit from emerging employment opportunities. As we said in our media response, the pandemic provides a real opportunity to devolve skills investment and back-to-work support to local areas so councils can work with businesses and education providers to ensure people are trained and retrained with relevant skills, enabling our diverse communities to have the best possible chance of contributing to and benefiting from any economic reboot. Our own Work Local programme shows how employment and skills services in England can be improved through local public-private collaborations.

These are points we have made in the economic recovery roundtable we participated in, which was chaired by the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma. We were invited to contribute to the roundtable on increasing opportunity, which explores how to level up economic performance across the UK including through skills and apprenticeships. There will be opportunities to contribute directly by sharing written submissions with Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (via but if there are issues or examples of good practice that you want us to raise then please send these to

Town deals

Yesterday the Government published further Towns Fund guidance which sets out the key information local leaders need to prepare for a Town Deal and develop proposals in the form of a Town Investment Plan. The 100 selected places will now have four weeks to decide whether to submit a Towns Investment Plan by 31 July 2020 or, in a later cohort, by either October 2020 or early 2021. To support councils a Towns Hub has been created which consists of MHCLG and the Towns Fund Delivery Partnership, led by Arup.

We know that councils’ role in creating and regenerating vibrant town centres will be essential in supporting a locally-led economic recovery. In the immediate term, we remain keen to hear of your experiences in the re-opening of non-essential retail stores this week, and if there are any issues we need to raise on your behalf with representative bodies of the retail sector or with the Government. Please let us know by emailing

Vaccine and treatments

As updated by the Prime Minister this evening, a trial led by a team at Oxford University has been exploring the use of the widely available and cheaply obtained low-dose steroid treatment, dexamethasone, in treating patients seriously ill with COVID-19. In the trial, it cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth. This is a positive breakthrough, which could have huge implications globally, and has been described by the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, as “the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far”. The drug will now be made widely available on the NHS and become the standard of care for all COVID-19 patients on oxygen in hospitals. The Chief Medical Officer will shortly issue guidance.

In the longer-term, we know that a viable vaccine is one route out of easing the restrictions facing society, protecting the most vulnerable and providing a route to a more normal way of life. It is therefore positive news that the Government has confirmed that clinical researchers at Imperial College London will begin human trials on a new COVID-19 vaccine. This particular potential vaccine has undergone rigorous pre-clinical safety tests and has been shown to be safe and produced encouraging signs of an effective immune response in animal studies. Over the coming weeks, 300 healthy participants will receive two doses of the vaccine. If the vaccine shows a promising immune response, then larger trials would be planned to begin later in the year with around 6000 healthy volunteers to test its effectiveness.

COVID-19 deaths

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that deaths involving COVID-19 as a percentage of all deaths in care homes decreased to 23.4 per cent in the week to 5 June. This compares to 28.2 per cent in the previous week.

We know that social care remains the frontline in the fight against the virus and, while it is clear we are now past the peak of the virus in care homes, it is still concerning that nearly a third of all deaths from COVID-19 continues to happen in these settings. There has been a slight weekly increase in the number of people dying from COVID-19 in their own homes and other communal settings, which is equally as worrying. Excess deaths in care homes and private homes continue to be higher than the five-year average, compared to hospitals which have seen a decline, leaving our older people and most vulnerable at risk.

In our media response we promoted councils’ efforts to protect those in care homes and receiving care through the development of plans to control and prevent future infection outbreaks, and reiterated the need for councils and social care teams to have the resources you need to undertake this vital work. We continue to work 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.

Coronavirus Regulations

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has confirmed that the necessary amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 have now been made to reflect the latest easements on some of the restrictions facing society. These now allow for adults living without another adult in their household, including single parents with dependent children under the age of 18, to form a “support bubble” with another household. Individual prayer in places of worship is officially permitted, as is people making end of life visits. Non-essential retail can open, as can some outdoor attractions including drive-in cinemas and zoos. Libraries are permitted to operate an order and collect service. 

Adult social care

The LGA and NHS Digital are continuing to support digital innovation to help councils and our care partners deliver key health and social care services. This follows the success of the Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerator project, which was launched two years ago develop digital solutions to health and care challenges. Five partner councils are being sought to work with Barking and Dagenham Council to develop and implement a virtual support provider to help people with learning disabilities live more independently. This will have a dual focus on supporting people to enhance their employability and better manage their mental health and wellbeing in the light of COVID-19. Match funding of £70,000 for this project is provided by NHS Digital. A webinar recording on this project is available from

The Care Providers Alliance (CPA) has issued advice to its members regarding the Infection Control Fund. This provides further information and examples to assist care providers’ reports to local authorities on additional expenditure incurred on infection control arrangements because of COVID-19.

We have also received advice from the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) which may be helpful to local authorities. This follows the concerns we raised on your behalf on the wording in the grant circular that payment of the second instalment is contingent on the first being used for infection control measures and being used in its entirety. We asked them to clarify what this means in practice.

DHSC has confirmed that they do not expect care home providers to have spent the cash they have received by 26 June. They should, however, be able to provide information to local authorities on what their plans are around the funding received. DHSC expect councils to have fully allocated (and, in almost all cases, distributed) the funding they have received. They are therefore expecting that councils will, for the most part, be able to state ‘yes’ to the question in the reporting template which asks if they have allocated 75 per cent of the first month’s funding straight to care homes, and provide some detail on the measures. In terms of the 25 per cent that is at the discretion of councils, they are expecting this will also have been allocated (and much dispensed to providers) for domiciliary care and wider workforce measures by 26 June. The value of the Infection Control Fund dispensed as of 26 June should be, for the most part, in line with the original allocation. If the money has not been given to providers by the relevant date, DHSC has suggested that the relevant council may need to be able to explain why that is the case.

Personal protective equipment

Updated guidance has been released today with key updated questions and some additional information particularly around specifications of surgical mask types and relating to the care of people with learning disabilities and/or autism. There are two new guidance documents issued, one is guidance for staff delivering homecare and the second is guidance for staff delivering care in care homes.


The Department for Education (DfE) has today updated its guidance on how educational and childcare settings should prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020. This is to ensure this guidance reflects the latest information on how primary schools can use flexibility to welcome back additional pupils this term, where they have capacity.

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), a charity providing education research and insight, has published the second report in a series focusing on schools’ responses to COVID-19. The Pupil Engagement in Remote Learning [Google Drive document] report highlights significant differences in pupils’ level of engagement with remote learning.

Based on findings from a representative survey of 1,233 school leaders and 1,821 teachers in May, the survey showed that although on average, primary school leaders say that 71 per cent of pupils are getting involved in learning activities, and secondary schools indicate that an average of 63 per cent of pupils are getting involved in set work, pupil engagement is lower in schools with the highest levels of deprivation. School leaders believe that around one third of pupils (29-37 per cent) are not engaging with set work at all.

School leaders report that 23 per cent of their school’s pupils have limited access to IT at home. Those schools delivering learning content to pupils through online conversations (as part of a range of measures), have higher general pupil engagement levels (five percentage points) and an increased probability of having highly engaged disadvantaged pupils (eight percentage points). The NFER will publish their next report in this series later in the week exploring schools’ provision for vulnerable children and the children of keyworkers.

Children and families

A new report from the Early Intervention Foundation and Action for Children concludes that school closures, social distancing and lockdown measures have seriously affected the ability of services to support children and their families. The report echoes our concerns about the long-term impact of the crisis on vulnerable children and families. In our own response, we highlighted the need for the right services to be in place to support them as we look ahead to recovery. You have all been doing a brilliant job leading your communities through the pandemic. Social workers and colleagues across children’s services and education should be commended for their determination to keep children safe and well.

Beach safety

It will come as welcome news today that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is to increase lifeguard patrols on beaches to 70 per cent of levels during a normal summer. The charity already has lifeguards operational on 80 beaches and is hoping to have lifeguards on around 170 beaches by early July, when restrictions on the tourism and hospitality industries are likely to be lifted.

As the country faces what could be its busiest ever summer beach season, with many schools closed and restrictions on travel abroad, it is reassuring to know that lifeguard provision will increase. Keeping people safe has been of particular concern to councils in tourism hotspots and as recent tragedies have shown coastal locations can be dangerous places to visit if people don’t take care and follow safety guidelines.

As our statement today makes clear, councils urgently need government funding to help them introduce measures to improve safety at beaches and coastal spots, particularly as a lifeguard service still won’t be provided at all the beaches patrolled in a normal summer.

Making sure the public can access timely information about beaches and beach safety on council websites will help keep people up to date on latest safety and travel advice and members of the public should be encouraged to ‘check before they travel’. Together with HM Coastguard, the RNLI is running a beach safety campaign, urging parents to protect their families by following key safety advice to save lives this summer. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency also have guidance on managing beach safety.

Modern Slavery Month of Action

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on modern slavery and human trafficking, through forced premises closures, displacement of victims and further reducing visibility within the community, whilst unemployment and furloughing has increased vulnerability.

From 22 June to the end of July, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) are coordinating a multi-agency response to slavery with a focus on labour exploitation, particularly in the areas of agriculture and food production as well as hand car washes. Councils are encouraged to work with local policing and modern slavery partnerships to plan activity for this period and the NCA has provided a briefing setting out how you can get involved and how to get in touch.

We also has some useful resources to support councils in their work to tackle modern slavery, including case studies, a councillor guide and some more specific guidance on hand car washes.


The National Employers Organisation for School Teachers (NEOST) has published a guide which aims to provide schools and trusts with information and guidance around wellbeing, and signposts to other resources and links. This is specifically dealing with issues arising during the COVID-19 pandemic and as more schools start to open more widely. 

Electoral canvass

The necessary regulations to amend the final date for submitting this year’s revised electoral registers have now been published and have come into force. The date has been extended from 1 December 2020 to 1 February 2021. This will allow council staff more time to complete canvassing and maintain the accuracy of their registers.

Recovery briefings

A reminder that the University of Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute is developing a weekly briefing for LRFs, councils and others on a range of recovery issues, including highlighting emerging practice from around the world. For ease of access, the previous briefings have been collated on the University’s website; if you would like to receive the weekly briefing directly, you can sign up here.

National Emergencies Trust survey

The National Emergencies Trust (NET) was launched last November to provide a coordinated fundraising mechanism for UK emergencies. Since March, when NET launched its coronavirus appeal, more than £80 million has been raised from donations from corporates, charitable trusts and the public. £30 million of funding has been distributed to date, with more than 6,000 organisations across the UK supported.

To help inform future allocations from the fund, NET is currently trying to gauge unmet needs across the UK and while it is currently looking at internal and external data, it is also very keen to understand needs from a local perspective. NET is therefore inviting councils and LRFs to complete a short survey to inform the next round of funding decisions due at the end of this month. The survey can be completed online and should take less than five minutes.

LGA webinar: Housing delivery

The pandemic will have a significant impact on the supply of housing to meet the country’s needs, yet we know that boosting housing supply will be vital to stimulating much-needed economic growth and delivering the right homes in the right places. Our Housing Delivery webinar on Monday 22 June, 10.00-11.15am, will explore how councils, as leaders of place, can work with the home building industry to restart the housing market following COVID-19. We will be joined by representatives from MHCLG, the National Housing Federation and councils. This webinar may be of particular interest to councillors with an interest in housing, planning and regeneration, and officers with these responsibilities.

Political leadership webinars

A reminder that we have produced a series of webinars to support your elected members with their political leadership during these challenging times. Today we have added a new webinar on how council leaders can encourage and support rapid innovation and change. Councillors can also watch and download the slides of our webinars on the role of the ward councillor in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, and on the importance of opposition leadership.

LGA Annual Conference webinars

Finally, if you haven’t already, please do take a look at our virtual annual conference series of webinars and share with your councillors and officers. These feature prominent keynote speakers from local and central government, and are your opportunity to discuss and debate how our local areas can support the country’s economic, cultural and environmental regeneration and recovery during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd