Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

17 June 2020

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Dear Colleague,

A meeting of the House of Commons Education Committee today provided an opportunity for us to raise councils' priorities regarding schools, children’s social care and sustainable funding of all the work councils carry out to support our communities.

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of our Children and Young People's Board, provided evidence as part of its inquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on education and children's services. The session focused mainly on school closures and it was a chance to once again highlight the role of councils in supporting vulnerable children and the children of key workers over the past few weeks, as well as ensuring more pupils have been able to safely return to school.

Cllr Blake also highlighted some of the implications for other services, including children’s social care which has seen significant reductions in referrals but that councils were seeking to mitigate by working with partners to identify children at risk. She noted that the partial closure of schools meant that many children were experiencing 'hidden harms' and called for any catch-up programmes to consider the wellbeing of students, with an expanded welfare and mental health support in schools and the community. Catch-up programmes also featured in the House of Commons chamber today – we expect an announcement from the Education Secretary very soon.

In all our parliamentary work on your behalf we make the point that the pandemic has compounded the financial constraints facing councils. We have been calling for the uncertainty around councils' financial positions to be addressed as soon as possible, to allow us to be able to fully play our part in the economic recovery.

The need for councils to be sustainably funded to ensure we can support our communities also featured prominently at Prime Minister's Questions this afternoon. Councils' widespread work throughout the pandemic on social care, homelessness, delivering food parcels and sourcing PPE throughout the pandemic was praised.

As we work to unlock a further package of measures to help you manage the financial impact of COVID-19, just a reminder that the deadline for the June financial management information survey returns to reach MHCLG is 11pm this Friday (19 June). We will also receive the returns you submit to Government and the information you provide will be vital as we continue to press the case for funding.

If there's anything else you think we should be featuring in either our public-facing lobbying work, or private discussions at the highest levels of government, please do feed that in by liaising with your Principal Adviser. They are helping us to determine how we can best support councils, now and into the future.

Today's Ministerial updates

This evening's Number 10 Press Conference was led by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden.

The data slides highlighted that the number of people admitted to hospital, number of people on mechanical ventilators and the number of deaths due to COVID-19, continue to fall.

Mr Dowden used his announcement to highlight the return of Premier League this evening. He urged fans to stay at home to watch the matches, which will be free to air. Mr Dowden also noted the charitable work carried out by sportsmen and women throughout the crisis, including Marcus Rashford's campaign to ensure children continue to receive free school meals throughout the summer holidays. He added that the Government is working closely with the sector to ensure grassroots and community sport is up and running as soon as it is safe to do so, with an aim of the start of July at the very earliest.

On cultural activities, he said he had been talking "extensively" to the creative industries sector to find ways to get live performance back up and running as soon as possible. In addition to the culture and leisure taskforce, Mr Dowden said that leading performers in theatre, choirs and orchestras, alongside medical experts and advisers, will work together in detail to form a roadmap to performing safely.

A journalist asked when people will find out whether they can holiday in the UK, and when more public toilets will open. In response, Mr Dowden said he hopes in the next stage of the roadmap, tourism will return to the UK. On public toilets, Mr Dowden said that MHCLG has set "clear guidance" for local authorities that they should be opening toilets. You can read more about this guidance in the stories below.

In today's Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, highlighted councils' work on social care, tackling homelessness, delivering food parcels and sourcing PPE throughout the pandemic. He also highlighted our analysis which found that councils will have a significant shortfall this year if the Government does not guarantee they will be fully funded. Responding, the Prime Minster, Boris Johnson, noted the £3.2 billion of new council funding and the £600 million for social care. In response to a question on school openings, Mr Johnson said that the Education Secretary would be announcing a catch-up plan for school children "very shortly". MPs also asked questions on people with no recourse to public funds, social impact bonds and the health surcharge.

Remote meetings 

We continue to receive queries from councillors and officers about the future of public meetings. While we always encourage councils to consult your own monitoring officers, we have sought our own legal advice which we have shared with your teams.

The legal advice we have received on the interpretation of the current Regulations states that councillors are not allowed to gather for meetings (more than six people outdoors or more than two people indoors). Our legal counsel has advised us that neither the "reasonably necessary for work" or the "fulfilling a legal obligation/participating in legal proceedings" exceptions could apply in the case of council meetings.

We know many of you have questions about why national government has been allowed to return to Westminster, but local councillors are unable to perform similar democratic functions (while adhering to social distancing) in our own city, county and town halls if they wish to. Our view is that the regulations should be amended, or guidance should be issued to allow councillors to hold hybrid meetings in the same way as Parliament is able to. You will know that Parliament revoked their own resolution passed in April which allowed them to work remotely and passed another resolution to allow them to return. We have raised this issue as a priority with Government, including in our most recent conversations with MHCLG.

Vulnerable people and shielding

You will be aware of speculation in the media today on the future of support for the clinically extremely vulnerable 'shielded' group. We understand a decision has still not been made, so councils are advised to wait for further clarification on the future of the programme with an announcement expected early next week.

We and councils represented on the Shielding Engagement Forum (SEF) have pushed for early notification to councils and health partners of any announcement, and for this to be made not just before the weekend. MHCLG have indicated that they intend to update their FAQ document. If you have any questions you would want to see covered, please contact so we can share these with MHCLG.

We, and the SEF, remain keen to work with central government on next steps for the programme, particularly around ensuring close links with local outbreak planning and on ensuring effective data flows between local and central government.

Adult social care

 The Care Quality Commission (CQC), supported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), has completed a targeted piece of work to analyse the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on different ethnic groups in care settings. Like the data from elsewhere, this data indicates a disproportionate number of deaths among people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups in these settings.

 The CQC has also published the second of their regular coronavirus insight reports. This month's report focuses on the closer working - between hospitals, primary care, social care and community services – that needs to be supported and built on and includes three case studies of where this has been done well. They want to highlight the importance of collaboration between services as integral to meeting people’s needs, and stress how vital it is that positive transformational changes are not lost and that efforts to improve system working become widespread. I know this is a view shared by those in local government and the care sector.

Finally, our 'rough guide' for Safeguarding Adult Board (SAB) Chairs may be of interest to councils during this time. This has been developed by Chairs to support each other in responding to a range of issues and capture learning since the implementation of the Care Act 2014. It is not formal advice or guidance and should be used to have local conversations about the issues so that local solutions can be found.

LGA webinar: Tackling health inequalities

As illustrated by the publication of yesterday's report from Public Health England, the pandemic, and the wider governmental and societal response, have brought health inequalities into sharp focus. There is early evidence which suggests that some of the social determinants of health – including obesity, ethnicity, deprivation, poor mental health, and socio-economic status – are contributing to higher levels of COVID-19 related deaths. In our webinar next week (Tuesday 23 June, 12.00-1.20pm) Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, will discuss his landmark research on the widening health gap. We will also hear case studies on how local areas and their health and wellbeing boards, are leading on tackling health inequalities.

Virtual conference: Housing, health, and social care

Another free event will bring health, housing and care sector leaders together to share insights and practice on the role of housing and community-based services in the reset of the health and care system post-COVID. This event is hosted by Foundations, developed in partnership with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Service, and the Housing Learning and Development Network and supported by the LGA's Care and Health Improvement Programme. Discussion will focus on recovery from the immediate challenge, the opportunities to reset and mainstream some of the urgent responses that have worked well, and how we regenerate to produce better outcomes. Speakers include Luke Hall MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing.


Today the Department for Education has made some updates to its guidance on education settings:


With some areas experiencing heavy rain this week, at the time of writing, two flood warnings are in place and 13 flood alerts. These mainly relate to rivers and waterways around the Midlands. While these warnings aren't currently as significant as when the country has faced more severe and sustained wet weather, I know councils in affected areas are prudently looking at their emergency planning and contingencies procedures should the weather take a turn for the worse. The current social distancing measures in place would, of course, have an impact on any measures that would need to be put in place should people need to leave their homes. If there is anything you think we should be aware of as we raise councils' priorities with Government, please let us know by emailing

Public transport  

This morning the Transport Committee heard from three Metro Mayors on the implications of coronavirus on transport: Tim Bowles from West of England Combined Authority, Andy Burnham from Greater Manchester and Steve Rotheram from Liverpool City Region. In the session, the Mayors emphasised the need to devolve transport so bus companies do not “cherry pick” which services they should run, whilst also making fares more affordable to the public. As lockdown restrictions are being eased, they noted that the 2-metre rule currently in place means some bus services are already operating at capacity. Tim Bowles added that even if the 2-metre rule was relaxed to 1 metre, it would not significantly increase the capacity available on public transport. On local lockdowns, the witnesses said they remain unsure how they would work, with Mr Burnham noting they would be easier to enforce on an office block or care home, for example, but much harder to enforce in the community. All three noted the reduction in people using public transport and the impact this is having on revenue, but said it was positive to see a significant increase in cycling.

Devolution of transport powers, functions and funding, public transport capacity, the impact on council finances and the practicalities of local lockdowns are all issues we have been raising with central government including the Department for Transport. If there are any specific issues or insights you think we should be aware of please email

Changes in Coronavirus Regulations

The Regulations that govern Coronavirus restrictions during the emergency period have now been amended and, as I mentioned yesterday, have particular implications for cultural services. The amendments mean libraries can now offer 'order and collect' services, any council-run gift shops can now operate, and any council-run cafés can sell food or drinks for consumption off the premises. Of course, the usual social distancing and COVID-secure guidance would need to apply in all these instances. Please refer to the regulations themselves before taking any action and take appropriate legal advice if required.

Reopening hospitality

We know that councils are already looking at how they can support the hospitality sector to open up safely and you will no doubt have seen reports in the media about plans to allow cafes, restaurants and bars to re-open outdoors, in advance of opening up their inside areas. The LGA has been in discussion with government departments about the possible relaxation of licensing and other requirements to support this. We have said councils support the need for more light touch processes and flexibility but emphasised the need for councils to be able to take decisions about what is appropriate for their areas given other considerations such as the need for road closures, nearby residential premises etc. We are also urging the Government to provide clarity on any changes as soon as possible, to enable councils to prepare for them and provide the most effective support to local businesses.

Public toilets

There is now almost daily press coverage on the reopening of public toilets. Today an article from the BBC highlights concerns from the charity Crohn’s and Coilitis UK. A quote from MHCLG states that the Ministry "encouraging councils to open toilets wherever possible". Of course, councils only run a proportion of the public facilities in England. The article also references concerns about reduced capacity at shopping centres and public toilets at train stations.

In our own media activity, we are making clear that councils are taking individual local decisions about public toilets based on a risk assessment and whether social distancing measures can be maintained. We are also advising that people should not assume toilets will be open and plan their journeys and outdoor activities accordingly.

The BBC article mentions guidance to help councils undertake risk assessments. The Government's official guidance on safer public places advises on configuration of toilet facilities to ensure they are kept clean with social distancing achieved as far as possible and with best hand washing followed. The same guidance also advises minimising the use of portable toilets and undertaking enhanced cleaning for facilities that are heavily used. Risk assessments are also required to ensure the risks to staff responsible for cleaning and maintaining public toilets are properly managed.\

Business support

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published their weekly update on the amount of funding distributed through the Small Business Grants Fund scheme and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund by each council. As of 14 June, councils’ efforts mean that £10.37 billion has been paid out to businesses in relation to over 844,000 properties. This represents 84 per cent of the total allocation and almost 88.5 per cent of the total number of properties identified by councils as eligible to receive the grants.

BEIS also sent via email on 16 June ‘Grant Funding Schemes Assurance Guidance for Local Authorities’ to the chief executives at each English billing authority. It has not been published on the Government’s website.  The guidance sets out the overall broad framework for assurance activities that local authorities are required to undertake for the business grants that were created as part of Government’s response to COVID 19. It is supplementary to the published guidance Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund and Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund.

The new guidance was developed in consultation with the Local Authority Advisory Group and other local authority colleagues, as well as the Government Counter Fraud and the Grants Management Function. Any immediate questions should be directed to or to your Cities and Local Growth Unit local contact.

Workforce survey

Thanks again to those councils who have continued to complete our fortnightly COVID-19 Workforce Survey. 67 per cent of councils completed the last survey and this has again contributed to informing our response to central government on the impacts of COVID-19 on councils.

We understand the challenges of maintaining key services at this time and how councils are balancing the challenges of staff absence due to self-isolation and COVID-19 related sickness, as well as the need to redeploy. 85 per cent of councils have redeployed staff, with just over 22,000 staff being reassigned new roles to deal with the crisis at this time. As lockdown restrictions are lifted further understanding of how this impacts locally, regionally and nationally on councils’ workforce is vital to the recovery and renewal effort. Links have been sent out today to HR contacts in councils for the next data collection and I encourage all councils to submit their returns.

Support for self-employed parents

The Government has today announced that self-employed parents, whose trading profits dipped in 2018/19 because they took time out to have children, will be able to claim for a payment under the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS). The updated eligibility criteria has been reflected in the SEISS guidance and fact sheets.

Psychological first aid training

Front line staff and volunteers at the forefront of the COVID-19 response across England are now able to access a new Psychological First Aid (PFA) training course, the Government has announced. The free online course teaches responders how to give practical and emotional support on issues such as job worries, bereavement or isolation to those affected by coronavirus. Frontline responders can access the training materials for free through the Future Learn website.

I hope this midweek update was helpful and for any readers particularly into soccer, enjoy the return of Premier League football this evening.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd