Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

19 June 2020

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Dear Colleague,

Today, the Joint Biosecurity Centre recommended that the COVID-19 alert level should move from Level 4 (a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially) to Level 3 (a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation. This has been reviewed by the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales who have agreed with the recommendation to move to Level 3. The CMOs have stressed that this "does not mean that the pandemic is over" and that "localised outbreaks are likely to occur".

The Chair of our Children and Young People Board, Cllr Judith Blake, was interviewed live on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning about our response to the Government’s announcement to provide a £1 billion “catch-up” package for children and young people who have fallen behind on their school work during the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the Prime Minister’s plans for all pupils to return to schools from September, the Government will share £700 million across early years, schools and 16-19 providers over the 2020/21 academic year. Separately, a multi-year National Tutoring Programme, worth £300 million, will increase access to tuition for the most disadvantaged young people.

We know that you have been working closely with headteachers and schools to ensure all children have access to support during the pandemic and in our response, we said that the funding was positive and that we are very keen to see the details about how this is going to be distributed. Councils will continue to work closely with headteachers and schools as we need to know where the most vulnerable children are and to provide support so that they do not fall further behind in their development.

Early next week there is likely to be an announcement on the future of support for the clinically extremely vulnerable ‘shielded’ people beyond the end of June. Both we and the Shielding Stakeholder Engagement Forum have pushed for councils to receive early notification of this type of announcement, and I’m pleased to say that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have agreed to provide an advance briefing for all council chief executives. We have provisionally scheduled a webinar with the chief executive and director of the shielding programme, Chris Townsend and Ben Llewellyn, at 2.00-2.30pm on Monday 22nd June. Subject to confirmation from MHCLG on Monday that this is still able to go ahead, we will circulate details of how to attend the webinar by email on the day, so please do look out for this.  

As always, 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.

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson.

On schools, Mr Williamson highlighted the Government’s plan for phased reopening and the measures announced this week, including flexibility for primary schools to bring back more children if they are able to do so, and the £1 billion catch-up plan. He stated that the Government will be bringing all children back to school in September, but acknowledged the concerns some parents have about the safety of their children. He reassured parents that the Government’s priority is the wellbeing of their children, and highlighted protective measures put in place, including protective bubbles.

On the catch-up plan, Mr Williamson said it will include targeted support for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and a £650 million universal catch-up premium for all state school children in England. He added that the Education Endowment Foundation has published guidance for schools on how the money will be best spent, including summer schools, access to technology and intervention programmes. The funding will be used by schools at their discretion.

A journalist highlighted that early years and colleges are excluded from the funding announced today. In response, the Secretary of State highlighted the “Hungry Little Minds scheme” which will be funding directly aimed at early years children, and said the Government will be looking at ways they can continue to support early years and colleges.

Testing - local direction

Local areas will have been advised of the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) plans to roll out the local direction of Mobile Testing Units (MTUs). The first phase started on 8 June, with the remainder of the programme expected to be completed within six weeks. This means that decisions around where to place testing vehicles, and direct their movements, will be planned by LFR Recovery Coordinating Groups, with input from directors of public health. This reflects a direction of travel to give greater control of testing capacity and its deployment to local areas which is welcome, and something we have been calling for, so you can target resources based on local intelligence, knowledge and prioritisation. For further details, a presentation on this can be found on the Testing, Tracing, and Outbreak Management Khub.

Testing - improvements

We know that having the ability to flex testing capabilities based on local circumstances and community needs will be vital to reaching all aspects of our communities, particularly vulnerable people and hard to reach groups. The LGA is keen to hear from you on the range of different testing capabilities you think you need to support your communities access testing, particularly vulnerable people and harder to reach groups, so that we can make a strong case to Government, and help shape their policy and processes as more testing capacity is localised.  Please send my colleague your thoughts on, and examples of:

  • Current barriers and limitations around testing
  • Examples of innovations and solutions that you have adopted locally to make testing operate effectively at a local level
  • Aspirations as more testing capacity is localised – for example, ideal testing capabilities, freedoms/flexibilities, enabling policies etc.

Test and trace scam warning

Councils across the country are playing a key role in supporting the NHS Test and Trace Service and on plans to manage local outbreaks. It is extremely concerning that local authorities have received reports of a new coronavirus-related scam which is undermining this vital work to save lives by exploiting people who want to do the right thing and stop the spread of the virus.

Look out for media coverage tomorrow (Saturday) of our press release warning people to be on their guard against criminals trying to trick people out of money by pretending to be from the NHS Test and Trace Service through bogus phone calls, emails and text messages which ask for bank card details to cover the cost of the testing kit. The genuine NHS service is free.

Our warning comes during Scams Awareness Fortnight and amid new research by Citizens Advice which shows that more than one in three people in the UK have been targeted in scams since lockdown began.

High streets

It was announced today that the Government will extend measures to prevent high street businesses facing eviction from 30 July to 30 September, meaning no business will be forced out of their premises if they a miss a payment in the next three months. A new code of practice has been developed with leaders from the retail, hospitality and property sectors to provide clarity for businesses when discussing rental payments and to encourage best practice so that all parties are supported. The code is voluntary for businesses and is relevant to all commercial leases held by businesses in any sector which have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It encourages tenants to continue to pay their rent in full if they are in a position to do so and advises that others should pay what they can, whilst acknowledging that landlords should provide support to businesses if they too are able to do so.

Housing and planning

Look out for coverage in the Observer this weekend of our new housing recovery report, where we say a post-pandemic building boom of 100,000 social homes a year is needed to provide housing fit for social care, health and other key workers who have fought coronavirus on the frontline and the families of those who lost their lives. We reiterate the need for councils to be given the powers to build thousands more desperately needed council homes, where they are locally needed, to help drive the national recovery. Our report, ‘Delivery of Local Authority Housing – Developing a Stimulus Package Post-Pandemic’, will be published on our website on Sunday with social media activity planned for next week.

Support and accommodation for asylum seekers

Many councils have asylum seekers housed and supported by Home Office contractors in their communities whilst decisions are made on their applications to remain in the UK. In order to comply with public health ‘lockdown’ recommendations during the pandemic, the asylum decision making process was effectively paused and asylum seekers were not required to leave this accommodation. We understand that Home Office Ministers shortly will be writing to councils across the UK to detail their exit process for moving away from this emergency response. This is likely to start with those whose claim for asylum has been accepted, who are then required to move on from Home Office support and who therefore may have statutory entitlements to homelessness assistance from councils. More information including council-level data and timelines will follow.

We will continue to engage via the ongoing joint Home Office and Chief Executive Group, co-chaired by the LGA. Whilst many councils will be keen to reduce the use of hotels currently being used as emergency accommodation and to support those making a new life for themselves in the UK, we have stressed the need for this to be jointly delivered with councils at a pace that works locally in recognition of other demands on local homelessness services noted above. More information is available from your Strategic Migration Partnerships and we will share further detail as soon as it available.

Care home admissions

Updated guidance was published by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) today on care home admissions and how to protect care home residents and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance has been updated to reflect changes to the testing guidance and gives updated guidance on looking after symptomatic residents and provides additional information on personal protective equipment (PPE), workforce restrictions, Test and Trace for staff and several other elements.

Deaths of care workers

DHSC has today published consolidated guidance for local authorities and social care providers on steps to take following the death of a person who worked in adult social care in England and bereavement resources for the social care workforce.

DHSC risk reduction framework for social care employers

DHSC has published risk reduction guidance for social care employers, noting that the social care workforce is vital in supporting the health and care needs within our communities, and that keeping people who work in social care settings, and those who use social care services, safe and well is critical.

The guidance makes clear that adult social care employers have a duty of care to secure the health, safety and welfare of workers and the people who use services, as far as possible.

Service providers should have a process in place to assess and reduce risk for everyone in their care, regardless of characteristics or vulnerabilities. This should include:

  • the risk to the people who use the service, considering any individual characteristics which may put them at increased risk
  • the risk in the workplace, which should include travel to and from, and travel between workplaces
  • the risk to workers, including volunteers, considering any individual characteristics which may put them at increased risk.

Adult social care app

DHSC has launched a new dedicated app for the adult social care workforce in England to support staff through the COVID-19 pandemic. The app is available for anyone working in social care in England and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as well as being accessible online.

Social work support

More than 90 councils have signed up to Social Work Together, a campaign we developed with Government and Social Work England to help councils respond to the impact of COVID-19 on their workforce and communities. More than 1,000 social workers have shared their skills on our online platform and can access training in COVID-19 while they wait for councils to contact them about available positions. Our social workers are a mix of those on the temporary and permanent registers, meaning they can support you with both short-term and long-term roles. You can see their CVs for free, helping you avoid the cost of agency fees. More information can be found on our website.

Learning Disability Week

As we come to the end of Learning Disability Week, here are seven commissioned short films by Ace Anglia and Speak Up (funded by NHS England and Improvement), which promote the resilience of people with a learning disability and how they have used friendships to adapt during the pandemic.

Music For Dementia

m4d Radio is a new internet radio station created for people living with dementia and their carers. It is free to listeners and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Councillors on our Community Wellbeing Board have met with m4d to discuss their support for those living with this condition. The five available channels play music that evoke memories based on the years when a listener was born.

Culture, hospitality, tourism and leisure

The Lawn Tennis Association has published cost-free offer to support Local Authorities, including free booking system ‘Rally’, gate access systems, loans of up to £250,000 to improve tennis courts, and local tennis leagues.

Swim England has published guidance on the safe reopening of swimming pools. Included in the five detailed documents are recommendations for operators, casual swimmers, lane swimming, family-fun sessions, club activity, teachers and those attending swimming lessons.

A reminder that the 'innovation open call' from Sport England closes on Wednesday 24 June. Successful applicants will receive a combination of expert advice, access to networks and industry-leading research, as well as further training and possible funding of up to £50,000. Councils, individuals and organisations with worked up innovative solutions to tackle existing inequalities in activity levels within specific groups who have been affected by COVID-19 can apply.

Green recovery from COVID-19

In a letter coordinated by UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) and the UN Global Compact Network UK, our Chairman Cllr James Jamieson alongside leaders of over 150 businesses and civil society organisations have called upon the Prime Minister to use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to create a socially just and green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this, the LGA will be launching a guide with UKSSD detailing councils’ role in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals. The guide will help councils understand how the UN SDGs can be used to future-proof and consolidate the plans developed in response to COVID-19, leading to greater economic and social resilience and a healthier and sustainable environment.


In collaboration with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and NAHT unions, we have today published joint workforce guidance for schools on how to best manage the Government’s current quarantine rules and NHS requirement for self-isolation with regards planned hospital admission.

LGA webinar with homelessness tsar Dame Louise Casey

Councils have made a monumental effort to accommodate almost 5,500 people with experience of sleeping rough under the 'everyone in' initiative, with profound positive impacts for the people accommodated. We now face the new challenges of ensuring that progress can be embedded and mitigating the impacts of the economic downturn on hardship and homelessness.

In our webinar next week (Thursday 25 June, 12.30 – 1.45), we will hear from Dame Louise Casey and councils on how we can learn from the challenges and successes of 'everyone in' and seize the opportunity to end rough sleeping for good. We will also reflect on what we have learned about the role of local government in supporting their communities, and what this means for our response to homelessness challenges in the future.

LGA webinar: Tackling health inequalities

As illustrated by the publication this week of a report from Public Health England (PHE), 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.

COVID-19 related honours nominations

There is still time to nominate social care and local government staff for honours relating to outstanding contributions to the fight against coronavirus, using the online form. Nominees could include frontline work supporting vulnerable members of society or those who have contracted COVID-19, developing innovations to support these people, going to “extraordinary lengths” to keep critical services going, or volunteering endeavours. We have included the full information on our own website, which includes the nomination template.

I hope you found this update helpful and that you have a restful weekend.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd

Round up of the non-coronavirus activity from the week

Building safety

The National Audit Office (NAO) published its investigation into remediating dangerous cladding on high-rise buildings. The report found that MHCLG has made progress in overseeing the removal of dangerous cladding from many buildings, particularly in the social housing sector. However, the pace of progress has lagged behind its own expectations, particularly in the private residential sector. It noted that going forward, the Department must successfully manage the administrative challenges of funding building owners to carry out remediation work, particularly given its intention to commit a further £1 billion in full by the end of March 2021.

Places of Worship Protective Security Fund

The Government has published details of this year's Places of Worship Protective Security Scheme, which colleagues may wish to share with local partners. The scheme provides funding for protective security measures to places of worship and associated faith community centres that are vulnerable to hate crimes targeting people because of their religion. The deadline for submitting bids is 9 August; further details including eligibility criteria and an application form are available on the Government website.