Coronavirus latest: update from the LGA's Chief Executive

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From the LGA's Chief Executive

3 August 2020

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Dear Colleague,

On 23 July, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) wrote to billing authorities alerting them to the Government’s decision to close the Small Business Grants Fund, the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund and the Discretionary Grants Fund on 28 August. On 31 July BEIS wrote to billing authorities extending the deadline for the payments via the discretionary fund to 30 September. Applications for this fund should be received by 28 August. Outstanding issues at the end of September will be dealt with as part of a reconciliation process, details of which will be available at a later date.

LGA analysis published today has revealed that local businesses could miss out on more than £1 billion of emergency COVID-19 funding due to the end of the business grant schemes. We know that you have worked hard to distribute almost £11 billion to almost 880,000 eligible small businesses through the funds since March. We are calling for the discretionary scheme to be kept open and for the redistribution of any underspends from the other two schemes back to councils to support businesses and local economies.

If you think the LGA can be supporting your council or lobbying on an issue in a particular way please do continue to let us know by speaking to your Principal Adviser.

Test and trace

The Government has today announced that new rapid coronavirus tests will be rolled out to hospitals, care homes and labs across the UK to increase testing capacity ahead of winter. The two new tests will be able to detect coronavirus, along with other winter viruses like the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), in 90 minutes. The tests do not require a trained health professional to operate them, meaning they can be rolled out in more non-clinical settings. The Government hopes these tests will help to strengthen the coronavirus response this winter, arming both clinicians and NHS Test and Trace with the ability to distinguish between COVID-19 cases, which have specific self-isolation requirements, and other winter viruses. This ability will be important to settings like care homes which need to protect vulnerable residents. As and when there are further details on these new developments, we will share them with you.

Testing in care homes

On Friday 31 July, Jane Cummings, Testing Director for Adult Social Care at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Alex Cooper, Senior Responsible Officer for the National Testing Programme, wrote to Directors of Public Health providing further information on COVID-19 testing in care homes and an update on the use of Randox test kits, which had been paused for use by DHSC in July. The letter came with a matrix and factsheet setting out how the processes of care homes accessing testing through local PHE Health Protection Teams in the event of an outbreak and of accessing testing through the National Testing Programme in other circumstances work together. The letter also outlined a revised timeline for rolling out regular testing in care homes. This change is as a result of a number of factors - including rising demand across testing and unexpected delays - meaning reaching all care homes for older people and people with dementia has not happened as quickly as planned.    

Vulnerable people and shielding

Shielding guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) was paused on Saturday. Those who have been shielding over the course of the pandemic will no longer be advised to do so and can begin to go back to work and school as long as the sites are COVID-secure. The Government has said it based this decision on scientific evidence showing that the average incidence across the country remains lower now than the point when the decision was made to proceed with the pausing of shielding nationally. However, the easing of restrictions will not apply in these areas:

  • Blackburn with Darwen
  • Blaby
  • Charnwood
  • Luton
  • Leicester City
  • Oadby & Wigston

At this stage, with the exception of Blackburn with Darwen, the Government has not advised people previously shielding in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire that they need to continue to shield. Further information on the new rules on gatherings in some parts of the north of England and on the latest shielding guidance is available online.

Alongside the Shielding Stakeholder Engagement Forum, we are continuing to discuss with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) the Government’s expectations of support for CEV and wider groups of vulnerable people in the event of further lockdowns at local or national level. We are grateful to the many councils who continue to input to this process and will provide further information via this bulletin as the position develops.

Face coverings

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that mandatory face coverings will be extended to further indoor settings from 8 August. Government guidance has now been updated with a full list of these settings and includes premises providing professional, legal or financial services, theatres, cinemas, bingo halls, concert halls, museums, galleries, aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms, or other indoor tourist, heritage or cultural sites, libraries and public reading rooms community centres and social clubs. The full list is available on GOV.UK.

Eat out to help out

The Government’s “Eat out to help out” scheme launched today. Diners will be able to enjoy half-price meals in more than 72,000 venues throughout August. As I mentioned last week, you may want to add links on your own website to raise awareness of the scheme. Businesses can now register to join the scheme and people can find out which restaurants are taking part online.

Pavement licensing

Guide Dogs and RNIB have written a joint letter to councils following the recent introduction of the Business and Planning Act 2020. The letter urges councils to ensure applications from businesses for outside seating will not cause an obstacle to independent mobility for blind and partially sighted people when using pavements. 


The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 have been laid before Parliament. The Regulations which will come into force on 24 August amend existing Regulations to introduce a new way of recording a pupil’s non-attendance where the non-attendance is related to coronavirus. The provisions will insert a requirement to record a pupil as not attending due to coronavirus where their non-attendance takes place in the school year 2020-21 and their travel to or presence at the school would be contrary to relevant guidance or legislation relating to the transmission of coronavirus. The Regulations will be kept under review by the Secretary of State.

Housing and planning

Yesterday the Government announced that new homes and hospitals in England will be granted "automatic" permission to be built as part of sweeping planning reforms. These, and other proposals are expected later this week in their consultation paper on planning. This comes after the Prime Minister pledged £5 billion to ‘build build build’ to help soften the economic impact of COVID-19. We have been continuously urging Government to ‘Keep planning local’ and calling for them to ensure councils and communities remain at the heart of the planning system, giving residents a vital say over developments in their local area. Yesterday we once again reiterated our calls that the planning system is not the barrier to development with nine in 10 planning applications being approved by councils, and more than a million homes given planning permission in the last decade which still have not yet been built. We will continue to advocate for a locally-led planning system as we look to respond to the Government’s planning policy paper.   

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme are keen to talk to councils about the importance of the planning system, in particular any local area which has seen poor housing built as a result of permitted development rules. Please email with any examples.

Private rented sector

Today we published our new resource, private rented sector: a guide for councils. Produced by the Housing Quality Network (HQN) and commissioned by the LGA, this is a good practice guide on the role of councils in improving the quality of the private rented sector. There is a report, a set of case studies and a toolkit which together, aim to support councils to improve housing standards for the health and wellbeing of tenants.

LGA Councillors' Webinar: Rapid Innovation

This Thursday, 6 August, we will be offering a free one-hour masterclass for councillors on how to lead rapid innovation and change. To register please email The webinar is another great opportunity for councilors to share best practice and learn from one another.

LGA Webinar: Making democracy digital

On Friday 7 August, 10.30am – 11.30am, we’re hosting a webinar on how councils are making democracy digital. During the panel session we will discuss how councils have embraced this new way of remote working and explore both the benefits and ways of address the challenges.

LGA Webinar: Member Code of Conduct

On Wednesday 5 August, 11am – 12pm, we’ll host the last in our series of webinars that will provide attendees with the opportunity to find out about the background and reasoning behind the drafting of the consultation version of the LGA’s Model Member Code of Conduct. Attendees will get the opportunity to comment on the draft code.


The latest Advisory Bulletin employment law update contains information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Bonus and clarification on the use of the scheme to pay notice pay and redundancy payments. Our webpage on the scheme has been updated to reflect those changes. The bulletin also includes commentary on the Government’s response to its 2019 consultation on a cap on public sector exit payments.

Local authority meetings - new regulations

On Friday 31 July 2020, the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force and will expire on 7 May 2021 unless extended. The changes allow the same relaxation afforded to councils by amending the definition of Local Authorities in the Meetings Regulations, to include Mayoral Development Corporations, Transport for London, Urban Development Corporations and Parish meetings. It removes the requirements to hold annual meetings; allows them to hold all necessary meetings virtually, to alter the frequency and occurrence of meetings, without the requirement for further notice and to enable members, officers and the public to attend and access meetings and associated documents remotely.

Best wishes,

Mark Lloyd
Chief Executive
Local Government Association

Mark Lloyd