Weekly COVID-19 Supply Chain Bulletin: 26 February 2021

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Weekly COVID-19 Supply Chain Bulletin

26 February 2021

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Welcome to the NAG and SOPO newsletter for 26 February 2021. Feel free to circulate to your colleagues.

This newsletter is now delivered through our corporate service that handles all our various e-bulletins. Manage or create a subscription - previous bulletins can now be found here.

COVID stories

PPE Supply for Local Elections in May

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) also wrote to local authorities on 25 February highlighting available guidance for the safe delivery of this year's local elections. The letter says that councils will be able to request hand sanitiser through the usual Department of Health and Social Care route, no other PPE will be available through this route. Equipment for the protection of staff, voters and others at polling stations, postal vote openings and counts, such as face coverings, visors and protective screens will need to be purchased by the local authorities. 

Electoral Commission guidance suggests that local authorities will need to consider a range of additional equipment and PPE to make the elections safe including, floor markings, additional signage, hand sanitiser, Perspex screens, face coverings for staff and voters, additional pencils, and additional cleaning materials. The LGA will seek clarity on the full meaning of the letter and how it relates to guidance published by the Electoral Commission, and the Government's Polls Delivery Plan including the additional funding that was announced on the 5 February for additional COVID-costs. 

Update from DHSC PPE Operational Strategy Team

DHSC are currently exploring the feasibility of providing local authorities with Type II masks for use as non-medical face coverings in polling stations. These would be intended for staff and members of the public who do not have a face covering with them, or if staff need to replace their face covering during the day.

As covered in the communications, the Electoral Commission’s guidance, incorporating public health recommendations, does not recommend that any item of clinical grade PPE other than hand sanitiser should be provided.

We will keep you updated about provision of Type II masks in due course.


To support the announcement that schools will re-open to all pupils from the 8 March, the Department for Education has published updated guidance on managing a school or early years setting, as well guidance for parents and carers and university students and those in higher and further education.

All primary school children will return on Monday 8 March, as staff continue to take two rapid COVID-19 tests each week at home. All secondary school and college students will take COVID-19 tests as they return to the classroom from the 8 March.

Secondary schools and colleges will have discretion on how to stagger the return of their students over that week to allow them to be tested on return. After an initial programme of three tests in school or college, students will be provided with two rapid tests to use each week at home.

Secondary school and college staff will also be provided with two tests to use each week at home. Protective measures across education will be strengthened. It is recommended that staff and students in secondary schools and colleges wear face coverings in all areas, including classrooms, where social distancing cannot be maintained as a temporary extra measure.


Contain outbreak funding

As part of the raft of announcements yesterday, an extra £400 million funding for the Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF) (para 156) was included to cover further public health activities from 1 April, taking total COMF support across 2020/21 and 2021/22 to £2 billion. Further information about the funding will be announced in due course along with an updated COVID-19 contain outbreak management framework for local areas in March, which will set out how national and local partners will continue to work with the public at a local level. This will include details of the enhanced toolkit of measures to address variants of concern.

Homes England strategic partnerships

Homes England (HE) is set to invite bids for a new round of strategic partnerships to increase the delivery of affordable housing from new partners including councils, registered providers, institutional investors and for-profit providers. The first round was launched in 2018. HE now offers its strategic partnerships to a broader range of organisations, including councils. Rather than applying for funding on a scheme-by-scheme basis, strategic partners enter into a multi-year grant agreement with HE to deliver affordable housing. A competitive bidding round is expected to launch in March, with confirmed timescales to be published in due course. 

Digital support for people with learning disabilities 

A £2.5 million government fund has been set up to provide devices, data and digital support to people with learning disabilities who cannot afford to get online. The Digital Lifeline Fund will make available 5,000 internet tablets preloaded with data and free tech support from next month, which will also help tackle increased social isolation caused by the pandemic. More information on the fund and how to apply is available via the Good Things Foundation and is open for applications from self-advocacy groups and other charities and providers who already work closely with people with learning disabilities.

School places

The Government has announced £489 million in capital funding to support local authorities to create new school places needed for September 2023. This funding is on top of the £23 billion to be invested in the school estate between 2016 and 2021, and the £750 million to create places needed by September 2022 which was announced last year. The Department for Education has published full details of the announcement, including allocations broken down by local authority 

Education recovery package 

Government announced a new £700 million education recovery package for children and young people to help catch up on lost learning due to the pandemic. The package will support an expansion of one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes, as well as supporting the development of disadvantaged children in early years settings, and summer provision for those pupils who need it the most. The funding package will include a new one-off £302 million recovery premium for state primary and secondary schools building on the pupil premium. The Government has said that the average primary school will receive around £6,000 extra, and the average secondary school around £22,000 each.  

Non-COVID stories

National Social Value Conference 2021

The LGA is a key partner to the National Social Value Taskforce Social Value conference which was held virtually over two days this week.  With over 2,300 participants over two days the conference was a massive success with huge amounts of good practice being demonstrated across the public, private and voluntary sectors.  On-demand recordings will be available of the plenary and workshop sessions through this link from next week.

In particular the LGA Procurement Team would like to congratulate the following councils, and council-owned organisations, who were highly commended or winners in the 2021 Social Value Awards

  • North East Procurement Organisation
  • STAR Procurement
  • Cardiff Council
  • North West Construction Hub
  • Solihull MBC

Congratulations to you all!!

Business support

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has confirmed an extension to the Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) until the end of March. The grant supports businesses that were required to close due to the current national lockdown. A further payment will be made to all billing authorities, covering 16 February to 31 March.

BEIS has written to all billing authorities confirming their allocations of the grant which will be paid next week and published updated guidance. BEIS has confirmed that the top-up Closed Business Lockdown Payment, announced at the start of January, will not be extended.

BEIS has also published data for the grants distributed by authority to businesses in the form of Local Restrictions Support Grant, Additional Restrictions Grant and the Christmas Support Payment for wet-led pubs.  In total, up to 17 January you have distributed £825 million worth of grants to almost 597,000 businesses.   

New VAT deferred payment scheme for businesses

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has announced a new online VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme for businesses. The scheme is part of a wider government package of support, worth more than £280 billion to help protect millions of jobs and businesses. Businesses can opt-in to the scheme, until 21 June via the government’s website.  


Cabinet Office Masterclasses

Following on from the success of Masterclass Programme in January and February, the Commercial Continuous Improvement Team at the Cabinet Office are pleased to announce a full programme of Masterclasses every Wednesday throughout March and April. 

Experts from across the Government Commercial Function will discuss and take questions on a wide range of innovative and leading commercial practices during virtual sessions to promote continuous improvement aligned to the Commercial Functional Standards programme.

Transparency In Procurement: Legal Requirements & Find A Tender Service - 3 March 2021

Cabinet Office will be running a session to walk-through transparency in procurement, providing guidance on what you need to publish to meet legal requirements as well as best practice on how to publish information over the course of a procurement. This will include an overview of the recently launched Find a Tender service.

Optimising Commercial Outcomes: Early Market Engagement and Analysis - 10 March 2021

NHS Digital will be running this session to highlight the importance of understanding supplier markets when developing commercial strategies. The session will cover how this can be utilised for effective pre-procurement activity, and how proactive early engagement with the markets optimises commercial outcomes.

Delivering Effective Category Strategies - 17 March 2021

In this Masterclass, CCS will set out the work it has done as an organisation to implement robust and effective category strategies, with live examples from two categories within their ‘People’ Pillar. The session will cover how they conducted market engagement, analysed market forces and spend data, and how they then implemented these findings across their categories of spend. They will provide lessons learned from their own experiences of developing strategies and ideas for how to use them as a tool for working with key stakeholders.

EU-Exit Contingency Planning across MOJ's Food and Retail Category - 24 March 2021

The Ministry of Justice's Food and Retail category team will lead this Masterclass on both the overall MoJ Commercial approach to contingency planning for EU Exit and the specific contingency planning they conducted to prevent disruption to their supply chain following the U.K.'s exit from the European Union.

Debt Recovery Masterclass - 7 April 2021

Crown Commercial Service will be presenting a masterclass on debt recovery.  They will include advice on how the private sector can be leveraged to maximise recoveries whilst identifying and protecting the vulnerable, how data should be used to refine collection strategies, examples of what social value can be delivered in this space and how accounts payable reviews can enable identification of internal errors and recover these. 

 Driving Value Through Competitive Negotiation – 14 April 2021

In this Masterclass, the Home Office Biometrics Team will deliver a session on how to drive value through Competitive Negotiation. The session will cover how they successfully negotiated the retendering of two legacy services, and moved away from the two incumbents to one, new supplier, and how this fits into their wider digital transformation programme.


The Leading Local Government Public Procurement Event

10 March 2021

LGPE Online is an unmissable date in the UK's procurement calendar and will provide delegates and experts with the chance to engage, listen and learn about the key trends, challenges and opportunities facing local government today in what has been an unprecedented twelve months.

Introduction to the NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract for Public Sector Practitioners

20 April 2021

The NEC4 suite of standard construction contracts are becoming the contract of choice for many public sector procurements of construction and maintenance works (recommended by UK Government Construction Strategy as well as by the Construction Clients' Board The Construction Clients' Board). Attend this webinar, to find out how it can transform and stimulate your projects to deliver contracts which are on time, offer savings and improve quality.

All You Need to Know About Framework Agreements, Dynamic Purchasing Systems and More

28 April 2021

Whilst contracting authorities have been using framework agreements for several years, they have been an area of uncertainty for practitioners. This focused webinar has been developed to provide clarity around how to set up and manage your own framework agreements, as well as compliantly use frameworks established by other bodies.