Weekly COVID-19 Supply Chain Bulletin: 12 March 2021

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Weekly COVID-19 Supply Chain Bulletin

12 March 2021

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Welcome to the NAG and SOPO newsletter for 12 March 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

Additional restrictions grant 

The guidance on the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) grant has been updated to include tourism and events businesses that are not eligible for other grants. Councils have the flexibility to determine the eligibility criteria for these grants and the funding should be used to help those businesses which – while not legally forced to close – have been severely impacted by the restrictions. Examples could include businesses supplying the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, businesses in the tourism and events sectors and business required to close but do not pay business rates. 

Reopening of hospitality

MHCLG has set out government measures to support hospitality businesses to reopen safely from April 12, as part of the second stage of the roadmap out of lockdown. This includes the extension of pavement licenses for 12 months to make it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to continue to make al fresco dining a reality with outside seating, tables and street stalls to serve food and drinks. Pubs will also continue to be able to have marquees up without planning permission for up to two months. We are supportive of continued flexibility but continue to engage with the Government and councils, to contribute to the development of workable and helpful guidance, as well as to help shape any longer term changes the government wishes to explore.  

Workplace testing 

All businesses in England are now able to sign up to receive free rapid coronavirus tests under the Government's workplace testing programme. Since Saturday, businesses of all sizes, including those with fewer than 50 employees, have been able to register online to order lateral flow tests for their workers, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said. Businesses have until March 31 to register for the scheme, which will remain free until the end of June. 

Vaccination strategy – homeless people and rough sleepers 

The Health Secretary has written to the JCVI to confirm that NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) will take forward advice from the JCVI to give local teams operational flexibility to vaccinate all homeless people and rough sleepers alongside cohort 6. The letter also confirms the Government will continue with the current strategy of ensuring all adults receive 2 doses of the currently available vaccines, with an emphasis on ensuring maximum numbers receive the first dose. It also outlines the process for the vaccination of detainees, confirming that any leftover end of day vaccine can be used for prison staff, wherever possible. 

Testing for homecare workers 

The guidance setting out how homecare agencies in England can order regular tests for their domiciliary care staff has been updated. All registered homecare agencies will be contacted with details of how to apply for test kits for their carers. Homecare agencies will be responsible for ordering and distributing tests to all homecare workers for them to conduct at home on a weekly basis. For more information on homecare agency testing, you can sign up to DHSC's webinars which are hosted every Tuesday and Thursday.  

Care provider pressures   

More than half of the 72 social care providers surveyed by learning disability charity Hft said they have had to close down some parts of their organisation or hand back contracts. Around a third of providers said they have made redundancies, and one in 10 revealed they have had to offer care to fewer individuals. The charity has added its voice to calls for the Government to bring forward a long-term funding solution for adult social care to safeguard the future of the sector.  

Childcare providers   

The Coram Family and Childcare's annual childcare survey has found that childcare providers are struggling to remain sustainable during the coronavirus crisis, with 39 per cent of local authorities in England seeing providers in their area raise their prices over the last year. The charity's poll also found 32 per cent of councils reporting that some providers have reduced the number of free early education entitlement places they offer. It is essential that there are enough childcare places to support families to ensure the country can recover from COVID-19, both economically and socially.

Non-COVID stories

LGA submission to the Transforming Public Procurement Green Paper consultation

After widespread consultation and with very much appreciated input from the whole of the National Advisory Group (NAG), the LGA has submitted its response on behalf of the sector. In principle we support the ambition to transform public procurement. However much of what is being proposed within the Green Paper is more around the legal process for procurement without sufficient discussion on how the Government believes we will meet the stated objectives "to speed up and simplify our procurement processes, place value for money at their heart, and unleash opportunities for small businesses, charities and social enterprises to innovate in public service delivery" - read the full submission.

Modern Slavery 

The Home Office has launched a modern slavery statement registry online, to provide a platform for organisations to share the positive steps they have taken to tackle and prevent modern slavery. The registry will enhance transparency and accessibility, by bringing modern slavery statements together in one place and will make it easier to find and compare them. Learn more about the registry and find out how to submit a statement. The LGA procurement team will be providing more information on this in due course.

Competition and Mergers Agency - three company directors to be disqualified over construction cartel

The CMA has secured the disqualification of three company directors, after finding they broke competition law by forming a cartel in the construction industry. This move follows an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into two of the UK's largest suppliers of rolled lead, Associated Lead Mills Ltd (ALM) and H.J. Enthoven Ltd (trading as BLM British Lead), which are based in Hertfordshire. Rolled lead is used mainly for roofing and is an important product for the construction sector.   

Previously the CMA announced fines of £15 million for businesses involved in a ground works cartel case.  There was also the precast concrete steel pipes case last year where the businesses involved were fined £36 million for breaking the law. In April they are planning to pull together case studies with lessons learnt from all three cases which we will make available to you.

European Structural and Investment Funds

We have been working with MHCLG about the end of the transition period and what that means for ESIF (construction) projects. Following the end of the transition period, the Managing Authority has received several queries about how and where to advertise ESIF procurement contracts.  The following should be noted by all ESIF projects:

  • Article 138 of the Withdrawal Agreement confirms that EU public procurement rules continue to apply after 31 December and to the end of the programme period within the context of the implementation of ESI Funds
  • the Commission has advised that UK access to the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) will be maintained for the purpose of implementing ESIF requirements.  Please ensure that you complete section II.2.13. accordingly, by indicating the right name of the ERDF project
  • projects should therefore continue to publish all ESIF contracts and award notices on OJEU (in line with the current limits and the ESIF National Procurement Requirements)
  • if you have any issues publishing on OJEU, please review CCS PPN 08/20 which provides details on how to re-register
  • if you are still unable to publish your contract, please retain an audit trail of the steps you have taken to attempt to publish on OJEU, and proceed to publish you contract on Find a Tender (FTS) in line with PPN 10/20

Discussions are underway with Cabinet Office who are working on a further Procurement Policy Note to cover ESIF requirements, pending further information from the European Commission - this will be circulated when available. Read the full suite of guidance.

Delivering net zero

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Energy Studies has published its report  following its inquiry into energy policies that will enable the UK to achieve net zero carbon emissions while fuelling the economy. We submitted written evidence to the inquiry. The report supports giving local and regional organisations a key role in delivering net zero while acknowledging that each region has very different natural resources, skills, expertise and businesses. Net zero can only be achieved if decarbonisation happens in every place, community and household. In our media response, we said that councils must have the necessary resources and be suitably supported by government to make that happen. 


Green recovery 

The second round of the Green Recovery Challenge fund has opened and will award up to £40 million in grants to environmental charities and their partners across England to retain and create jobs while restoring nature and tackling climate change.  

Treescapes fund 

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced a £2.7 million funding initiative to increase tree planting and natural regeneration in local communities. The Local Authority Treescapes fund aims to establish more trees in riverbanks, hedgerows, parklands, urban areas, beside roads and footpaths, in copses and shelterbelts, including neglected, disused and vacant community spaces. Grants are available for local authorities, working together with community groups, volunteers, NGOs. Successful applicants will be informed by the end of July. 

Changing Places Toilets funding

MHCLG has released further information about the £30 million fund to install Changing Places toilets in existing buildings in England. This welcome funding will enable many more disabled people, their families and carers to plan days out and fully participate in everyday experiences such as leisure and sports, cinemas, and visiting arts and tourism venues. District and unitary authorities will be invited to complete a short expression of interest to receive a proportion of this funding and will be encouraged to involve county councils in two tier areas. Full details of how they can access this funding will be published soon.


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.