Elected Members Briefing - 7th October

Key Messages

The First Minister announced a series of new measures in a COVID-19 update given in a Parliamentary Statement this afternoon (Wednesday).

These include changes for the hospitality sector and tighter restrictions across the Central Belt in the five health board areas of Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley.

A copy of the speech is available here.

Quarantine rules have been imposed on travellers from further destinations.

People who have been hospitalised with COVID-19 will have access to mental health support.

The number of adults allowed to attend parent and baby groups has been increased, subject to certain conditions, following the publication of updated public health advice.

People eligible for the free flu vaccine are being urged to take up the offer.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) has improved its COVID-19 dashboard, featuring a new neighbourhood tool.

Local Government Blueprint - Environment & Economy
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown why, more than ever, Local Government is essential to our everyday lives, COSLA’s Environment & Economy Spokesperson, Councillor Steven Heddle, said this week.

“The recently published Local Government Blueprint (PDF, 1501.1 KB) highlights that we are now at a crossroads and must decide the type of world we want to build as a response to the pandemic.

“In uncertain times like this I believe we must take strength from our civic roots and the local democratic tradition in Scotland. We have shown in the past that big change can start at the local level, but this requires a purposeful decision to invest locally and to trust in local decision making.

“The pandemic has highlighted how Local Government is not just about the delivery of vital services, but it is about the places we live and the lives we lead.”

The full release is available here.

Finance
COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, will be giving evidence to the Local Government and Communities Committee on Wednesday, as part of its pre-Budget scrutiny work.

Councillor Macgregor will be joined by Martin Booth, Director of Finance, Glasgow City Council (on behalf of SOLACE), and Eileen Rowand, Director of Finance, Fife Council (on behalf of CIPFA/ Directors of Finance).

The Committee has asked for evidence on the impact of the COVID emergency on Councils and how they have coped financially.  The link to the joint submission is here.

Key themes which the panel will wish to impress upon the Committee members is that Councils have coped during the pandemic and have served their communities well in severely challenging times.  However the continued financial challenge is unsustainable, especially as the impact of the pandemic is far from over, so there is a need for financial stability for Local Government over the coming financial year and for Local Government funding to be put on a sustainable footing over future years.

Antibody Survey
Public Health Scotland has launched a COVID-19 Antibody Survey in Education Staff (CASS) which will help identify the proportion of people working in an education setting in Scotland who have had coronavirus by testing for antibodies in their blood.

The survey uses home testing kits provided through the UK Government antibody testing programme, which started last month.

As the test looks at past infection, it will identify whether those tested are likely to have had the virus in the school year to date.

COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, said:

“The return to school has been a vital step in not only ensuring the education of children and young people is maintained, but also in strengthening their mental health and wellbeing.

“Doing so has been a whole workforce effort and it is therefore key that all employees who work in and around schools are encouraged to take part in the CASS survey.

“Whether you are a teacher, a pupil support assistant, a cleaner, janitor, caterer or any other of the many roles that keep our schools running, we need you to take part. Doing so will help ensure we know as much as possible about COVID-19 and that we can continue to protect you and everyone in our communities.”

Launch of Secure Care Pathway and Standards
The Secure Care Pathway and Standards were launched at an event that included a wide range of partners involved in developing the Standards.

The Secure Care Pathway and Standards Scotland ensure support is provided before, during and after care and that the rights of children and young people, facing extreme vulnerabilities and risks in their lives, are respected.

Councillor Paul O’Kane - a member of COSLA's Children & Young People Board - represented Councillor Stephen McCabe at the launch. Councillor O'Kane praised the work of children and young people with secure care experience who had been involved in their development.

COSLA officers and Local Government partner will continue to work with all stakeholders on implementation of the Standards.

New grant for those self-isolating
People on low incomes asked to self-isolate will be eligible to receive a new £500 grant.

The Self-Isolation Support Grant will help those who would lose income if they needed to self-isolate, such as those unable to carry out their work from home.

This grant is for those who will face financial hardship due to being asked to self-isolate and will be targeted at people who are in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits, with some discretion to make awards to others in financial hardship.

Applications are due to open from October 12 and will be delivered through the existing Scottish Welfare Fund, which is administered by Local Authorities.

The announcement was welcomed by COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Kelly Parry.

She said: “COSLA, on behalf of Scottish local government, welcomes this scheme.  It will help ensure those who are affected and qualify are looked after and won’t need to go to work, which will help reduce the community spread of the virus.

“Councils have vast experience of providing local support of this type to communities and are the best placed to deliver this measure.  We are keen to agree the details with the Scottish Government as soon as possible and look forward to getting much needed support to the people who need it.”

Politics Explained
COSLA Vice President, Councillor Graham Houston, called for Local Authorities to be given greater flexibility in how they can spend allocated money from the Scottish Government to help deal with the coming economic crisis.

Councillor Houston made the call during an appearance at Holyrood Magazine’s Politics Explained conference.

The Herald
COSLA’s efforts on a range of issues including the Local Government Blueprint and our collective work around the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was praised in an opinion piece, which appeared in The Herald on Friday (October 2).

The article was written by the brother of Campbell Christie, Leslie Christie.

Trading Standards
Trading Standards Scotland is the national team for trading standards in Scotland and is part of COSLA.

In the latest edition of their Scam Share bulletin, they outline scams which have been reported by consumers across Scotland, including those related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

There is some very useful information for local communities, covering issues such as telephone banking fraud, phishing scams and more.

Summary
The Local Government workforce and partners across sectors are working hard to support our communities.

We continue to highlight this across our social media channels using #CouncilsCare and #CouncilsAct and it is heartening to see communities working together to look after each other. Retweets and follows would be greatly appreciated.

Further briefings will be issued, however our social media channels, Khub and website will be continually updated.

If you or your officers require any clarity from COSLA officers on policy matters, please contact the team in the usual way. If you are not sure who to direct your email to, please contact COSLA member support: membersupport@cosla.gov.uk

Thank you all for your efforts during this challenging time.

Other Useful Links
* The current number of COVID-19 cases and the risk level can be found on the Scottish Government website
* NHS Inform’s webpage continues to be the source of up-to-date public health information
* All Scottish Government COVID-19 related guidance
* Help and support for those experiencing domestic abuse is available; and the helpline number is 0800 027 1234.