Elected Members Briefing - 1st December

Key Messages
The Scottish Government has produced guidance on forming ‘bubbles’ over the festive period.

Plans have been announced for a significant expansion in testing for hospital patients, health and social care staff, and communities in Level 4 areas.

Funding to help people pay for food, heating, warm clothing and shelter during the winter is part of a new £100m support package.

Leaders agreed a range of funding distributions on Friday (November 27) that will allow Councils to continue to provide vital support to individuals and communities, including funding for free school meals during the winter holidays, and to provide support for those facing the threat of redundancy. Leaders also agreed the distribution for a £15m fund that can be accessed by Councils in Level 4 only, enabling them to respond to local welfare and social needs that emerge as a direct result of Level 4 restrictions. In addition, a range of additional support for business was agreed for all Councils, including £5m to recognise the significant ongoing administration effort in providing grants to businesses.

On Wednesday, November 25, the Chancellor of the Exchequer published the UK Government’s Spending Review – plans for departmental spend during 2021-22. This forms a key part of the information required for the setting of a Scottish Budget on January 28, 2021. From the information available, it looks like Scotland will see an additional £2.4 bn on the 2020-21 base budget (revenue and capital) and this includes planned COVID-19 funding for next year (£1.3 bn). The Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) and the Fraser of Allander Institute have both published useful information on the Spending Review and what it means for Scotland. Within the Spending Review, UK Government has set a clear policy direction on public sector pay and on Council Tax, but it will be up to the Scottish Government to set the direction for Scotland on these issues.

Leaders have agreed the key message for this year’s pre-budget lobbying campaign – Respect our Communities: Protect our Funding. The campaign will highlight that this year in particular, Local Government’s role has been magnified, especially in areas such as public protection, health and wellbeing, and as being a lifeline provider of financial support for individuals, communities and businesses. The campaign will highlight that the need for support will continue into next year and beyond, and that any cuts to core funding will impact on Councils’ ability to provide this vital support across communities. The first campaign news release has now gone out, and each week will see a new area of focus, building up to the launch of the main campaign document w/c January 11, 2021. Over the next few weeks COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, has meetings planned with opposition party finance leads, and dates are being confirmed for Budget engagement meetings with Scottish

Self-Isolation Support Grant
The £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant is being extended to include parents on low incomes whose children are asked to self-isolate, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced on Monday.

The grant will also become available to those who may be eligible for Universal Credit, but have not yet applied. Both changes will be introduced from December 7.

The announcement was welcomed by COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Kelly Parry, who said:

“COSLA welcomes the Self-Isolation Support Grant being extended to parents and carers of children who have been asked to stay home from school because of the virus and that it will also include those with an underlying eligibility for benefits.

“Council staff across the country have been working really hard to ensure the grant is accessible to people who have experienced a loss in income after being asked to self-isolate.

“By extending the eligibility for the grants, more people will be helped to stop the spread of the virus over the winter period.”

Student testing
Students travelling home at the end of term are now able to take voluntary COVID-19 tests through their college or university. As part of a number of measures to support a safe return home, students are also being asked to take extra care in the period leading up their departure, only going out for essential purposes such as learning, exercise and food shopping. This is to minimise the number of contacts they have with others and reduce the potential for spread of the virus.

Updated guidance has now been published for students on minimising social contact, testing and end of term travel – whether to other parts of Scotland, the UK or the world.

More information is available here.

Equally Safe - Final Report
The Scottish Government and COSLA have published an overview of progress made since the publication of the Equally Safe delivery plan in November 2017 including actions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic and a look forward to plans over 20/21.
These include relaunching the new Scottish Government Delivering Equally Safe Fund, which will provide £13m per annum over 2021-24 for projects and services tackling violence against women and girls.

The Report also highlights that the Scottish Government and COSLA will explore with professional bodies and other key decision makers within Local Authorities and community planning organisations how to support and strengthen local capacity to implement the next phase of Equally Safe. This will include working in collaboration with local and national stakeholders to identify what collective leadership and resources are needed to ensure that a joined-up, multi-agency approach can be taken to improving outcomes for women and children in local communities across Scotland.

Period Poverty
The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill passed unanimously in parliament on Tuesday, November 24, making Scotland the first country in the world to enshrine access to period products into law. This follows and builds upon the ground-breaking work of Local Authorities in recent years in making products available in schools and public buildings.

COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison, said:

“Local Government agreed to deliver access to free period products in schools and public buildings in 2018 and our commitment to, and the responsive nature of this delivery, has been particularly evident over the course of the pandemic as Local Authorities have continued to work to ensure no-one goes without the essential items they need.

“Given our shared intent to ensure period dignity, Local Government have also supported the Period Product (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill as it has progressed which also seeks to make period products locally obtainable free of charge for all those who need them.

“I am delighted that work undertaken to date, both locally and on the Bill, will continue to benefit our communities and help ensure period dignity for future generations.”

No One Left Behind - Delivery Plan
The No One Left Behind: Delivery Plan was published on November 24. This is a co-owned Scottish Government / Local Government publication that relates to the reform of Scotland’s employability system. The system will become more adaptable and responsive to the needs of people and changing labour markets.  This Delivery Plan has been developed in partnership between the SG, COSLA, and the Scottish Local Authority Economic Development Group (SLAED).  It sets out a collective approach that focuses on the needs of the individual first and foremost, tackles inequalities and grows Scotland's economy.

Physical Activity and Sport
The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee is looking into the impact of COVID-19 on sport in the community.

At its meeting on November 3, Members agreed to undertake a short, focused inquiry into the impact of COVID 19 restrictions on sports clubs, leisure venues and communities.  With a particular focus on any reductions or cessation of community-based activities undertaken by sporting organisations including mental and physical health impacts on individuals.

An online survey has been launched and is to be completed by sporting organisations, sports clubs and venues to inform the committee about the impact COVID-19 has had on the ability of sporting organisations to provide community based activities and initiatives, the financial impact, and the potential long-term impact.

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 counterfeit cosmetics  and misleading energy ads.

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 - retweets and follows would be greatly appreciated.

Our Twitter and Facebook channels, Khub and website will be regularly 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.

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.