Elected Members Briefing - 4th November

Key Messages

Council areas have been notified as to which COVID-19 protection level they will have to adhere to.

The Scottish Government has produced a face covering exemption card, to support those who are unable to wear one.

Travellers from Cyprus and Lithuania must now quarantine on arrival in Scotland for 14 days.

Updated Schools Guidance
Updated guidance for reducing the risk of COVID-19 in schools and early learning and childcare was published on Friday.

The guidance was developed by the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group, co-chaired by the Deputy First Minister and Cllr Stephen McCabe as COSLA’s Children and Young People’s Spokesperson, and includes representatives from trade unions, parents groups and key stakeholders.

The guidance reflects revised scientific advice and now recommends the use of face coverings by adults where they cannot keep two metres from others and in all areas when not working directly with Children.

The guidance has also been updated in line with the broader Strategic Framework for tackling COVID-19, including additional measure to be adopted in schools and childcare at protection levels 3 and 4.

Adult Social Care Plan
COSLA’s Health and Social Care Spokesperson, Councillor Stuart Currie, has welcomed a plan outlining steps to prepare and support Scotland’s social care sector through winter.

The Scottish Government announced the Adult Social Care Plan yesterday (Tuesday, November 3). It is backed by an additional £112 million in funding and will support social care users in residential, community and home settings, and the people that provide care, including unpaid carers.

Councillor Currie said: “The social care sector and Scotland’s social care workers have faced enormous challenges during the COVID-19 response, and the Adult Social Care Plan will enable them to continue to provide valuable help and support to those in the community that need it most.

“The pandemic has had a drastic impact on those that require support both at home and in residential settings, and the funding announced by the Scottish Government as part of the plan will go some way to addressing that.

“COSLA will continue to work with Scottish Government and partners across the sector to ensure that they receive the support they need to continue this vital work.”

You can read more here.

Scottish Government has informed COSLA that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance has now written to the Finance and Constitution Committee to propose that the Scottish Budget is announced the first week in February (likely Thursday, February 4, 2021). This request now needs to be considered by the Committee, but would mean a parliamentary process during February, concluding the first week of March. COSLA Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Macgregor, is now seeking a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary as soon as possible to discuss the implications for Local Government of a late Budget, including on the setting of council tax. She will also raise a number of other issues raised by Leaders in relation UK announcement and the consequentials for Scotland (including £1b that was announced for Local Government in England).

Last week, the Chancellor announced that the UK Spending Review will be published on November 25, alongside Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts, that will go some way to defining the funding that Scotland can expect in 2021-22. However, officers’ understanding is that the Spending Review will simply outline departmental spending budgets and will not include COVID adjustments – these will be done in the Spring.

As well as agreeing a range of funding for this and next year, Leaders considered the rationale for delaying the devolution of Non-Domestic Rates Empty Property Relief to councils, given the impact of the pandemic on market conditions. The delay also ensures an alignment with the next revaluation, scheduled for 2023.

On Wednesday (November 4), Councillor Macgregor will give evidence at the Finance and Constitution committee, alongside Director of Finance Section’s new Chair, Eileen Rowand. The committee requested evidence on the impact that COVID-19 will have on the Scottish Budget. It will provide another opportunity for Local Government to lobby for a fair and sustainable settlement in 2021-22, emphasising the need for financial stability and flexibility as Councils seek to balance their budgets whilst responding to the changing landscape of COVID-19. The joint submission (also made in conjunction with SOLACE) can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.

Mental Health Funding
The Scottish Government announced funding of £15 million on Monday (November 2) to respond to children and young people’s mental health issues, with a focus on those brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding will be distributed to Local Authorities to support a local response for five to 24-year-olds, their families and carers.

COSLA Spokesperson for Children and Young People, Councillor Stephen McCabe, said:

“The wellbeing of our children and young people is of upmost importance to local authorities and has been a particular priority in recent months due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This funding will allow Local Authorities to continue their work to support  young people’s mental health and wellbeing needs arising as a result of the pandemic, and to implement new and enhanced services, providing early support for children and young people experiencing wellbeing issues, and their families.

“These actions will help ensure the best outcomes for our children and young people in the short and longer term.”

Business Grants
The Scottish Government is continuing to provide financial support to businesses impacted by the most recent COVID restrictions.  Local Government is at the forefront in delivering this much-needed support and has been providing grants to businesses forced to close due to the restrictions and businesses who are facing significant hardship as a result of the closures.

This week Local Government will commence delivery of a business contingency fund to provide grants to nightclubs and soft play centres which have been required to close throughout the period of lockdown and ongoing restrictions, together with a scheme to support employees who have been required to furlough as a result of the business closures.

New closure and hardship grant schemes will also commence from this Thursday which will support businesses affected by the introduction of the Scottish Government’s five tier strategic framework.

COSLA’s Business Gateway National Unit and Finance Team have worked closely with Scottish Government officers and local authority Directors of Finance and practitioners, to ensure these schemes are delivered quickly and effectively.

Improving the Lives of Gypsy / Travellers
The Ministerial and COSLA Working Group for ‘Improving the Lives of Gypsy/Travellers’ met this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the joint national action plan.

Representatives from the community raised a number of concerns including access to toilets and safe stopping places for families living roadside and access to COVID-19 supports, as well as growing issues of financial insecurity, mental health concerns and isolation.

A paper has been submitted to the Community Wellbeing Board to consider these issues in more detail and Councillor Whitham will host an event in November for elected members from across Scotland. It will be a chance to hear how local political leaders can support the communities and help us to deliver the national action plan in their area.

Supporting a trauma-informed recovery
The COSLA President and Deputy First Minister recently wrote to all Council Chief Executives and local partners seeking their support for the shared Local and Scottish Government ambition to work collectively to ensure a trauma-informed approach to recovery is taken across Scotland.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on everyone in our communities and now more than ever we need to consider and ensure that we deliver services in ways which will prevent further harm or re-traumatisation.  Particularly for those who have experienced psychological trauma or adversity at any stage in their lives.

One of the key asks has been to identify local champions to help influence change. However, we all have a role to support this work and to provide a wider awareness of a trauma informed approach, an elected members’ briefing has been developed to support all Councillors.  It will help you understand how when working locally on the COVID-19 recovery, renewal and transformation agenda, you can support key priorities in building back better, including improving outcomes for vulnerable people and communities affected by trauma and supporting workforce wellbeing and resilience.

You can access the briefing here.

Biodiversity and Nature-based Solutions
The Environment and Economy Board discussed international and Scottish policy developments related to biodiversity and nature-based solutions at their meeting on October 23.

Members recognised that supporting biodiversity and working with nature are both critical to achieve the transition to a net-zero economy and society by 2045.

Members welcomed ambitious international agreement on biodiversity at the 15th meeting of the UN Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2021.

The Board will welcome further reports on this agenda, including to consider in more depth potential COSLA signatory of the Edinburgh Declaration.

The myjobscotland team has been working hard to deliver efficiencies and improvements for Councils.

A concern through lockdown for Councils was the inability to carry out face-to-face interviews with candidates who had been shortlisted for existing vacancies. Whilst many relied on Teams and Zoom calls, the myjobscotland team identified a new opportunity to trial embedded video questions within the new application form, and 10 Councils agreed to take part in an initial trial.

Feedback from Councils and candidates has been so good that with the agreement of the Board, myjobscotland will now offer a full year of this service to Councils at no extra cost from the start of November 2020. This will be funded through commercial activities without a charge to Councils.

The myjobscotland team worked collaboratively with those involved in the trial to build a knowledge base for sharing experiences and learning. Additionally, together with councils and the supplier, the team developed a case study which showcases the main successes; this can be found here.

The project was recognised for its success winning a Cornerstone RAVE Award in the Reinventing Recruitment category last month.

The economic downturn has meant a drop in job postings, but these are now increasing back to stable levels, with June seeing a total of 47,689, applications - the highest number since January 2019.

Despite being a small team, myjobscotland continues to provide a candidate satisfaction levels of 84% for over 1.1m registered users as well as maintaining and developing business procedures for our members.

COSLA Convention
A little bit of Local Government history was created on Friday (October 30) when 176 people took part in the first ever virtual COSLA Convention.

Made up of Councillors from across Scotland, Convention received a presentation from Public Health Scotland and various reports were presented including on the COVID-19 response, Local Governance Review, the European Charter for Local Self-Government Bill, Local Economies and Economic Growth, Transport and Waste, Education and Children’s Services, Health and Social Care, and Public Health Reform.

Social MediaThe COSLA Twitter account @COSLA now has over 16,000 followers – if you don’t follow us already, please do.

We also have an active Facebook page, @CofSLA

Retweets, shares and likes are always appreciated.

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 goods and fake festive events.

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.