Elected Members Briefing - 10th November

Key Messages

A new publication detailing how Councils in Scotland are funded is now available.

The Chief Statistician at the Scottish Government has released a brief guide to the annual process that, in 2020-21, distributed about £12.7 billion to Scotland’s 32 councils.

Travellers arriving in Scotland from Germany and Sweden must now quarantine on arrival for 14 days. A ban on entry to the UK has also been introduced for visitors from Denmark.

Students across Scotland will have access to more support to help them deal with the mental health impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Additional Scottish Government funding will allow support staff to carry out more frequent checks to identify potential mental health issues, as well as wider welfare concerns, such as access to food deliveries and other necessities.

On Tuesday, November 3, COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, had a call with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, where Mrs Forbes took the opportunity to outline the rationale for her proposed Budget timetable, scheduled for early February (subject to Parliamentary approval). The UK Spending Review, to be published on November 25, will provide some clarity in relation to available resource in areas such as Health but will not provide all the information that would be desirable when setting a budget, which will mean a level of risk and assumptions.  The politicians agreed to have regular calls over the next few weeks in relation to the 2021/22 Budget, bringing other COSLA Spokespeople into discussions as required.

Given the ongoing challenging and rapidly changing circumstances in relation to the prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities, COSLA Group Leaders agreed on Friday (November 6) that the sustainability principles agreed by Leaders in August for social care providers should continue at the October levels during November, rather than taper off further (and in some cases end in November). An intensive piece of work will now be taken forward through November to agree what should be in place to support the care sector through the Dec 2020 – March 2021 period and proposals will be taken to Leaders at the end of November for consideration.

Last week, COSLA’s Finance team supported contributions at two Scottish Parliament committees:

* The Education and Skills committee took evidence from a range of stakeholders, including COSLA, Quarriers, OSCR, and Church of Scotland, on the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) Bill. All of these organisations are likely to be key financial contributors to the scheme, especially Local Government. A key part of the discussion was on the waiver that is being introduced as part of the Bill that potentially rules out the possibility of insurers covering the cost of claims. The official report can be accessed here.

* The Finance and Constitution committee heard evidence on the impact that COVID-19 will have on the Scottish Budget. Councillor Macgregor and Eileen Rowand, Chair of CIPFA Directors of Finance Section, took the opportunity to stress the financial impact on Councils this year and next, and the need for early clarity in relation to the Budget for 2021/22. Mark Taylor, Audit Scotland, also provided evidence and stressed the longer-term impact and ‘economic scarring’ of COVID on public finances, on the way services are delivered, and on prioritisation.  The official report can be accessed here.

On Wednesday (November 11) the joint Settlement and Distribution Group (SDG) will consider a range of recommendations in relation to funding for Local Government. Amongst these is funding for Free School Meals during the October, Christmas and February holidays (£6.95m), with their recommendations being put to Leaders in November.  Since March 2020, SDG has met at least once a month to consider a range of COVID and non-COVID related funding pots, all out with the Local Government Settlement (agreed in early March 2020) and requiring additional administration and reporting for Councils on the ground.

Young Person's Guarantee
COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Board, convened by its Spokesperson Councillor Kelly Parry, has backed the Young Person’s Guarantee Scheme.
Councillor Parry spoke as the first organisations to back the Guarantee were announced by Economy Secretary, Fiona Hyslop.

Bus Partnership Fund
The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP, launched the Bus Partnership Fund yesterday (November 9).

A 2019 Programme for Government commitment, the Fund is a long-term capital investment of over £500 million for bus priority measures to tackle the impacts of congestion on bus services.

The Fund will provide 100% funding for local authorities, working closely with bus operators and other partners, to put these interventions in place - including bus lanes, bus gates or bus stops.  Further information and guidance can be found on the Transport Scotland website.

Population Strategy
The Scottish Government Programme for Government 2020/21 has committed to work closely with partners to develop and publish a Population Strategy in early 2021.

COSLA and Scottish Government held a roundtable meeting on Thursday, November 5, at which 22 Councils were in attendance.

The aim of the roundtable was to gain a better understanding of population challenges, to explore themes that should be addressed in the Population Strategy, and to discuss actions for UK Government, Scottish Government and Local Government.

The discussion was wide-ranging and included: population balance (both geographic and dependency), economic opportunities, migration, health, family policy, fiscal policy, housing, connectivity, transport, and implications of COVID (remote working).

It was agreed partnership working will be crucial to the success of any Population Strategy. Next steps were discussed on how this work will be taken forward at an officer and political level, and a report will be taken to COSLA Leaders.

COVID-19 Protection Levels
The Scottish Government has launched a new campaign to clearly outline the new protection levels to the public and direct them to a postcode checker to find their level and what it means.

The Scottish Government is continuing with its FACTS guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The advice encourages members of the public to wear a face covering; avoid crowded places; clean hands and surfaces regularly; stay 2m away from other people; self-isolate and book a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste).

Signs of coronavirus are a cough, high temperature or loss/change of taste or smell. If you have any of these, you and your whole household need to stay at home and get a test straight away.

You can do this online or by calling 0800 028 2816 if you can’t get online.

You and your whole household should then stay at home until the test results come back. This will help stop the spread the spread of the virus and keep your loved ones and community safe.

If you don't know anyone who can help you get food or medicine, call the National Assistance Helpline on 0800 111 4000 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).

More information and support on self-isolation can be found here.

Promis website
The National Wellbeing Hub offers a range of resources and support for people working in Health and Social Care.

The site, highlighted last week for Stress Awareness Week, provides information on self-care and staying well.

Holyrood Interview
COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison, spoke with Holyrood magazine on the purpose and function of Local Government in Scotland today, and its future role going forward.

She also spoke about the Charter for European Self-Government, Brexit and Local Government finance.

You can read the full article here.

Youthlink Scotland
The Autumn 2020 edition of Youthlink Scotland’s magazine is out now, taking a look back at what has been an extraordinarily challenging year for young people.

‘Resilience, Resourceful and Reimagined’ explores youth work's response to the pandemic, from the rush to implement digital youth work practice in March, to the ongoing effort across the sector to cope with the increased demands for online mental health and wellbeing support.

Whether it was developing digital youth work programmes at an incredible pace, getting out in the community to tackle rising food poverty or providing new avenues of support for some of the most vulnerable young people in society, youth work organisations across the country have again and again proved their adaptability in the face of a global pandemic.

Read about the outstanding contributions of Scotland's youth work sector in the latest Link Magazine.

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.