The Cabinet Secretary for Finance has now written to UK Treasury to ask the Chancellor for formal approval for the use of a portion of Local Government’s General Capital Grant for dealing with COVID. COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor also wrote to the Chancellor at the same time, on the range of fiscal flexibilities that have been developed, and COSLA’s full support for the request made to Treasury. Both letters stressed the need for joint working and sought an early response from the Chancellor.
COSLA officers should receive draft guidance this week from Scottish Government in relation to a loss of income scheme for Local Government. Loss of income from sales, fees and charges across a range of services, as well as loss incurred by Leisure Trusts and ALEOs is a significant issue for all councils this year and resources to address these pressures will be welcomed. An update will be provided to Leaders.
COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson has now met with all opposition party Finance Leads. As well as updating them on the ongoing financial pressures, she took the opportunity to discuss the ‘Blueprint for Local Government’ and COSLA’s forthcoming work in relation to lobbying in advance of the 2021/22 budget.
COVID-19 - Protect Scotland app
The Scottish Government launched Protect Scotland last week – a free mobile app which uses Bluetooth technology to let people know if they have been in close contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19. It can be downloaded onto a smart phone from Apple's App Store or Google Play. Further information on the app, including information relating to privacy and data security, can be found here.
Advice and information on contact tracing scams can be found on the Trading Standards Scotland website.
COSLA in Conversation
This week sees the launch of a new podcast series, COSLA in Conversation.
The first instalment features President, Councillor Alison Evison, and Vice President, Councillor Graham Houston, joined by Andy Wightman MSP to talk about his The European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.
You can listen to it here.
Reporting to both Scottish Government and COSLA, the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) have lead responsibility for implementation of Every Life Matters, Scotland’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan. Action 3 of this plan commits to the development of a public awareness campaign and United to Prevent Suicide forms the first step for this. Launched on September 10 to mark Suicide Prevention Day.
United to Prevent Suicide is a new unifying identity for suicide prevention in Scotland. It marks a refreshed approach to preventing suicide with the following key messages:
* Scotland has a new approach to suicide prevention, it involves all of us;
* We should be confident to talk about suicide;
* We should be confident to connect someone to the right support;
* Language is important. Saying the word suicide isn’t a trigger, it can help save a life;
* We must tackle stigma around suicide;
* We need people like you to join the movement for change;
Together we can save lives, so let’s talk suicide. Join the conversation www.unitedtopreventsuicide.org.uk
Don't Stay on Mute
COSLA has joined forces with Trade Union colleagues to launch a mental health awareness video.
The ‘Don’t Stay on Mute’ clip aims to reassure people who are suffering from anxiety or uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic that they are not alone and that a variety of support is available.
It is hoped the message will resonate with the thousands of workers across Scotland still working remotely or in isolation as the country remains in Phase 3 of the route map out of the pandemic – with ‘you’re on mute!’ a frequent cry during online meetings.
COSLA’s President, Councillor Alison Evison, and Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, are joined in the clip by union colleagues Johanna Baxter, Head of Local Government Scotland, UNISON; Steven McNab, Inverclyde Council, Society of Personnel & Development Scotland (SPDS); Sharon McKenzie, Fife Council, Wellbeing Lead for Society of Personnel & Development Scotland (SPDS), and Louise Wilson, Assistant Secretary, EIS.
Councillor Evison said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a number of challenges for us all, and the impact on our mental health cannot be underestimated.
“Now more than ever, we need to keep in touch with our family, friends and colleagues – as the video suggests, Don’t Stay on Mute.
“I hope the video encourages those who are struggling with anxieties or isolation to seek out support.”
Councillor Macgregor said: “With so many people across the country still working from home or away from their colleagues six months into lockdown, it is important that we reach out and make sure that those who need a bit of support know where to find it.
“We all appreciate that home working, or as individuals away from our usual teams, is essential for keeping safe during the pandemic, but it also brings a number of challenges – such as trying to maintain a work / life balance and feelings of loneliness and isolation.
“You are not alone - we are here and we are all in it together – your union and workforce are there for you.”
You can watch the video here.
Centre for Homelessness Impact
With the economic impact of COVID-19 expected to lead to increased levels of homelessness, finding new and better ways to tackle the issue is more important now than ever.
The Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) is recruiting up to 30 Local Authorities to join their What Works Community (WWC): Local Government Initiative.
Spanning the fields of behavioural insights, design thinking and data-informed decision making, the initiative aims to enhance your ability to use evidence and data to tackle homelessness by focusing on ‘what works’. In response to COVID-10 the programme supports every commitment level – from remote digital activities, to flexible peer-led learning, to intensive expert-led sessions.
Download the WWC brochure for a detailed look at the programme, or drop CHI a line for an informal chat by contacting email@example.com.
The 2020 cohort launches this autumn and runs until June 2021. WWC membership is free of charge and recruitment closes on the 20th September.
Business Gateway research on the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit
Business Gateway recently commissioned research with SMEs and entrepreneurs across Scotland to identify their concerns and motivations in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak. Publishing of these research findings coincided with the launch of a new national campaign, intended to join the dots and raise awareness of the support available to businesses at this challenging time, whether they are starting up or restarting and rebuilding their business.
The survey threw up some interesting findings. Despite COVID-19 and Brexit, there is still a strong appetite among entrepreneurs for starting a business. While these are both driving factors for these individuals, they are secondary to other motivators such as wanting to be their own boss.
The research also looked at existing businesses and how they viewed these issues. Although many are concerned about the impact of the pandemic, over half of the respondents saw positive changes such as more efficient working practices and increased resilience. However, many felt that the Brexit impact would be much less favourable and lead to significant changes to their business.
Media coverage of these findings included an interview with Steven Heddle on STV North and pieces in the Scotsman and Scottish Business Insider .
The comprehensive support available to businesses from Business Gateway being promoted through the campaign can be found here.
Policing / Community SafetyCouncillor Graham Houston, COSLA Vice President, chaired a virtual meeting of the COSLA Police Scrutiny Conveners Forum on September 8, as a substitute for Councillor Parry, COSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing.
The meeting was well attended by Elected Members along with David Crichton, Interim Chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Lynn Brown, Interim Chief Executive of the SPA. It also involved Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr, along with the other senior officers from Police Scotland.
David Crichton and Lynn Brown (SPA) in a joint contribution covered local scrutiny, how the SPA believe arrangements are working, as well as key challenges and future direction. David Crichton expressed that local authorities are fundamentally an important channel for the SPA to gather experience on policing. While Lynn Brown outlined budgetary pressures on Police Scotland with their -£36m deficit becoming -£44m due to COVID-19.
Other items that the COSLA Police Scrutiny Conveners Forum meeting covered included Police Scotland’s response to COVID-19, Local Policing Continuity, Brexit, Domestic Abuse / Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Antisocial Behaviour.
It is likely that the next Chair of the SPA will be appointed later this year with a number of new Board members appointed too. As a result, COSLA would encourage Elected Members to apply for these positions when they are advertised.
The next meeting of the Forum will be early 2021, albeit the SPA is keen to enhance engagement with Local Authorities before then.
Women engaged in Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Prostitution (CSE)
As an early response to COVID-19, COSLA’s Leaders recognised the vulnerabilities of women engaged in CSE and how risks, harms and dangers were being heightened by the impacts of the pandemic. COVID-19 continues to have a significant detrimental impact on the lives of women who sell and exchange sex on street and in off street settings. COSLA is working with the Scottish Government and key Equally Safe Stakeholder organisations to explore mitigations.
Encompass - a network of Scottish organisations working to reduce harm caused through commercial sexual exploitation - offers direct support to women along with advocacy services and ongoing consultation. The Encompass Fund also offered crisis funds to women affected by Covid -19.
Through this period women have told Encompass the difficult situations and challenges they have and continue to experience. These have been brought together in a new report, Moving Out of Lockdown: The experiences and needs of women in the sex industry September 2020.
The online digital platform CLiCK provides online access to resources and telephone support, anonymous live chat, a national helpline 0300 124 5564 and the provision of one-to-one, confidential support. CLiCK also facilitates the voices of women to be heard by decision makers.
The current online survey is asking women to share their needs, experiences and concerns around housing.
The Scottish Government launched a national consultation on the 11th September to gather views on how best to challenge men’s demand for prostitution in Scotland which also seeks views around reducing the harms associated with prostitution and supporting women involved to exit. The consultation can be viewed here.
The Trading Standards Scotland team is a key 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 fake brands on social media, travel insurance and more.
Members of the public are still being strongly encouraged to follow the FACTS advice from the Scottish Government.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.