Elected Members Briefing - 1st September

Key Messages

Guidance for the use of face masks in schools and on school transport has been updated.

People who suspect they may have COVID-19 will be able to receive a test at a walk-through testing centre, with the first of 11 planned sites set up.

Quarantine rules and information on the process for people entering the UK can be found here.

The annual update on homelessness statistics covering 2019-20 has been released by Scotland’s Chief Statistician.

Safer workplace guidance is released on a sectoral basis.

Finance
On Thursday, COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, had a constructive call with Ben Macpherson MSP, the Minister for Public Finance and Migration. He reiterated his and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance’s appreciation for the work done in partnership on developing fiscal options for councils to use to address COVID financial pressures. Ministers now wish to seek jointly with COSLA Treasury approval as part of their due diligence work before the options are signed off formally by Ministers. Councillor Macgregor stressed the need for this to be done as quickly as possible.

On Friday, Leaders agreed that the £49m consequentials announced for Local Government on July 23 should be distributed to Councils using Grant Aided Expenditure (GAE) + Special Islands Needs Allowance (SINA). This is in line with previous funding intended for flexible use by councils.

Leaders also agreed that loss of income for Arms-Length External Organisations (ALEOs), delivering key sport, culture, and leisure services for communities, should be included in a loss of income scheme for Scotland, currently under discussion with Scottish Government.

Scottish Welfare Fund - New Report
The Poverty and Inequality Commission published a report on 'The role of the Scottish Welfare Fund during the COVID-19 pandemic' on Monday (August 31).

Its headline messages are about perceptions of Local Authority underspend, a failure to promote the fund locally, and limited routes for people to access it.  It also challenges the Scottish Government to provide more administrative funding and find ways to help those with no recourse to public funds.

Councillor Kelly Parry, COSLA's Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, responded to make clear her disappointment that the Commission chose not to speak with COSLA or Local Authorities to better understand the experience and challenges of addressing unprecedented caseloads.  She welcomed any opportunity to work with the Commission and Scottish Government to strengthen local approaches whilst retaining discretion to meet local needs.  She stressed the need to acknowledge the commitment and hard work of local officers delivering the service to the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Trading Standards
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 misleading energy adverts, doorstep scams, remote access 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.