Elected Members Briefing - 13th January

Key Messages

The Scottish Government Stay at Home Guidance came into effect on January 5. Everyone must stay at home and by law, in a Level 4 area, you can only leave your home for an essential purpose.
Updated guidance on care home visiting is now available.

Travellers returning from Dubai must now quarantine on arrival in Scotland for 10 days. In addition, passengers who have travelled to Scotland from Dubai since January 3 are also being asked to isolate for 10 days, from the date they arrived back in the country.

University students will be taught online throughout January and February, with the vast majority not expected back on campuses until the start of March.

Spending Review
Communities across Scotland will face unavoidable and damaging consequences if Local Government does not receive a fair funding settlement in this year’s Budget, COSLA warned this week as the Spending Review campaign was launched.

The trend of recent settlements for Local Government needs to change because in addition to existing pressures, the COVID pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on the finances of Scotland’s Councils this year.

A comprehensive 14-page briefing document, ‘Respect Our Communities: Protect Our Funding’, has been produced by COSLA which covers three areas:

·        the costs of COVID-19 to Local Government and the need for these to be met,
·        flexibility on how the budget allocated to Councils is spent and
·        an increased budget allocation to address the reduction in funding to Councils over recent settlements.

The document highlights that once all COVID-related funding is taken into account, a gap of around £360m remains for financial year 2020/21 – and asks that these pressures, along with a “restoration” factor are taken into account for next year. Fair funding for 2021/22 would therefore be £12,135m revenue and £637m capital.

It further outlines the significant pressures facing Councils over the coming year, including Scotland’s aging population and the impact of the EU Transition.

The document also shows Local Government’s key role in public protection in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how Councils are delivering lifeline financial support to individuals and businesses during this challenging time.

In addition, COSLA uses the document to call for no cap by Scottish Government on council tax – stating this must be a ‘local tax’ for Councils to determine.

COSLA Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, and President, Councillor Alison Evison contributed to a press release for the Spending Review.

Councils are continuing to deliver business grants under the Scottish Government’s strategic framework. Since increased restrictions expanded across more Council areas and the full lockdown from the end of December, the scale of this work has increased substantially.  In parallel, work is continuing at pace to bring forward additional business support schemes recently announced by the Scottish Government. These include one off grants for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses. Work is also progressing swiftly to provide grants as quickly as possible for specific non-property based sectors including taxis, newly self-employed people and mobile close contact businesses. COSLA is working closely with the Scottish Government and Council representatives to ensure the support is delivered without delay and that businesses can access grants easily.

COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, has her third Budget engagement meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance on Friday, January 15. The focus of their discussion will be on 2021-22 public sector pay policy, the forthcoming Budget as well as the ongoing financial pressures in this financial year due to the current COVID situation.

COSLA officers speak regularly with colleagues from the other Local Government Associations to share information and intelligence on funding, financial strategies etc. Local Government in both England and Wales now have their settlements for 21/22. In Wales, Councils will see an average of 3.8% increase to their core revenue in 2021-22, representing a £172m year-on-year boost. And in England, the settlement has provided a potential increase of 4.5%  in council “core spending power” to support vital local services. However, this assumes that council tax bills in England will rise by maximum allowable levels, including 5% for social care authorities.

Remote Learning for Schools Guidance
Education Scotland has published guidance for teachers and families to support remote learning in schools.

The guidance has been created in partnership through the Education Recovery Group and sets out shared understanding and expectations of what remote learning means for schools and settings across Scotland.

It also outlines the key principles of remote learning, the support and resources available for teachers and families and what children and young people are entitled to.

The guidance is in addition to remote learning guidance already produced by Local Authorities for schools to plan and prepare.

Over the coming weeks, many Councillors will be home schooling too.

During this time, it is important that you all look after yourselves and follow advice on having breaks and blocking off time to support home schooling. Lunch breaks without meetings are even more important.

EU Exit
EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
With the end of the UK’s transition period with the EU, this is a reminder that EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK by December 31, 2020, and their family, can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after June 30, 2021. The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.

COSLA and IOM (International Organisation for Migration) will continue to provide online EUSS information sessions for council frontline officers (including social work, welfare rights, education, and housing and homelessness services) and provide support to vulnerable EU citizens. If anyone would like us to host an event for their council and/or have a vulnerable EU citizen in need of support with their EUSS application please contact: cameron@cosla.gov.uk or lorraine@cosla.gov.uk.

UK points-based immigration system
The UK has introduced a new points-based immigration system which applies to EU and non-EU citizens. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021, who do not have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, will need to meet specific requirements in order to study or work in the UK. They must apply and receive confirmation that they have been successful before travelling to the UK.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens may continue to visit the UK for up to six months without applying for a visa and may participate in activities, including tourism, visiting family and friends, short-term study and business-related activities, such as meetings, events and conferences. They should check if they need a visa before they travel.

EU Continuity Bill
The Scottish Parliament agrees new consultative powers for Local Government

On December 22, the Scottish Parliament approved the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill 2020. This aims to ensure that the Scottish bodies can remain aligned with future EU rules when that is appropriate. The Bill focuses on three key areas: a discretionary power to enable Scottish Ministers to align devolved Scots law with EU legislation; provisions to ensure continuation of guiding principles on the environment in Scotland; and establishment of a new oversight body, ‘Environmental Standards Scotland’, to replace the system of environmental governance previously provided by the institutions of the EU.

As a result of negotiations between the COSLA President and the Cabinet Secretary, Michael Russell, and agreed by Council Leaders, the Bill also includes a right for Local Government to be consulted whenever Scottish Ministers are minded to exercise powers to ‘keep pace’ with EU legislation. This is a very significant development as there are currently very few pieces of Scottish legislation that include such formal consultation provisions for Local Government.

Stay at Home
The Scottish Government has launched a new public information campaign to communicate the new, tighter national restrictions which took effect from Tuesday, January 5.

The Stay at Home campaign reinforces the message that the new strain of COVID-19 is spreading quickly and outlines how we must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

The campaign includes TV, radio and digital adverts and will run until January 31.

NHS Coronavirus Vaccine leaflets in translated languages
The NHS has translated key messages on the Coronavirus vaccine programme into a range of languages most spoken by Scotland’s migrant communities, as well as easy read and large-print formats. These may be useful to you in informing constituents about the vaccine rollout. These should help address concerns that some migrant workers are not adequately informed about the restrictions and vaccine programmes, and increases in positive tests among these communities. The leaflets are available here.  

For more information contact ania@cosla.gov.uk

Violence Against Women and Girls – not all homes are safe
As restrictions have again tightened and we are again being asked to stay at home to limit the spread of the coronavirus, supporting the safety and needs of adults and children at risk of domestic and other forms of abuse continues to be an urgent consideration.

The current version of COSLA’s and the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Supplementary National Violence Against Women (VAWG) Guidance for Local Authorities and their strategic partners offers information and advice on particular challenges facing women and children experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence during periods of lockdown.

The guidance highlights information on how Local Authorities can best support specialist services to operate remotely/ virtually if in-person support can't be offered safely, as well as ensuring women and children know that they can still access support locally and nationally. Local Violence Against Women Partnerships continue to operate and the National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline provides confidential support 24/7, 365 days a year via phone, email and chat, to anyone with experience of domestic abuse or forced marriage, as well as family members, friends, colleagues and the professionals who support them.

The national Respect Men’s Advice Line for men experiencing domestic abuse is also available.

Scotland’s First Minister and Chief Constable have re-emphasised that help is available to adults or children/young people who may be experiencing domestic abuse or any other form of violence in the home.

The Executive Summary of the refreshed Guidance can be accessed here. For further information contact Katie Brown.

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.