Elected Members Briefing - 26th January

Key Messages

Funding of £1 million has been made available for childminders who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Proposals have been unveiled for a new model of green ports focused on inclusive growth, fair work practices and delivering a net zero economy.

Additional funding of £500,000 is being allocated to provide practical measures of support for health and social care staff working to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Invitations to a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for people aged 70-79 will start being delivered in several health board areas this week.

Finance: Social Media Campaign

Since the release of ‘Respect Our Communities, Protect Our Funding’, COSLA has published a series of graphics (examples below) that share our key messages in advance of the Scottish Budget on January 28. The social media campaign highlights the importance of Local Government in the response to the pandemic and the need for fair funding for 2021-22 to continue to provide communities with the support they need. You can find the thread of posts on the COSLA Twitter page @COSLA and by using #fairfundingforlocalgovernment

Opposition finance leads meeting
COSLA Resources Spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor continues to meet with the Finance leads of the opposition parties and independents in the Scottish Parliament. The purpose of this round of meetings is to discuss the recently published ‘Respect our communities, protect our funding’ document and to ensure all parties are aware of recent trends in relation to Local Government funding, including increased direction and fragmentation, use of grants etc. and the need for this to be addressed to allow a local focus on improved outcomes. The next round of meetings is planned for mid-February, when the Budget Bill will be going through Stages 1 and 2 of the Parliamentary process.

Supplier and Partner Provider Group
COSLA and Local Government officers have reconvened the ‘Supplier and Partner Provider’ working group to share issues that are re-emerging as a result of the current period of restrictions. The group has revisited the set of principles that were developed back in April 2020 and agreed that they will be updated to ensure they reflect current context and should continue to guide discussions between suppliers/partner providers and Local Authorities. Some suppliers and providers can access financial support e.g. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and other sector-specific funds and the principles encourage an open-book approach, ensuring best use of public funds. Further discussions are due to take place this week where amongst other things, transport and Early Learning and Childcare will be discussed.

Accounts Commission Report
Councils have seen greater reductions in funding over the last seven years than other areas of the Scottish Government budget, a report from the Accounts Commission states today (Tuesday).
The report also highlights that Scotland’s Councils face significant additional pressures due to COVID-19. This includes substantial and ongoing reductions in income, increased costs and the administration of business support grants and other measures of support to their communities during COVID-19.

COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor said:  

“The messages in today’s Accounts Commission report paint a full picture – on the face of it, there looked to be increases in Local Government funding in 19/20 but much of this was for Scottish Government’s OWN commitments, and came after years of reductions.

“These messages should be listened to AND ACTED UPON as they come from an independent, well respected non-Local Government body.”

Read more here.

Social Renewal Advisory Board
The Social Renewal Advisory Board was established in June 2020 by Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, and Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Older People and Social Security. The Board was tasked with developing proposals to renew Scotland once we start to emerge from the pandemic. COSLA was represented on the Board by President, Councillor Alison Evison, and previous Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Elena Whitham.

The Board’s final report, titled If Not Now, When? , was published on January 21 and contains 20 Calls to Action, supported by recommendations, focused on:

* Money and Work
* People, Rights and Advancing Equality
* Communities and Collective Endeavour.

Both COSLA and Scottish Government will issue formal responses to the report in due course.
European Charter of Local Self Government Bill

COSLA President Councillor Alison Evison welcomed the Stage 1 Report of the Local Government and Communities Committee on Andy Wightman’s European Charter of Local Self Government Bill on Friday (January 22).

Councillor Evison said:

“This is really significant progress for this Bill, the key to building on Local and Scottish Government’s joint commitment to improve outcomes for our communities and renew democratic participation across Scotland. The Committee’s support for incorporating the Charter into Scots Law is great news.

“In addition, this would mean that Scotland would no longer be one of the last remaining jurisdictions in Europe not to have given the Charter the direct legal standing it deserves.

“I was particularly pleased that the Committee thought that the Bill would act as a spur for local and central government to cooperate effectively – this has long been the position of COSLA and that can only be good news for our communities.”

Stay at Home
The Scottish Government is running a public information campaign to communicate the tighter national restrictions which took effect this month.

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.

A helpful infographic can be found here.

National COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign
The National COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign was launched last week.
It is targeted at all adults in Scotland and will aim to communicate the importance and safety of the vaccine, and encourage people to get the vaccine when they are offered it.

The campaign will run until February 21, and will be live across TV, radio, digital, social, OOH and press.

You can find further information on the COVID-19 vaccines on NHS Inform while all available leaflets can be found here.

Child Poverty
The new Scottish Child Payment will be introduced and first payments made by Social Security Scotland from Monday, February 15. Applications were invited from November 2020.

The new benefit, which will give eligible families on low incomes with children under 6 an extra £10 per week for each child, is planned to be fully rolled out to children under the age of 16 by the end of 2022. The payment could support up to 194,000 children this financial year and the payment will be made every four weeks.

The deadline for families to apply for Best Start Grant School Age Payment is February 28, 2021. If they do not apply before this date, they will not be able to receive the payment. The one-off £250 payment is currently open to families with a child born between March 1, 2015 and February 29, 2016. It can be used for anything from a warm coat to books and toys.

Parking and Traffic Management Operational Advice during COVID-19
An updated version of the joint British Parking Association and COSLA Local Authority Parking and Traffic Management Operational Advice during COVID-19 was published this week to help local authorities develop and implement local plans for traffic and parking during the pandemic.

The guidance will be kept under constant review in light of the rapidly changing situation and updated as necessary.

The document can be accessed here.

Bus Partnership Fund Conference
Transport Scotland launched the Bus Partnership Fund in December 2020, which is designed to enable local authorities to work in partnership with bus operators, to develop and deliver ambitious schemes that incorporate bus priority measures to tackle the negative impacts of congestion on bus services.

The conference is aimed at local government elected members and officials, bus operators and other stakeholders in the Bus Partnership Fund to learn about how bus priority is making a difference across the UK and how they can engage with local communities to realise the potential benefits. An Elected Members’ specific chat room will also be available during the day for councillors to raise questions and comments on the Fund directly with Transport Scotland officials.

You can register for a free place at the conference here.

Citizens' Assembly
The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland was established in early 2020 and comprised 100 citizens from all over Scotland to help formulate new policies to shape the country by considering the following questions:

* What country are we seeking to build?
* How best can we overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21^st century, including those arising from Brexit?
* What further work should be carried out to give us the information we need to make informed choices about the future of the country?

Further information about the Citizens’ Assembly is available in this short video and the final report is available here.

Business Gateway
Business Gateway has responded to the challenges lockdown and Brexit presents to the businesses it supports by adapting the services it provides.

A new series of national webinars has just been launched by the BG National Unit and will continue to run until March. This adds to the raft of support already available online – including video tutorials and podcasts – and has created a central point for businesses across Scotland to gain instant access to information and useful resources when they need it most.

This hub is supported by the DigitalBoost programme, which helps businesses devise digital strategies and gives practical advice to help them take their products and services online. The recent DigitalBoost Development Grant was overwhelmed with applications as soon it was launched – demonstrating the real need businesses have for support in adapting their business as they move online.

Further to that, the National Unit continues to liaise with Local and National Government on the coordination of other grant funds that are being administered by Local Government.

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 Netflix scams and fake comparison sites.

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.