Elected Members Briefing - 21st July

Key Messages
Lockdown restrictions have been eased further, allowing Scotland’s tourism sector to restart.

Visitor attractions such as museums, galleries and heritage sites can also start to re-open.

The safe re-opening of small and micro businesses is being supported by new guidance.

First Minister Praises Local Government Workforce

The continuing efforts of Scotland’s Local Government workforce during the pandemic were recognised during a COVID-19 update from the First Minister last week.

Ms Sturgeon praised Local Authorities and their employees during her daily press conference on Tuesday, July 14.

She said: “I want to pay tribute today to staff in Local Authorities across the country. During this pandemic, council workers have continued to deliver essential services in very difficult conditions.

“They have also worked closely with Scottish Government on vital issues such as housing homeless people, paying business grants, providing education hubs, and much, much more.

“In doing so, they have protected vulnerable people, and provided help for those who need it. That effort has been – and continues to be – hugely appreciated.”

Building on previous praise from the COSLA President and the First Minister’s words, the following campaign celebrating the work carried out by the Local Government workforce has been developed by COSLA.

It will run this week with a graphic being released each day on social media, from Monday to Saturday.

Local Government Essential Services
Local Government Protect Communities
Local Government Serve Communities
Local Government Delivering Services
Local Government Empower Employees

Finance
COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, has a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes MSP, on Wednesday (July 22) where they will discuss the Local Government consequentials resulting from recent UK Government announcements, as well as joint work on fiscal flexibilities.

The Settlement and Distribution Group (SDG) will meet this week to consider the distribution of £50m funding for additional education staff, part of the £100m announced to support the re-opening of schools.

Political Group Leaders will consider the SDG’s recommendation early next week, to ensure Councils get information on their allocation as soon as possible, allowing recruitment to start.

Discussions are ongoing with Scottish Government in relation to the additional resources required for the re-opening of schools and ELC settings, in line with new guidance that is currently being finalised.

Education - employers
The Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP; COSLA’s Education Spokesperson, Councillor Stephen McCabe, and the SJC unions met on Thursday (July 16) to discuss the implications for the SJC workforce of the reopening of schools in August.

The DFM had the opportunity to hear and comment on concerns about the current guidance on cleaning, transportation, workload, effective consultation and mitigation of risk.

In addition, concerns were shared about funding pressures and additional resource requirements caused by schools reopening while the country recovers from the pandemic.

A meeting will take place today (Tuesday, July 21) with the SNCT unions providing them with similar opportunity to discuss any concerns they may have.

Education - scientific advice
The COVID-19 Advisory Subgroup on Education and Children’s Issues produced scientific advice on physical distancing in schools.

The advice has been drafted using the evidence from the virus’ impact and balancing this with the impact on wider child wellbeing.

Physical distancing involving children, and children and adults, is covered, as is the need for face coverings in different situations. The group have also considered whether certain groups of people required additional protections.

Councils will need to ensure that children and young people are given additional support on good hand hygiene. In relation to test and protect, the Group recommends ‘as close to possible’ zero tolerance of symptoms should be in place.

Good ventilation and effective surface cleaning should also be established for all school buildings.

The note also advises on avoiding large gatherings, minimising movement around school and sharing of equipment, and providing more outdoors activities.

Councils are advised to consider minimising the movement of staff between buildings and supporting the needs of vulnerable children.

Returning to schools should be co-ordinated with wider easing in order that it feels coherent to children and adults.

Those children and adults who are deemed vulnerable or who live with those deemed vulnerable should receive and adhere to individual clinical advice.

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 ticketing scams, fake goods online and the illegal puppy trade.

The bulletin can be viewed here.

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.