Elected Members Briefing - 10th March

This week marks a year’s worth of Bulletins. An archive can be found on the COSLA website.

Key Messages

More people will be able to socialise outdoors from Friday (March 12).

No further cases of a COVID-19 Variant of Concern first identified in Manaus, Brazil, have been identified in Scotland.

The Chief Statistician has published the criminal justice social work statistics for 2019-20.

More than half a million pounds has been awarded to eight projects working to deliver more support to people living with drug addiction.

UK Budget Announcement

On March 3, the Chancellor announced the UK Budget for 2021/22. Announcements included an extension to the Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) and was heavily focused on supporting the economy. The UK Budget sees a further £1.2bn Barnett consequential funding to Scotland, although much of this is already committed for business support purposes and will not impact on Councils’ core funding for next year.

*The Fraser of Allander Institute has published an article that discusses the UK Budget 2021 and the implications for Scotland.
* SPICe has published a blog on the UK Budget UK Budget 2021: paying for the pandemic (but not yet) – SPICe Spotlight | Solas air SPICe (spice-spotlight.scot)

A prospectus for a £4.8 bn UK-wide ‘Levelling Up Fund’ was also published as part of the Chancellor’s announcements and provides guidance for local areas on how to submit bids for the first round of funding starting in 2021/22. COSLA’s President met with Iain Stewart, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Scotland Office, on March 4 to discussion this new fund, as well as a Community Renewal Fund, and a Community Ownership Fund. All Council Leaders and Chief Executives were then invited to a webinar hosted by Robert Jenrick MP, Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government to hear further details. Leaders will be updated on these investment programmes on March 12 at their special meeting.

The prospectus can be found on the UK Gov website.

The Scottish Budget – Stages 2 and 3
This week, the Scottish Budget progressed through Stages 2 and 3 in the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats supported the Government in passing the Scottish Budget Bill on Tuesday, March 9. Late additions to the Budget Bill include the baselining of this year’s £90m funding for the Council Tax Freeze, as well as an additional £20m for the Pupil Equity Fund (one-off). There is also £49.75m in 20-21 to start phasing in free school meals for all primary school pupils, as well as funding for active travel and green capital projects. However, Local Government will see no additional core funding, beyond the £94m (or 0.9%) that was announced on January 28.

COSLA’s position continues to be that the budget does not represent fair funding for Local Government, as outlined in COSLA’s press release.

Leaders will consider fully the implications of this Budget on Friday, March 12 at their special meeting.

Letter to the Local Government and Communities Committee
COSLA, CIPFA Directors of Finance and SOLACE recently gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities committee of the Scottish Parliament. Leaders agreed that a joint letter be written to the committee following questioning in relation to council reserves. The letter articulates the position in relation to reserves in more detail, and describes the situation for this year in particular, given the impact of the pandemic. Late funding announcements and acceleration of funding into the current financial year mean that reserves will rise, but for good reason and for the ultimate benefit of communities.

COSLA Funding Tracker
As highlighted in the COSLA document ‘Respect our Communities: Protect our Funding’ Local Authorities have had to manage a huge number of ring-fenced and directed funding pots over the past year. As the number of funding streams rises, this is causing a significant administrative burden to local authorities, especially as we approach year end. COSLA has worked with Directors of Finance to develop a funding tracker which is now shared on a regular basis to assist with monitoring and reporting.

Return to Schools
COSLA’s Children and Young People Spokesperson, Councillor Stephen McCabe, responded to the return to school element of last Tuesday’s (March 2) Parliamentary Statement by the First Minister.

He said: “If the clinical and scientific advice states that it is safe to take this approach, Local Authorities will endeavour to make sure that all children and young people get some form of in school time being particularly mindful that we need to take the safety of school staff extremely seriously.”

You can read the full statement here.

International Women's Day
COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison, marked International Women’s Day on Monday (March 8).

Councillor Evison thanked women in communities throughout Scotland and in Local Government for supporting each other throughout the pandemic.

Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness
The Scottish Government is rerunning the 2016 CSEthesigns awareness raising campaign.

Launched on March 3, the campaign aims to raise awareness of what child sexual exploitation (CSE) is, improve public understanding and empower those with concerns to act upon them.

Due to restrictions related to the forthcoming Parliamentary Election, the campaign will end March 24.

The campaign aims to raise awareness among those aged 11 to 17 and their parents/carers of what constitutes CSE and where they can go for advice and support if they have concerns. It is part of a coordinated response from the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and Child Protection Committees Scotland to respond to increasing reports of online child sexual abuse and exploitation, as was recently  highlighted by Police Scotland.

The CSEthesigns campaign also supports complimentary public messaging by Police Scotland and Child Protection Committees Scotland, which collectively seeks to:

* educate and inform parents and carers by offering advice on how to check and monitor their child's online activity and speak to their child about online safety;
* provide information to children and young people to better equip them in protecting themselves online (with partners and carers as the route to deliver this);
* change the behaviour of perpetrators who exploit children online with a campaign encouraging them to seek help; and
* inform the public of the action being taken by Police Scotland and Scottish Government, in partnership with others, of how the growing concern of online harm is being addressed.

Green Growth Accelerator & Recycling Improvement Fund
Leaders agreed to give the go-ahead for two new Scottish Government funding streams which will be dispersed with Local Government involvement.  The Green Growth Accelerator aims to unlock £200 million of additional investment in infrastructure projects to support Scotland’s transition to an inclusive, net-zero emissions economy.  We expect a pilot phase to commence very soon and Councils will be invited to submit Expressions of Interest.  The assessment process is to be overseen jointly by Scottish Government and COSLA.

The Recycling Improvement Fund provides £70m over five years from the Scottish Government to support Local Authorities in improving their waste infrastructure, improve recycling, reduce waste volumes, reduce carbon emissions and transition to a zero waste society.  COSLA has been working intensely with Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland, who will be the fund administrators, to ensure that there is equitable and fair access for Councils across Scotland.

Waiving Charges for Children’s Funerals
In 2018, the Scottish Government and COSLA agreed to remove all local authority burial and cremation charges for children. This commitment was to ensure that parents experiencing extremely difficult circumstances after the death of a child do not face additional financial challenges due to the cost of burial or cremation, which they are unlikely to have planned for.
As the agreement comes to an end on 31 March 2021, it has been agreed that the arrangement be extended for a further period of 3 years. In addition, following an evaluation of the existing agreement, the commitment to waive fees has also been widened to include waiver of fees for stillborn babies.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s Citizen Panel Report
This survey was commissioned by the Scottish Government and Citizens’ Panel members were asked for their input into critical decisions on resuming and supporting service provision in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Results and conclusions were presented to the Scottish Government’s Mobilisation and Recovery Group and HIS will be presenting the key findings from the report at their monthly webinar on Wednesday, March 10 at 2pm alongside the ALLIANCE.

Further information about the webinar can be found here.

COVID-19 vaccine
The Scottish Government’s ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ COVID vaccine campaign is continuing.
More information, including on the vaccine’s side effects and around pregnancy and breastfeeding, is available on the NHS Inform website.

Business Gateway
Business Gateway supports thousands of women led businesses every year and over 60% of the Business Gateway National Unit team are women. It was a privilege to celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8^th March with a showcase of a few of the women-led businesses Business Gateway’s has supported, a profile of the women in the team and the launch of the latest episode of the Connections podcast series, featuring co-founder of Ooni Darina Garland. The episode is available to listen to here.

Business Gateway strives to be more than a source of information, it also has the opportunity to be a source of inspiration. As well as providing all the useful resources businesses need, the team has continued to add the uplifting success stories of those who have benefitted from Business Gateway services in these challenging times. Recent case studies can be read here.

Trading Standards Scotland
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 counterfeit baby carriers and fake job adverts.


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 #CouncilsCan - 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.