Elected Members Briefing - 23rd March

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

Key Messages

Additional restrictions have been placed on travellers arriving in Scotland from Ethiopia, Oman, Qatar and Somalia.

The new Child Disability Payment will be open in pilot areas for applications from July 26.

Investment in the Connecting Scotland programme, to provide low-income households with digital devices and support, has now been increased to more than £48 million.

Local Government Finance Order
On Thursday, March 18, the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2021 was debated in the Scottish Parliament. As part of the debate, Ivan McKee MSP announced an additional £40m of flexible funding for Local Government for 21/22. This is additional, non-recurring funding over which Councils will have total autonomy in relation to how it is used.

You can watch the debate here.

Settlement and Distribution Group
The joint Settlement and Distribution Group (SDG) meets on Wednesday, March 24 and will consider a range of recommendations in relation to funding for Local Government. Amongst these are funding for Education Recovery (£60m), Additional Funding for Low Income Pandemic Payments and Family Pandemic Payments (£100m), and Community Justice funding to support pandemic recovery work for 2021/22. Recommendations will be made to Leaders at their next meeting, so that councils can be notified of this vital funding, which will enhance further the response to the current emergency and recovery.

UK Community Renewal Fund
The UK Community Renewal Fund will provide £220m of additional funding over 2021-2022 as an interim between the EU Structural Fund programme and the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund. This funding will be limited to 2021-22 only. The Fund will help support local areas to ‘pilot new approaches and programmes that unleash their potential, instil pride, and prepare them to take full advantage of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund when it launches in 2022’.

The UK Government hosted a webinar last week for Scottish Local Authorities, to outline the intention of the fund and the bidding process. COSLA and a number of Councils across Scotland joined and asked questions. In particular, questions focused on the role of the 100 priority places compared to ‘other places’. Questions were also asked about the role of Ministers in the process and the difference between the UK Community Renewal Fund and the incoming UK Shared Prosperity Fund. A full list of FAQs will be published by the UK Government when all webinars have taken place.

* Find out more about the UK Community Renewal Fund on the UK Gov website
* Read the UK Community Renewal Fund Prospectus

Letter to the Cabinet Secretary
Following Leaders’ special meeting on Friday, March 12, COSLA’s President wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to request that she attend a special meeting of Leaders to discuss Scottish Government’s ongoing position in relation to the Service Concession flexibility, as well as wider pressures on Local Government Finances given the Local Government settlement for 2021-22 . A reply was received on Friday, March 19 and copied to all Council Leaders. Indications are that such a meeting will not take place this side of the Scottish Parliament Elections - but COSLA will continue to pursue.

In relation to Leaders’ concerns re: the service concession flexibility, the Cabinet Secretary is willing to agree that this flexibility can be used for broader COVID recovery over the period 2020 -22, and that she may be willing to consider making a permanent change but only after a review of capital accounting. Officers will engage with Directors of Finance to assess the full implications of a review.

Local Governance Review
COSLA and the Scottish Government issued a joint statement on Thursday, March 18 giving an update on our work together on the Local Governance Review.

COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison, said: “The purpose of the Local Governance Review has been to focus on and strengthen local decision making and democratic governance in ways that improve outcomes in local communities, grow Scotland’s economy for everyone’s benefit, support communities to focus on their priorities, and help new ideas flourish.

“With the impact of the pandemic this remains as important now as it ever has. If we are to see the essential social renewal that is required then we must invigorate our public services to work with communities to make decisions where they matter most.”

You can read the full statement here.

New Scots
The New Scots Refugee Integration Delivery Project offers funding of £2.8 million to support organisations help settle refugees into communities in Scotland.

COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Kelly Parry has welcomed the funding and said: “We look forward to working with colleagues in Local Government, and across different sectors, to develop innovative integration projects which continue to adapt to the changing needs of our communities and recognise the invaluable contribution of New Scots to our society.”

You can read more here.

Applications opened on Monday (March 22) with a deadline of Saturday, May 22. Information about the fund is available on the Scottish Government website.

We would encourage Local Authorities to put forward an application and build on the brilliant work going on to support refugee communities across Scotland.

Rights of the Child
COSLA’s Children and Young People Spokesperson, Councillor Stephen McCabe, welcomed the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law on Tuesday, March 16.

He said: “The incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law is an important step toward the progression and realisation of children’s rights across Scotland. Local authorities have been working hard to ensure that the rights of children and young people are built into the systems and services we deliver.”

PHS dashboard
Public Health Scotland has compiled a dashboard offering information on COVID-19 in children and young people of educational age, education staff and educational settings.

It presents a range of information in areas such as testing and cases, hospital admissions and contact tracing.

The dashboard can be found here.

Recycling Fund
COSLA’s Environment and Economy Spokesperson, Councillor Steven Heddle, commented on a new £70 million Scottish Government fund to improve recycling infrastructure across Scotland.

Local Authorities are being urged to apply to the fund to help drive new innovations and improvements to recycling in their area and across the country.

More information can be found here.

Councillor Heddle said: “Councils across Scotland have set themselves ambitious climate change targets, and tackling our throw-away culture is part of this. Councils know their local communities and understand the specific opportunities and challenges in their areas. The fund offers real opportunity to start addressing some of these at the local level, offers breadth of opportunity and seeks change and innovation.”

Young Person's Guarantee
Councillor Kelly Parry, COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, welcomed the announcement of a further £70 million from the Scottish Government for the Young Person’s Guarantee on Friday, March 19.

She said: “Scotland’s councils are fully committed to helping young people move closer to, into and progress in employment and we offer a range of support to meet these objectives.

“The Young Person’s Guarantee investment for local employability partnerships is a valuable and welcome addition to the range of support local authorities currently lead to help young people.”

You can read more here.

Fact Friday
COSLA has launched a ‘Fact Friday’ social media campaign to highlight the varied range of services provided by Local Government in Scotland.

A series of animated graphics have been produced and will be shared each Friday via our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Business Gateway
A recent survey into business impact and priorities, commissioned by Business Gateway’s National Unit and completed by 1400 respondents at the end of February, revealed that 40% of Scottish businesses feel optimistic about the future of their business in 2021.  Other highlights of the survey include:

* Over 60% of businesses felt prepared to leave the European Union at the start of 2021.
* 59% aren’t certain about whether leaving the EU will have a positive or negative impact on their business.
* 44% of businesses surveyed have improved their digital offering since the start of the pandemic.

A more comprehensive review of the survey can be found here.

There will be a panel webinar on March 30 at 11am exploring the impact of the past 12 months on women starting and running businesses in Scotland, and the challenges, opportunities and support available.

Booking is available 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 - the 50th edition - 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 call blocking devices and delivery scam texts.


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.