Elected Members Briefing - 2nd March

Key Messages

Three cases of a COVID-19 variant of concern first identified in Brazil have been identified in Scotland.

Funding of £7.4 million has been announced by the Scottish Government to tackle deep-rooted inequality and child poverty. It will be made available to Local Authorities to specifically help disabled parents and enhance the support they get.

Health and social care professionals will have access to a new specialist service offering confidential mental health assessment and treatment.

Scottish Budget 2021/22
This week in the Scottish Parliament, MSPs voted to endorse the general principles of the Budget Bill at Stage 1. Stages 2 and 3 are planned for March 8 and 9. COSLA has engaged with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and opposition party Finance Leads to explain why the 2021-22 Budget, as it stands, does not represent fair funding for Councils. With UK Government announcing its Budget on March 3, there is still an opportunity for Scottish Government to address COSLA’s ask around core revenue and capital.

The Scottish Parliament debated ‘Fair Funding for Local Government’ on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Within the debate, MSPs from across the chamber highlighted figures included in the COSLA Briefing published last week, as well as core messages from this and last year’s core budget lobbying and the benefits of funding Local Government properly. You can view the official report of the debate on the Scottish Parliament website.

Leaders Meeting
On Friday, February 26, Leaders were updated on progress made in relation to fair funding for this and next year. On February 25, Councillor Macgregor received a response from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance in relation to the Service Concession (PPP/PFI) flexibility and Ms Forbes’ letter was shared with Leaders in advance of their meeting. Leaders agreed that what is now on offer is disappointing, complex and limiting, and will not deliver the anticipated benefits. Leaders agreed that this matter requires to be pursued and officers will continue to support Councillor Macgregor on this.

Leaders also considered distribution recommendations for just over £750m, of which almost £500m will be provided in 2020-21. Because this will add to councils’ reserves, it was agreed that Councillor Macgregor will write to the Local Government and Communities Committee to highlight the issue, as this had been raised at the Committee’s session on February 10.

Care Home Visiting
The Scottish Government has published guidance for care home visiting.

This guidance recommends that care homes now put in place the necessary arrangements to safely resume meaningful contact between care home residents and their loved ones.
It states that care homes can now resume indoor visiting for up to two visits per resident per week (and up to two designated visitors).

This guidance sets out how indoor contact in care homes will gradually increase while minimising COVID-19 risks to residents, staff and visitors.

It has been developed with input from relatives of care home residents, care home providers and others.

Social Renewal Advisory Board
COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison, has been joined by Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, and Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, to highlight the work of the Social Renewal Advisory Board and its newly published report.

The Social Renewal Advisory Board was established by the Cabinet Secretaries in June 2020 and featured a diverse range of people and voices tasked with developing recommendations to renew Scotland once we emerge from the pandemic.

COSLA was represented on the Board by President, Councillor Alison Evison, and, for a short time, by previous COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Elena Whitham.
The work of the Board was supported by nine Policy Circles and by a detailed programme of engagement to bring the voices of lived experience to inform recommendations.

The full report and a video featuring Councillor Evison, Ms Campbell and Ms Somerville can be viewed here.

myjobscotland
Scottish Local Government’s overhaul of its hiring processes during COVID-19 has been explored in a new article.

myjobscotland colleagues Douglas Shirlaw and Robyn Adamson have spoken with People Management about their idea to introduce an option for candidates to add a video as part of their application.

Following a pilot with 10 Councils, more than 5,200 candidates have produced a video as part of their application process, and 253 roles across Scotland had been filled using this system by the end of December, 2020.

You can read the article here.

Local Government Benchmark Framework
The latest LGBF National Overview Report was published on Friday.

The report and My Local Council tool are available on the LGBF website.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Emily Lynch at the Improvement Service, Programme Manager - Performance Management & Benchmarking, on 01506 282012 / 07747 711 310 if you have any questions.

Purple Friday
COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison, and Vice President, Councillor Graham Houston, proudly wore purple at Friday’s virtual Leaders meeting in support of Purple Friday, run by LGBT Youth Scotland.

More information is available here.

The Power of Public Food
Food for Life Scotland is hosting Scottish Local Authority decision makers and influencers for a webinar with international and local speakers offering inspiring insight on public food.

Public food is not merely calories on a plate, but a powerful tool for social, environmental and economic change. As Scotland plans for a green recovery, food provides huge potential for positive change. Public procurement of sustainable and local food is one of the most effective mechanisms at our disposal to drive transformation in food production and supply, and to prioritise the wider community wealth building agenda. The event will offer an opportunity to hear first-hand how public food is already making positive change internationally and right here in Scotland.

The free webinar will take place on Tuesday, March 23, 6-7.20pm.

4 Things
The Scottish Government has launched a coronavirus 4 Things campaign to reinforce why there is still a need for continued protective behaviours while the vaccine programme continues.

It introduces the importance of four key interventions needed in order to suppress the virus:

1. Get vaccinated
2. Follow health protection measures (FACTS)
3. If you have symptoms self-isolate immediately and book a test
4. Follow restrictions including travel advice (here and overseas)



Business Gateway
A new episode of the Connections podcasts, featuring an interview with Ooni Co-founder and Director Darina Garland, has been recorded and will be available to listen to on the Business Gateway website soon.  The next in the series explores why businesses should consider taking on an apprentice and features business ACS Advanced Clothing Solutions and one of their apprentices, as well as a representative from SDS.  Work is also underway on panel webinars for the next two months with one exploring the issues facing women starting up in business, and one tackling what support businesses need as they look ahead to reopening.
The recent Business Impact & Priorities survey caried out by the National Unit was very well received with over 1400 respondents from across Scotland. The results are being collated and will be published in the middle of March.

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
illegal streaming, cyber scams and fake reviews.

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 #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.