Councils and councillors continue to work tirelessly to support residents and local businesses through the pandemic.
As first was going to press, it was clear that we have reached another critical phase in our battle against coronavirus.
With the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 now at levels last seen in early May, we need to redouble our efforts to minimise a second wave.
Colleagues in central and local government are working hard to implement new and targeted restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. In addition to local restrictions, we are now seeing new national restrictions.
These include: a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants; licensed premises required to operate a table service only; a tightening of the ‘rule of six’; extended requirements for wearing masks; and a direction to work at home, where possible.
Large-scale sporting events and business conferences will not be able to operate from 1 October, as originally planned. The Government is working on what can be done to support these sectors.
“While additional funding is always welcome, councils also need the right enforcement tools”
The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the ‘rule of six’ has doubled to £200 for the first offence, and police and councils will be provided with the extra funding they need for enforcement.
People are also now required by law to self-isolate if they have tested positive for coronavirus or have been traced as a close contact of someone who has. This will be enforced by the police, backed up by new fines starting at £1,000.
We are pleased that the Government has recognised that people on low incomes who cannot work from home may need additional help with self-isolating – they will be supported by a payment of £500. These payments will be administered by councils, alongside discretionary funding to support people in need who fall outside this scheme.
The LGA is working closely with government departments on the details, but setting up these schemes from scratch in a matter of weeks will be challenging.
It is vital that government works extremely closely with councils so they can prepare and have immediate access to test and other data, to get support to those people who need it.
Given the ongoing and significant funding pressures they face, urgent clarity is needed about how councils will be reimbursed for the costs of setting up these schemes and the payments themselves.
As ever throughout this crisis, the LGA continues to work closely with government, and to emphasise the need to ensure maximum flexibility for councils to spend any additional funds in a way that has the most impact locally.
While additional funding is always welcome, councils also need the right enforcement tools, as well as a pragmatic approach to helping them manage competing priorities and the demands that have been placed on them in recent months.
Councillors and their councils have been true leaders during the pandemic. When rapid action was needed, they have delivered for residents and remain best placed to understand and respond to the complex challenges faced by local communities.
They continue to work tirelessly to support residents and businesses through this pandemic, keeping local services running and playing their part in supporting the national effort.
It is vital they have the resources they need to lead and protect their communities, and to minimise the impact of a second wave of this deadly virus.