From:                                   Rob Whiteman, CIPFA <cipfa@email.cipfa.org.uk>

Sent:                                    27 May 2020 10:31

To:                                        Moore, Ashleigh

Subject:                                CIPFA COVID-19 Bulletin

 

Weekly update on coronavirus

CIPFA | The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy


CIPFA COVID-19 Bulletin

Key financial challenges 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in higher demand for public services, lower public revenue and stressed balance sheets across the local government sector. Despite recent announcements of more emergency funding for local authorities, fiscal pressures continue to mount across the sector. 

Government figures show the virus’s grip on the UK is weakening, and that the situation is broadly improving across the country, with non-essential businesses in England to re-open in mid-June. However, the risks for local government are stronger than ever, and public finances will remain stressed for the short to medium term.

Read Chief Executive, Rob Whiteman’s full outlook for local government here.

MHCLG at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

As part of the ongoing discussion on COVID-19 funding, the PAC spoke with MHCLG on 15 May. The discussion on new burdens promised that a more detailed list on the government’s expectations would be provided. Additionally, the allocation of funding for social care makes for an interesting read for treasurers. There was a repeat of the guidance on furloughed staff, a call for any council with financial concerns to contact MHCLG and a commitment that there would be a spending review this year - although no details were provided.

The discussion on commercial investment covered transparency, risk management, MRP and purchases out of area. With the PWLB consultation being covered in detail, the Treasury said that it would be looking specifically at income strips, which would not be allowed if purely for yield or renewable energy schemes.

Funding for test and trace services

Announced at the end of last week, the Department for Health and Social Care announced £375m in emergency funding for UK authorities, of which £300m has been allocated to English authorities, for COVID-19 test and trace services. 

This tranche of emergency funding will support and increase authorities’ financial capacity to facilitate the widespread testing and tracing needed to transition our communities back to normal.

£300 million additional funding for local authorities to support new test and trace service

Housing rough sleepers 

Over the weekend, MHCLG announced the £381m earmarked in the Budget for the Rough Sleeping Initiative has now been increased to £433m, with money being brought forward. The announcement reflected the need for an increase in capital spend and revenue support.   

While local authorities, along with their partners, have managed to house 90% of rough sleepers, all CFOs should recognise that this is an ongoing commitment that must be reflected in budgets. Rises in rent arrears and wider debt as a result of reduced incomes will likely see more tenants face eviction. There’s also a significant risk of relationships breakdown during lockdown, which could prove to be another factor leading to increased homelessness.

6,000 new supported homes as part of landmark commitment to end rough sleeping

SEND Review – still waiting

With CFOs focused on handling the direct fall out of COVID-19 and its subsequent, related funding gaps, it is unsurprising that the PAC’s SEND Review published on 6 May might have been overlooked. However, since the extension of the eligibility for SEND support in 2014, councils have seen a near 50% rise in children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans. This trend does not look to be slowing down, and as stated by the committee, the government’s review needs to soon be published. 

Support for children with special educational needs 

 

Update from networks

Better Governance Forum 

A review undertaken by the CIPFA Internal Audit Special Interest Group considers the case for common definitions and proposes definitions linked to the audit scope. This free briefing will help auditors consider whether the common definitions would be appropriate for them. 

Internal Audit Engagement Opinions: Setting common definitions

 

Recent webinars

We are running a series of topical webinars exploring various consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for local government and other public service professionals.

  • Local government in the age of COVID-19: How to deal with short term cash crises. Watch here.
  • Personal Resilience in a crisis. Watch here.

Upcoming webinars

How to be an effective leader in a crisis, 29 May 2020 at 10:00am.

Providing effective leadership within your organisations is critical – especially in times of unprecedented crisis. Sir Michael Barber, former Head of the Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Delivery Unit, and Joanna Killian, CEO of Surrey County Council, share their experiences and advice on how to overcome unexpected challenges in this timely webinar focused on crisis management.

Register for this webinar here.

 

COVID-19 advice for local authorities

Essential guidance for local authorities on all aspects of coronavirus support can be found on the GOV.UK website. It is being regularly updated and should act as the definitive reference point for councils: Coronavirus: guidance for local government.

Further advice and guidance can also be found on CIPFA’s COVID-19 hub. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Please share any questions or issues you’re experiencing to Joanne Pitt,
CIPFA Local Government Policy Manager: joanne.pitt@cipfa.org

Rob Whiteman
Chief Executive, CIPFA


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