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
Read Chief Executive, Rob Whiteman’s
full outlook for local government here.
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.
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
£300 million additional
funding for local authorities to support new test and trace service
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
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
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.
children with special educational needs
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.
Engagement Opinions: Setting common definitions
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org