“This second lockdown will be tough for many, but councils are stepping up again to support residents, especially those who are more vulnerable, businesses and education settings."
Councils are working urgently to put measures in place to support people - especially those who are clinically extremely vulnerable – ahead of further nationwide restrictions and are preparing to distribute funding quickly to businesses forced to close as a result.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils of all types across England, said the next four weeks will undoubtedly be a daunting time for residents and businesses. It is urging people to do their bit to help drive down infection rates by continuing to follow the rules.
Ahead of the second nationwide lockdown tomorrow, the LGA said lessons must be learnt from the past seven months, particularly around the importance of tapping into and using local expertise. It is calling on the Government to:
- Work jointly with councils to co-develop a clear strategy for after the national restrictions are set to end on December 2, with clear criteria about which restrictions or Tier Alert Levels will apply.
- Urgently build upon successful local contact tracing efforts to address the current limitations of the national NHS Test and Trace scheme. For that to happen, councils need timely, clearer, more precise information on who they should be trying to contact as soon as possible. The Government also needs to better understand and provide the funding needed for councils to undertake the contact tracing they are picking up – as well as what they could do in the future.
- Ahead of the roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine, it is vital that the Government and NHS engages with councils’ directors of public health now so they can help co-ordinate the roll-out and utilise their local knowledge and expertise to ensure residents can be immunised as quickly as possible. This will be too big a task for the NHS to do on its own.
While councils continue to do all they can to support communities, the pandemic has amplified financial pressures that already existed. This has taken place alongside a loss of income from fees and charges and other income.
The Government has provided much needed funding and introduced positive financial measures to help. However, significant challenges remain both this year and in the long-term which are likely to be exacerbated even further by these latest national restrictions. As councils set their budgets for next year, it is critical that Government provides the funding needed to ensure councils can continue to support their communities.
Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman, said:
“This second lockdown will be tough for many, but councils are stepping up again to support residents, especially those who are more vulnerable, businesses and education settings.
“It is imperative that we use this lockdown to get on top of this virus and bring down infection and transmission rates. This means all of us continuing to follow the guidance, self-isolate if necessary, wear a face covering and wash our hands regularly but also must include the Government accelerating mass testing and enabling local contact tracing arrangements to be scaled up.
“Clarity about the criteria for lifting restrictions locally will be important for people up and down the country and we urge the Government to work with councils to co-design the exit strategy from this lockdown.
“Driving strong local action will add further pressure to already over-stretched council budgets. Only with the necessary powers and resources, can councils continue to lead local efforts to tackle outbreaks swiftly and effectively, keep services running and support communities and businesses.”