Welcome to the NAG and SOPO newsletter for 5 March 2021. Feel free to circulate to your colleagues.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has updated its guidance for the various business grants. This includes updating subsidy allowance guidelines, including closing dates for schemes which did not previously have them and clarifying the requirement for a business to have been trading before relevant restrictions were announced in order to be eligible for grant funding. BEIS will be holding a virtual event for billing authorities on the guidance and schemes on Tuesday 9 March and are also working on guidance for the Restart Grants announced in the Budget which will apply from April 1.
UK Infrastructure Bank (BI)
The Government has published further details of the UK Infrastructure Bank that was announced in this week's budget. Loans by the bank to local authorities will be for strategic projects of more than £5 million and will be at a rate similar to the previous local infrastructure rate, that is 0.4 per cent below standard Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) rates. Initially, loans will be taken out via PWLB but will transfer to the bank once it has been formally established in legislation. We are looking forward to discussing with HM Treasury and the bank itself how the bank can work best with local authorities.
COVID-19 testing in schools, colleges and specialist settings
The Department of Education (DfE) has published a workforce planning tool to support secondary schools, colleges and specialist settings to deliver on-site COVID-19 testing. It sets out the number of staff that are required to deliver on-site testing and indicates the level of funding schools are entitled to. To help schools recruit temporary staff to support their on-site testing programmes, the DfE has also produced a How Do I Buy Guide, with information on how to hire staff through the Crown Commercial Service and other recommended suppliers. The guide is available on the secondary schools and colleges document sharing platform.
Vaccination centre road signs
The AA has offered free directional road signs for community COVID-19 vaccination centres – so far it has received around 180 requests for directional signage to vaccination centres and already provided more than 1,800 free signs. These may be useful for councils, with the service including production, distribution, fitting and maintenance of the signs, as well as removal and recycling at the end of the vaccination programme. Signs can be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, including full address and intended opening date, as well as the name and contact information of the site contact.
The Government's response to the Public Services Committee report into lessons learned from COVID-19 has been published. The response covers a number of areas of interest to councils including around social care, council financial sustainability, the Devolution White Paper, economic recovery, early years and public health. Of particular note was the praise heaped on the VCSE sector and the call to update the Outsourcing Playbook (P.26-27)
"The Cabinet Office showed admirable flexibility during the pandemic in issuing new guidance to commissioners which put greater emphasis on the social value that commissioning can create and gave greater autonomy to frontline service providers.
The Cabinet Office should now update the Outsourcing Playbook to reflect the new ways in which businesses and charities delivered services during the pandemic, and provide commissioners with best-practice guidance to encourage joint working with the private and third sector. Any new guidance for commissioners must retain the existing focus on social value, partnership working and sustainable grant funding. (Paragraph 187) Once updated, the outsourcing playbook should be incorporated into the forthcoming green paper on procurement. Its guidance should apply across the public sector to ensure that public service commissioners prioritise social value when contracting services from charities and businesses."
The Chancellor delivered the Government's Budget and our On-the-Day Briefing summarises the key announcements for councils and provides an initial LGA view.
The Chancellor's statement included a number of announcements to further mitigate the impact of the pandemic, including an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until the end of September, further funding to be distributed by councils to support businesses, an extension to the universal credit uplift and funding to further support the vaccine roll-out. Amongst other announcements also of interest to councils included
- Emergency government grants distributed by councils have been a vital lifeline to struggling businesses worried about their future. It is positive that further funding will be provided to support businesses and councils remain ready to use their local knowledge and expertise to distribute this money quickly.
- The £5.2 billion flood and coastal defence programme for England announced at Budget 2020 will start in April this year, with schemes in Waltham Abbey, Sunderland, Preston, Warrington, Salisbury, Rotherham and Doncaster expected to start construction in 2021-22. These schemes will better protect over 3,700 homes from flooding.
- The launch of the Levelling Up Fund and Community Renewal Fund prospectuses are also an important way to help councils invest in their communities as we look to recover from the pandemic and as leaders of places, it is good that councils have been placed at the heart of the delivery of these schemes.
Budget - Restart grants
Pubs, restaurants, shops and other businesses hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic will be able to access a £5 billion grant scheme to help them reopen as the lockdown is eased. "Restart grants" worth up to £6,000 per premises will help non-essential retailers reopen and trade safely. Hospitality, hotels, gyms, as well as personal care and leisure firms, will also be eligible for up to £18,000 per premises as they are due to open later under the plans for easing lockdown.
Further details will be included in the Budget tomorrow but the Treasury has said local authorities will again rightly be trusted with distributing the grants and will receive the funding in April.
Budget - Culture, sport and community pubs
The Budget will provide £408 million to help museums, theatres, and galleries in England to reopen once coronavirus restrictions start to ease in the coming months. In a series of pre-Budget teaser announcements, the Treasury said Mr Sunak will use his fiscal package tomorrow to give a "significant chunk" of a £300 million sports recovery package to cricket as fans prepare to return to stadiums this summer, begin preparations to bid for the 2030 World Cup to be hosted in the UK and Republic of Ireland and deliver a £150 million Community Ownership Fund to allow pub-goers to bid for up to £250,000 to save their favourite local pub from closure.
Budget - Traineeships
The Budget will include a £126 million funding boost to enable the creation of 40,000 additional traineeships in England. The Chancellor will also set out plans for new "flexi-job" apprenticeships, enabling trainees to develop their skills with a range of employers within a particular sector. Instead of having a single employer, they will be linked to an agency that will place them with various relevant organisations.
Rishi Sunak will also promise to increase the cash incentives for employers who take on an apprentice to £3,000 – regardless of age. Currently, firms can claim £2,000 for each apprentice they hire aged 16 to 24, or £1,500 for those aged 25 and over.
Budget - COVID-19 fraud
A unit to crack down on COVID-19 fraudsters exploiting government financial rescue schemes like furlough is due to be announced in the Budget. The Taxpayer Protection Taskforce, underpinned by £100 million and 1,250 staff, will investigate people swindling cash through coronavirus income support programmes.
Budget - Net Zero
As part of the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio fund previously announced, the Chancellor allocated funding for low carbon energy, including a £20 million programme to support offshore wind technology, £68 million UK-wide competition for energy storage and, £4 million UK-wide competition for the first phase of a biomass feedstocks programme. The flood and coastal defence programme will also start in April with schemes in a number of areas in England.
Local Government Procurement Expo (LGPE)
It is LGPE this week and there's some great local government speakers and representation over the day – a pick of the highlights include;
- Manchester's Approach to Sustainability in Procurement – Facing up to Current Challenges; Peter Schofield, Head of Integrated Commissioning and Procurement, Corporate Services, Manchester City Council
- Delivering Successful Supplier Relationships; Rosie Pearson, Corporate Director, Local Partnerships
- Accelerating Zero Carbon Solutions through Innovative Procurement; Malcolm Harbour CBE, Connected Places Associate, Future Cities
- LGA Sustainable Procurement Guidance - Delivering Local Economic, Social and Environmental Priorities; Guy Head, Adviser, LGA and Philip Duddell, Director, Sustainable Procurement Ltd
- Supply Chain Resilience - Pre-Emptive Targeted Support for the Supply Chain and Supplier Relief due to COVID-19; Kevin Draisey, Head of Procurement, North Yorkshire County Council
And in the Networking Lounge we have;
- Single-Use PPE; Keith Coleman, Deputy Director of Procurement, Surrey County Council
- Transformation; Malcolm Harbour, Connected Places Associate, Future Cities
- Social Value; Cindy Nadesan, Strategic Account Manager - Public Sector, Social Value Portal
The Leading Local Government Public Procurement Event
10 March 2021
LGPE Online is an unmissable date in the UK's procurement calendar and will provide delegates and experts with the chance to engage, listen and learn about the key trends, challenges and opportunities facing local government today in what has been an unprecedented twelve months.
Introduction to the NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract for Public Sector Practitioners
20 April 2021
The NEC4 suite of standard construction contracts are becoming the contract of choice for many public sector procurements of construction and maintenance works (recommended by UK Government Construction Strategy as well as by the Construction Clients' Board The Construction Clients' Board). Attend this webinar, to find out how it can transform and stimulate your projects to deliver contracts which are on time, offer savings and improve quality.
All You Need to Know About Framework Agreements, Dynamic Purchasing Systems and More
28 April 2021
Whilst contracting authorities have been using framework agreements for several years, they have been an area of uncertainty for practitioners. This focused webinar has been developed to provide clarity around how to set up and manage your own framework agreements, as well as compliantly use frameworks established by other bodies.