- January 2020 (11th) Chinese media report the first death from the novel coronavirus. (24th) First cases reported in Europe (France).
- February (12th) A patient at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital becomes the first person in London to test positive for Covid-19.
- March (23rd) PM announces the first lockdown in the UK, ordering people to “Stay at Home” (25th) Coronavirus Act 2020 gains Royal Assent (26th) Lockdown measures legally come into force.
- April (16th) Lockdown extended for ‘at least’ three weeks. Government sets out five tests that must be met before restrictions are eased.
- May (10th) PM announces a conditional plan for lifting lockdown, and says that people who cannot work from home should return to the workplace, but avoid public transport.
- June (1st) Phased re-opening of schools in England (15th) Non-essential shops reopen in England (23rd) PM announces relaxing of restrictions and 2m social distancing rule.
- July (4th) UK’s first local lockdown comes into force in Leicester and parts of Leicestershire. More restrictions are eased in England, including reopening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers.
- August (3rd) Eat Out to Help Out begins. (14th) Lockdown restrictions eased further, including reopening indoor theatres.
- September (14th) ‘Rule of six’ – indoor and outdoor social gatherings above six banned in England. (22nd) new restrictions in England, including a return to working from home and 10pm curfew for hospitality sector.
- October (14th) A new three-tier system of restrictions starts in England (31st) PM announces a second lockdown in England.
- November (5th) Second national lockdown comes into force in England. (24th) PM announces up to three households will be able to meet up during during a fi ve-day Christmas period
- December (2nd) Second lockdown ends and England returns to a stricter three-tier system of restrictions. (19th) PM announces tougher restrictions for London and South East England, with a new Tier 4: ‘Stay at Home’ alert level. Christmas mixing rules tightened. (21st) Tier 4 restrictions come into force in London and South East England. (26th)December more areas of England enter tier 4 restrictions.
- January 2021 (6th) England enters third national lockdown.
- February (15th) Hotel quarantine for travellers arriving in England from 33 high-risk countries begins (22nd) February, government publishes four step ‘Roadmap to Recovery’.
- March (8th) Schools reopen under step one of roadmap.
- April (12th) Non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality can reopen under step two of roadmap.
- May (17th) most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors lifted - businesses in all but the highest risk sectors able to reopen.
- June (14th) Move to step 4 is delayed by four weeks to allow more vaccinations.
- July (19th) Step four of roadmap proceeds with legal restrictions and requirements lifted, PM urges caution. Guidance to be reviewed Sept 2020.
Welcome to London Councils’ annual review, covering the work the organisation undertook in 2020/21.
It goes without saying that the past year has been unlike any other in living memory.
The arrival of Covid-19 and the unfolding pandemic impacted on every aspect of our lives, most heartbreakingly of course for the family and friends of people who have died as a result of Covid-19. That now includes more than 15,000 Londoners, a terrible toll.
London bore the brunt of the first wave of the pandemic and our busy, vibrant, complex and inter-connected capital had to be quickly stilled to contain the spread, while keeping essential services going and delivering urgent assistance to keep our most vulnerable residents safe.
As the scale of the impact of the pandemic became clear, London Councils’ then Chair, Cllr Peter John OBE, delayed his already announced intention to stand down, in order to oversee the rapidly evolving situation across the boroughs. We are immensely grateful to Peter for his determination to see us through those difficult days. And I was immensely proud to be elected by my fellow leaders to take over as Chair of London Councils in October 2020.
And while the past year has presented us all with unparalleled challenges, I have been heartened by the remarkable resilience of Londoners and hugely proud of the work of our 33 councils, who have worked tirelessly to support their communities through every turn. I know this is true of councillors across the capital.
Immediate and innovative responses to keeping vital services going proved that the capital’s councils are adept and agile organisations.
The spirit of Londoners who stepped forward in large numbers to donate, to volunteer and to sustain each other proved that community spirit in the capital runs strong.
Working together, councils and their communities demonstrated the best of London in the worst of circumstances.
Our collective response to the dreadful challenges of the coronavirus has only strengthened my belief in the importance of London boroughs, as the level of democratic government closest to the Londoners they serve, in delivering for their communities.
This annual review has many examples of the work of member boroughs responding to the needs of their communities and the work undertaken by London Councils in supporting and advancing their efforts.
This year’s review also highlights two particular areas of work that will be integral to London’s ambitions to build back better: tackling racial inequality and combatting climate change.
In September 2020, London’s borough leaders agreed a joint statement on race equality and a raft of work has begun in support of Leaders’ determination to achieve greater equality for all of London’s diverse communities.
The past year has also seen a significant acceleration in work across the capital to mitigate and limit the impact of climate change on all our futures. This review explores the range of initiatives and work programmes that are underway.
Good progress has been made on both these priorities in the past 12 months, but much more work lies ahead of us. We will report back on progress across these two vital areas of our work in next year’s review.
By definition, an annual review is a look back over work already done. But in these extraordinary times I hope that much of the work set out in this review is a useful and optimistic signpost for the future. The innovations and collaborations that have proved so vital in our joint efforts to combat the pandemic will be equally as crucial in our collective efforts to ensure we really do build back better.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the work of supporting London’s communities over the past year and look forward to working with you all on our shared ambitions for the capital in the year ahead.
Cllr Georgia Gould Chair, London Councils
On Wednesday 12 February 2020, a patient undergoing treatment at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital became the first person in London (the ninth in the UK) to test positive for Covid-19.
By the 23 March the Prime Minister would be announcing wide-ranging restrictions on freedom of movement, under a ‘stay-at-home’ order which would last ‘for at least three weeks’.
The first wave of the pandemic hit London faster and harder than elsewhere. Of the 20 UK local authority areas reporting the highest death tolls in the first weeks of the pandemic, 16 were London boroughs.
As the first lockdown was initiated and the public health implications of Covid-19 became devastatingly apparent, national, regional and local government’s focus was rapidly directed to addressing the unparalleled challenge of controlling the spread of a deadly disease and protecting the most vulnerable, while continuing to deliver vital services and sustaining jobs and the economy.
As the level of government closest to the communities it serves, London’s boroughs were in the frontline of ensuring essential services were delivered and vulnerable residents protected and supported.
Essentially overnight, boroughs began establishing shielding hubs to provide support to vulnerable residents within their areas. These hubs had to be developed both at pace and within a context of changing, and sometimes unclear, commitments from government.
Working with partners in the voluntary and community sectors, boroughs established processes and committed resources to deliver food packages and medicines to those deemed by the NHS to be the ‘shielded’ cases most vulnerable to the disease. And, because they know their communities first-hand, they quickly identified a broader range of residents who would need support and services delivered.
At the same time as developing and implementing entirely new services, boroughs had to quickly adapt their own established ways of working, to become agile workplaces that were safe for their thousands of frontline workers, from care home assistants and refuse collectors, to youth workers, housing officers, maintenance workers and pest controllers.
London Councils was well placed to support decentralised working, having moved to an agile working framework and the roll-out of networked laptops to all staff from December 2018 onwards, as part of the organisation’s IT transformation programme.
London Councils supported the coordination of borough communications efforts throughout the pandemic enabling boroughs to communicate in a clear and coordinated way, share good practice at pace and develop innovative and culturally competent communications including WhatsApp videos, community champions, teaching resource packs and the Keep London Safe campaign.
To support our members’ online engagement with all of London’s communities, London Councils developed a toolkit for virtual community events to support vaccine confidence. More than 50 online events were held in three months aimed at engaging London’s communities and harnessing trusted organisations and individuals. Examples include an online Covid-19 vaccine information event with the Bangladesh High Commissioner, an online vaccine information event with the Turkish-speaking community that had more than 2,500 attendees, and a panLondon online event for councillors with links to the Black community in London.
London Councils quickly developed high-quality approaches to digital communications, including London’s first on-line all councillor event in January, a successful ‘youth shout out’ event that actively engaged with young people from all 32 boroughs, and a series of events for staff to ensure that the organisation was able to focus its energies in supporting the boroughs and support staff through the pandemic.
At the heart of the capital’s collective response were partnerships and collaboration that were either led, coordinated or assembled by the London boroughs and their membership organisation London Councils.
And as big as the challenge was, Londoners’ trust in their local council to deliver the services and support they needed was well placed.
London Local government’s response to the pandemic was grounded in established protocols and ways of working that have been developed through our shared commitment to building London’s resilience and protecting Londoners.
The Covid-19 pandemic inevitably dominated the work of London Councils and the London boroughs (directly and indirectly) through 2020/21. So, while this review reports back on specific outcomes and individual workstreams undertaken by the organisation in 2020/21, this is most accurately viewed through the perspective of the evolving Covid-19 emergency, its emerging lessons and wider implications of the pandemic on our work going forward.
This annual review also frames two overarching strategies central to London local government’s ambitions to build back better: Tackling racial inequality and combatting climate change.
Response & mitigation
London local government’s collective resilience arrangements have grown in recent years, learning from the experience of significant events, including a series of notable emergency incidents throughout 2017.
A programme of training and exercises also helped to build resilience at a local and pan-London level, including learning from boroughs’ participation in the national Exercise Cygnus in October 2016, which tested the response arrangements for a pandemic.
The legal basis for collaboration is rooted in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which defines local authorities as Category 1 responders. The Act places several duties on authorities, including assessing risks, preparing emergency plans and co-operating with other local and regional responders. The guidance which accompanied the Act set out specific arrangements for London, which were refreshed in July 2012 - following the Coroner’s report on the 2005 London bombings. It sets the framework for London’s statutory Local Resilience Forum, which is known as the London Resilience Forum (LRF).
The LRF formally agrees a number of partnership plans which respond to identified risks and collectively set out a platform for collaboration. This includes London’s Multi-Agency Pandemic Plan, which was developed in 2018, and a Strategic Coordination Protocol.
To ensure that councils can play an effective part in the pan-London response to emergencies, chief executives play a co-ordinating role, allowing the sector to be formally represented on pan-London Strategic Coordination Groups, as and when required.
The London Resilience Group provides the secretariat to the SCG and supports partner organisations, each of whom have specific responsibilities for preparing for, and responding to, emergencies.
Reviewed and strengthened
In 2017, London Councils’ Leaders’ Committee commissioned an independent Peer Challenge on London local government’s collective resilience arrangements. The outcome of the work – the Emergency Planning 2020 Prospectus – set out ways in which both individual and collective resilience arrangements between boroughs and sub-regional partnerships could be strengthened. London Councils’ Leaders’ committee considered the report in the spring of 2018 and went on to agree a detailed implementation plan, which was received by Leaders’ in July 2018.
It was agreed that the Local Authorities’ Panel (LAP) - which has managerial oversight of the collective borough resilience arrangements - would oversee implementation and bring periodic progress reports to Leaders’ Committee.
Initiatives taken forward within the remit of the plan included:
- The development of ‘Resilience Standards for London’ which form the core of a new assurance approach based on a sector-led improvement philosophy. It relies on three tiers of assurance: regular selfassessments, sub-regional challenge sessions and a programme of external peer challenge (delivered in partnership with the LGA).
- The establishment of new local authority sub-regional arrangements to enhance collaboration and improve delivery.
- The completion of a community resilience review, which highlighted some practical ways in which local government can make a difference.
London Councils officers worked with LAP colleagues to assist delivery of the implementation plan. In the months prior to the pandemic, this support focussed on:
- The establishment of a Directors of Communications mutual support network, including procedures, guidance and training, and maintenance of a cadre of press officers available to enhance capacity in affected boroughs when required.
- Working with Leading Elected Members to develop a ‘Civil Resilience Handbook for Councillors in London Local Authorities’ approved by Leaders’ in July 2019. In light of the pandemic the guide was updated and re-supplied to every London councillor in April 2020.
- Hosting two half-day training courses for Leaders, to illustrate how the guidance can be used in practice (October 2019 and January 2020).
Civil Resilience Handbook for London Councillors
To supplement this, London Councils officers created materials and course outlines to support individual boroughs in running their own courses, including:
- A generic course for all councillors, which authorities can deliver locally.
- A more detailed, role-specific course for local Ward Councillors, which authorities may wish to deliver in partnership with neighbouring councils.
- A course which is focused on role of Leaders/Directly Elected Mayors and other nominated Lead Cabinet Members.
Public Health England (PHE) colleagues provided a briefing to the London Resilience Forum (LRF) at its regular quarterly meeting on 23 January 2020. This led to the formal initiation of several workstreams, including the commissioning of an updated version of the London’s London Multi-Agency Pandemic Plan, designed specifically to respond to the emerging evidence about the novel coronavirus.
By the end of January, all borough-level Resilience Forums were starting to review their own pandemic plans considering the revised pan-London framework.
Cross sector resilience
London’s first formal cross-sectoral resilience partnership meeting took place in late February, this was a precursor to:
- A special meeting of the Mayor’s Advisory Group, which the Chair of London Councils attended on 2 March 2020, and:
- The initiation of a formal Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG) on 3 March 2020. The SCG was initially chaired by Public Health England colleagues and included the regular duty London Local Authority Gold (LLAG) chief executive to represent the sector.
As the scale of the incident became clearer, the structures were enhanced as follows:
- An independent chair was introduced for the SCG, in part to relieve some of the demands on PHE. Jon Barradell, chief executive at the City of London, and Eleanor Kelly, chief executive at Southwark, became co-chairs.
- A dedicated Local Authority Gold chief executive was introduced to provide continuity and release the regular on-call Gold chief executive to respond to any other incidents which might occur. Initially, this role was covered by Eleanor Kelly, working with the support of a number of other chief executives.
- Subsequently, Martin Esom, chief executive at Waltham Forest, took the role of London Local Authority Co-ordinating ‘Gold’ chief executive for Covid-19, representing local authorities on the SCG.
- Martin Esom was supported by ‘Deputy Gold’ chief executives who cover sub-regional resilience footprints.
- A range of Task and Finish groups were established, led by chief executives, covering key local government issues such as Adult Social Care, PPE and Shielding.
- London’s Gold response was also supported by a wider group of chief executives, directors, professional networks, other staff and colleagues from London Councils.
Individual boroughs put business continuity plans into place and stood up local strategic and tactical response arrangement, including setting up Borough Emergency Co-ordination Centres.
There was a clear line of sight between these local arrangements, London Local Authority Co-ordinating Gold and the Strategic Coordination Centre, which provided a channel to escalate and help resolve issues.
This work was underpinned by arrangements that were rapidly established to collect and analyse data on the impact of Covid-19 in every London local authority.
From the onset of the pandemic, councils led on a range of local initiatives, including developing hubs that provided support to vulnerable people, in liaison with the NHS, voluntary organisations and other partners.
In addition, London Councils offered support in relation to:
- Local Government Finance: Officers engaged with Treasurers, the Society of London Treasurers (SLT) and MHCLG officials, as well as advising the Lead chief executive - to support boroughs to the preparation and assurance of their assessment of the financial implications of managing the pandemic, and to analyse and understand the overall impact for London. This formed the basis of the collective case to government around challenges for councils, particularly loss of income (including council tax and business rates), as well as direct costs and undelivered savings.
- London Councils’ chief executive was a key point of co-ordination with boroughs; the group of nine regional chief executives who work with MHCLG officials; and wider resilience structures.
- London Councils redirected internal resources to help meet the needs of the response.
- We updated the Civil Resilience Handbook for London Councillors, first published in 2019, to reflect the latest advice in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. This was despatched to all elected councillors in London with an online member briefing in April 2020.
- Communications support and advice, including providing daily updates and weekly video call briefings to borough directors of communications; coordinating borough participation in the #LondonTogether social media campaign, working with the SCG Comms Hub to respond to media enquiries on a pan-London basis, stakeholder engagement with the business and voluntary sectors and mortuary management leads; and proactive communications support, for example on the Proud to Care social worker recruitment campaign and the #KeepLondonSafe public information campaign.
- A regular briefing for all elected members in London, which included an overview of key issues and links to useful resources, was sent weekly through the first phase of the pandemic. A daily briefing to all borough heads of communication was sent at 5pm every day (Monday to Friday) from March 2020 to May 2021.
- Continuing our policy and influencing work, for example: on business, the economy and community
safety. This included:
- Monitoring key economic concerns across boroughs; making the case for support to local businesses and the self-employed and convening economic Development Leads.
- Convening member level ‘virtual meetings’ in relation to Business and Economy Leads; TEC in relation to transport and the environment; Housing Leads; Community Safety; and Children’s Services - including liaison with MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) leads and MOPAC (Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime).
- Enabling statutory children’s safeguarding partners, including children’s services, the MPS and NHS, to meet at a London level, to consider the safeguarding and child protection risks to children and young people during lockdown, and reach collective agreement in respect of the need to heighten vigilance and maintain resourcing.
- Working with health partners to negotiate an advice note to borough and CCGs in respect of the operational implementation of emergency discharge funding arrangements.
- Collating and cascading borough innovation in practice to support households experience domestic violence and domestic abuse during lockdown.
Harnessing London local government’s collective capacity and, where appropriate, bridging to the professional networks and wider resilience structures, including:
- Helping interpret the data to provide a ‘stocktake’ for LLAG and the SCG.
- Working with Housing Directors to ensure arrangements to provide appropriate support to rough sleepers placed in emergency temporary accommodation.
- Working with London Directors of Environment (through LEDnet) to develop guidance on opening Household Waste and Recycling Centres.
- Initiating research and data gathering on waste storage capacity and the potential to collaborate with the private sector on areas, such as waste collection and disposal.
- Working with the private sector to support key workers, such as car club and dockless bike operators, which made their fleet available free or at lower cost for essential journeys, such as those done by NHS workers.
- Working with ALDCS to convene pan-London discussions between commissioning leads to plan for mitigation and mutual aid in relation to high-risk placements and care package providers.
- With professional networks, initiating the development of the key learning points for the future of collaborative working with the NHS in London.
Member Level Engagement
A regular Friday call for all London’s Leaders was quickly established, along with the London Local Authority Co-ordinating chief executive and other senior advisers and guests, including the Minister for London and the Director of Public Health for London.
London Councils’ Group Leaders instigated outline discussions with City Hall and other partners on the shape of the transition from Lockdown; the formal Recovery work and Covid-19; and wider Renewal and Re-constitution work that will be required following representatives from City Hall and the SCG.
London Councils’ Chair joined meetings with the Secretary of State (MHCLG), along with representatives of other local government representative bodies.
Proud to care
As London boroughs worked around the clock to ensure vulnerable people affected by the pandemic could get the care and support they needed, the Proud to Care London partnership was established to streamline recruitment for additional workers needed to provide essential care in their communities.
The pan-London partnership offered a single recruitment site for a range of vital jobs providing care in care homes and residents’ own homes, including care workers, care managers, social workers, occupational therapists, chefs and cleaners.
The single point of contact for suitable candidates matched them to jobs locally and offered them free online training.
In May 2020, London boroughs agreed a new pan-London partnership to secure emergency supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for care homes and other crucial local services on the Covid-19 frontline.
The initiative was able to secure more than 48 million PPE items for all London local authorities to distribute at a time care services across London were facing intense pressures on supply.
The collaboration between the boroughs was built on a supply chain established by the West London Alliance. Through expanding the West London Alliance’s successful shared procurement of PPE, all the 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation were able to benefit from economies of scale and ease the strain on PPE supply lines caused by surging demand.
This work was supported by the London Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG) as part of the capital’s emergency response to the pandemic. From the outset of the pandemic, London boroughs had consistently highlighted the importance of providing PPE to social care services to protect those most at risk from coronavirus. By working closely with local care providers and co-ordinating available resources, boroughs were able to focus support on vulnerable Londoners and those caring for them.
The pan-London procurement partnership significantly increased boroughs’ access to PPE and addressed issues arising from an over-reliance on delivery from the government’s emergency stocks while supply chains recovered to meet demand.
Eleanor Kelly, Deputy Chair of London’s Strategic Coordination Group, said:
“By working together to deliver vital PPE equipment we are protecting carers, vulnerable people, and saving lives. London’s local authorities are playing a leading role in the fightback against Covid-19. This crucial programme shows the capital’s effectiveness as we combine to look after the most at-risk in our communities.”
Keep London Safe
When the national initiative to prevent the spread of Covid-19 using the NHS Test and Trace system was launched, it was quickly realised that London needed its own approach to address the unique challenges of diversity, deprivation and density.
The Keep London Safe campaign launched on 29 July to raise awareness of the importance of the Test and Trace system in keeping the infection rate low and steady in the capital. At the time of its launch, polling by GLA showed 44 per cent of Londoners didn’t know how to get a test. The persistence and consistency of #KeepLondonSafe messaging around testing was an important factor in improving test awareness across the capital. Over the course of the campaign, the proportion of Londoners who said they were ‘not confident’ they knew how to get a test fell from 44 per cent (July 2020) to just 8 per cent (May 2021). Over the same period, the proportion of Londoners who said that they were ‘confident’ they knew how to get a test rose from 46 per cent to 88 per cent.
A collaboration between London Councils, the 32 London boroughs and the City of London Corporation, supported by Public Health England (PHE), the NHS, and the Greater London Authority (GLA), the partnership spanned borough boundaries to reach every corner of London’s diverse communities.
Keep London Safe provided single highly visibly and recognisable brand and reduced the need for duplication in quickly and effectively sharing key national public health messages around Covid-19, initially focussed on how to get tested, but also evolving to cover social distancing rules and vaccination cohorts.
Useful assets, including social media images, animations and large-scale advertising artwork, were shared with borough Heads of Communication via the daily Covid digest and discussed and reviewed at weekly heads of communications meetings hosted by London Councils. The assets were designed to be quickly and easily adapted to local messages to meet individual borough’s needs.
Continuity of services
London Councils is responsible for delivering a range of direct services to Londoners on behalf of their member boroughs. A number of actions were taken to ensure these services continued to support Londoners and/or were adapted to evolving circumstances. This included:
In advance of the first London diagnoses of Covid-19, London Councils instigated a review of business continuity plans for all its service areas. We completed detailed risk assessments and developed phased plans to cope with various scenarios. This enabled us to make swift decisions that ensured continued service delivery with partial and later full remote working. We ensured all staff and contractors had the right ICT equipment and work processes in place and kept our customers informed of any necessary service changes. This helped us keep all key services running and delivered to high quality standards.
Parking and Traffic Management Coordination and Advice
London Councils helped lead London and national strategic responses to traffic and parking management during the pandemic. We led the drafting and issuing of London guidance for all authorities over the first weekend of lockdown in March 2020 and worked with the British Parking Association, Local Government Association and government to see this adopted and issued nationally soon after. This included the development, provision and eventual phased withdrawal of exemptions for critical health workers and volunteers. The guidance has been updated 14 times in response to changing rules and borough concerns, but it is hoped this is the final iteration. London Councils’ leading role in providing the guidance and lobbying for national support and consistency has been widely praised and recognised.
Lobbying for Under 18 Free Travel Arrangements to Stay:
The temporary removal of free travel for under 18s was a condition of the initial bail-out agreement between the Mayor of London, Transport for London (TfL) and Department for Transport (DfT). The aim was to encourage more active travel among school children, to reduce the number of young people using public transport to aid social distancing. Boroughs have a legal responsibility to provide home to school transport for qualifying pupils but have been able to rely on the free travel provided to U18s by TfL since 2006. Boroughs were therefore concerned about the proposal’s implications for young people and parents but also the financial, resource and legal implications for councils.
London Councils led borough input into the discussions between TfL and government about if, how and when the proposal could be implemented. We established a senior-level borough officer working group to coordinate this work, providing expert policy, technical, financial and legal advice. We were able to demonstrate the legal and operational complexity of changing school travel policies and the challenges of implementing new processes across 33 authorities. Our analysis showed it could cost boroughs around £27 million and create an £83 million new cost burden for children and their parents. As well as numerous meetings between officials, London Councils’ Chair and Lead Members wrote several times to Ministers to help inform their decisions, which saw the proposal amended, delayed and ultimately removed.
Supporting Democratic Engagement in the Covid-19 Response
Working with Public Health England, the Mayor of London and government, London Councils influenced new processes for ensuring political engagement in Covid tiering escalation and the development of new London level systems for democratic involvement in decision making, including the provision of regular briefings to Leaders and Chief Executives on the evolving infection rates in the capital, containment advice and knowledge on effective borough-led responses. More recently, London Councils has convened briefings for Leaders and Chief Executives on vaccination best practice, borough-led support for Covid-secure business and learning from piloting major events.
Outbreak Management Planning
Working with borough DPHs, PHE and NHS Test and Trace Leads, London Councils led the development of a report on the risks and issues identified by boroughs as councils prepared for outbreak management. This included highlighting the need for longer term funding certainty to ensure sustainability of systems, raising issues relating to how boroughs could be supported in responding to Variants of Concern and describing how the support provided to individuals needing to self-isolate could evolve to better meet the needs of all Londoners.
Recovery & renewal
The concept of ‘recovery’ is a well-established phase in civil contingency processes. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the term is not an entirely adequate, as the process ahead of us is very far from simply restoring things to how they were.
Our member boroughs are of course looking at restoration but, for example, many are also very keen to retain aspects of ways of working that have emerged in over the course of the pandemic and also see the clear need to consider reinventing services, ways of working and interventions to serve communities most effectively in a post pandemic environment.
In July 2020, London Councils surveyed both borough Leaders and Chief Executives to collate and develop perspectives on the future of the capital’s Covid-19 recovery, the survey also aimed to complement and build on ongoing discussions and existing contributions.
To establish the experiences and learning from the response phase, boroughs were asked to identify the most significant challenges and success during the initial response to the pandemic (which was described roughly as the period of 1 March to the 1 June).
The key challenges identified by London local government were:
Public health response and Shielding Hubs
The most common and difficult challenge for boroughs was establishing a robust public health response within local areas, including the setting up of Shielding Hubs and supporting wider health needs for communities and residents.
To establish the necessary procedures boroughs worked closely with partners, particularly the voluntary, community and faith sector (VCS), to quickly mobilise staff and residents to provide urgent support. This support often spanned beyond the shielding cohort to include other vulnerable residents (e.g., those in poverty or with mental health difficulties).
Agile working and staff mobilisation
From an organisational perspective, boroughs had to rapidly adapt their traditional ways of working to become agile and virtual workplaces effectively overnight – this included the capacity to enable new ways of working and support staff in making this transition.
At the beginning of the pandemic boroughs were equipped differently to enable and establish agile working practice across the organisation – while some organisations found it easier than others to make this shift, the pace and scale proved challenging across the board.
Within the context of lockdown and the need for staff to shield and self-isolate, it was difficult for local authorities to redeploy and mobilise staff. For key frontline staff, particularly in social care, it was essential to keep them safe and maintain a base to ensure they were able to continue deliver essential services.
Maintaining social care provision
Building on the challenges relating to adopting new ways of working and staff mobilisation, boroughs had to establish new ways to enable frontline staff to continue face-to-face service provision and deliver services in new ways, while ensuring there is enough capacity in the system to ensure vulnerable residents were not left behind.
At a pan-London level, the ‘Proud to Care’ recruitment campaign was launched to bolster the sustainability of the sector during the peak of the pandemic.
In addition to the key themes list above, there were several of other challenges described by boroughs:
- Uncertainty around future funding and sustainability, particularly in relation to the loss of income and increased expenditure.
- The impact on local economies, both the implications for residents – namely increasing numbers of people requiring support (e.g. due to unemployment, poverty) - and the challenges for businesses (particularly the retail and hospitality sector) and high streets.
- Early and significant challenges around the lack of available personal protection equipment (PPE) for frontline staff.
- Unclear guidance from the centre: at times boroughs had difficulty keeping key services operating within the context of changing and complex guidance and direction.
Building back better
Summer 2020 provided the opportunity for a period of reflection, and a move in strategic focus from mitigating the immediate implications of the pandemic, to transition matters and planning London’s recovery and renewal.
At this stage, the partnership Strategic Co-ordination Group was (temporarily) stood down and the following were initiated:
- The London Transition Board – co-chaired by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the Mayor of London – attended by the London Councils’ Chair, Deputy Chair and Vice-Chairs, representing the perspectives of London boroughs.
- The London Recovery Board (LRB) - Co-Chaired by the Chair of London Councils and the Mayor and attended by the London Councils’ Deputy Chair and Vice-Chairs. The LRB was designed to plan and oversee the capital’s wider long-term economic and social recovery. The LRB’s overall mission is defined as: “To restore confidence in the city, minimise the impact on communities and build back better the city’s economy and society”. Through a series of social and economic working groups, a package of nine recovery missions to achieve this was agreed.
The nine recovery missions are:
High Streets for All
Mission goal: To deliver enhanced public spaces and exciting new uses for underused high street buildings in every borough by 2025, working with London’s diverse communities.
Building Strong Communities
Mission goal: By 2025, all Londoners will have access to a community hub ensuring they can volunteer, get support and build strong community networks.
Digital Access for All
Mission goal: Every Londoner to have access to good connectivity, basic digital skills and the device or support they need to be online by 2025.
A Green New Deal
Mission goal: Tackle the climate and ecological emergencies and improve air quality by doubling the size of London’s green economy by 2030 to accelerate job creation for all.
A Robust Safety Net
Mission goal: By 2025, every Londoner is able to access the support they need to prevent financial hardship.
A New Deal for Young People
Mission goal: By 2024, all young people in need are entitled to a personal mentor and all young Londoners have access to quality local youth activities.
Healthy Food and Weight
Mission goal: To ensure that all Londoners have access to healthy food within an environment that supports them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Helping Londoners into Good Work
Mission goal: Support Londoners into good jobs with a focus on sectors key to London’s recovery.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Mission goal: By 2025, London will have a quarter of a million wellbeing ambassadors, supporting Londoners where they live, work and play.
Our leading members, who played a vital role in this work, were keen to find more formalised support for the programme, working across City Hall, London Councils and other key partners.
To that end, London Councils commissioned Mike Cooke to review London local government’s collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Following a presentation of his findings, Leaders’ agreed to formally establish a London Councils’ Pandemic Steering Committee to bring political oversight and leadership to the pan-London response to the long-term impact of the pandemic.
The committee’s role was set by Leaders, to:
- To receive reports and advice from the London Local Authority Strategic Coordinating Chief Executive (LASC) and assess the implications of available data and information.
- To provide strategic direction on any challenges/opportunities that might arise from the above in relation to the management of Covid-19 in London.
- To plan ahead to ensure longer term planning for future challenges arising from the pandemic.
- To form a London local government view of matters relating to the London Leaders’ Covid-19 Committee as well as the Transition and Recovery Boards.
- To ensure the outcomes of the above are communicated appropriately at a London-wide, sub-regional and local level.
The Pandemic Steering Committee membership included the elected officers, supported by London Councils’ chief executive and the coordinating borough chief executive – with wider attendance when required by its agenda.
The Committee met for the first time in October 2020 and was regularly briefed by PHE on a range of the latest data and analysis on a range of issues, including:
- Supporting the cohort of rough sleepers housed under the ‘Everyone In’ initiative.
- Support for clinically extremely vulnerable people as the national shielding programme ended
- Local Test and Trace programmes
- Developing the case to government around challenges for councils, particularly around loss of income (including council tax and business rates), as well as direct costs and undelivered savings.
At the request of the Pandemic Steering Committee, London Councils worked with the Local Authority coordinating Chief Executive, GLA and the SCG to assemble a draft package of public health or ‘epidemiological’ asks (drawing on the themes mentioned in the bullet points above).
In addition to the public health or ‘epidemiological’ asks, London Councils officers worked with the GLA and other core partners on the SCG Business and Economic Impact Sub-Group to assemble a package of potential London asks around further business support measures.
London Councils officers also provided support for the various workstreams which sit under the board, along with GLA officers and representatives of the voluntary and community sectors. London borough chief executives and other borough colleagues have also made significant contributions to this work. Following discussions with City Hall, London Councils’ Chair, borough Chief Executives and London Councils officers have helped recruit a joint team (in place for April 2021) to support the Board’s work.
The Board includes senior leaders from business, public service and civil society and has the potential to align and focus commitments across partners to drive London’s medium-term recovery and renewal. While there will, in the near term, continue to be arrangements focused on response, pivoting progressively to the management of reopening, both of those are likely to be time limited phases of activity on the scale that they have existed, and consideration is being given to how organisational arrangements can reflect that evolution.
In addition to the pan-London programmes being co-ordinated through the London Recovery Board, it is important to recognise that a lot of recovery work is emerging at a local and sub-regional level.
London Councils continues to work with senior officers to ensure that these initiatives can help shape the pan-London work and to ensure that there are opportunities for good and emerging practice to be identified and shared (both to inform practice in other localities and to provide context for our work in advocating for local solutions where this work best).
Individual workstreams & outcomes
Throughout the pandemic, the work of London Councils’ policy teams was adjusted to both meet the demands of the evolving emergency and confront London’s ongoing challenges. Specific workstreams and outcomes for individual policy teams in 2020/21 are summarised on the following pages.
Our Finance, Performance and Procurement team works with finance directors, chief executives and others across the capital to provide credible and widely regarded analysis that underpins the case for adequate resourcing of London’s public services and supports sector-led improvement across London local government. Their work in 2020/21 included:
Raising awareness of scale of financial impact of Covid-19 from March onwards
- Providing detailed and authoritative modelling of the potential scale of the financial impact (up to £3 billion).
- Maintaining a monthly funding gap analysis.
- Drafting articles and comment pieces highlighting the funding gap and its implications for London services, e.g. for Cllr Peter John in LGC (Local Government Chronicle).
- Providing detailed briefings on financial impact for London MPs.
- Relaying borough financial pressures to MHCLG through regular meetings with civils servants.
- Responding to various government Covid-19 funding announcements and issuing press releases.
Spending Review campaign and submission
- Setting out the scale of the Covid-19 funding gap and underlying funding pressures on London local government.
- Instigating a series of meetings with London MPs leading up to the 2020 Spending Review (SR20).
- SR20 resulted in a real terms uplift in funding for local government in 2021/22 and a significant package of funding for Coivd-19 for boroughs, which resulted in a more limited than feared shortfall of £50 million for 2020/21
- Working closely with the GLA to make two pan-London representations to the Treasury’s fundamental review of business rates in September and October.
- Managing the collective withdrawal from the London business rates pool, heading off potential losses of over £100 million, based on 2021/22 modelling.
- Making representations to government to successfully limit the ongoing financial impact of Covid-19 through Material Change of Circumstance appeals – which could have resulted in London Government losing hundreds of millions of pounds in the next year.
Economy, Enterprise & Skills
London’s economy has long been a vital contributor to national wealth, responsible for a net contribution of around £32.5 billion a year to the UK economy. The recovery of the capital’s business base is therefore essential to the recovery of the UK economy. That includes both the large global businesses headquartered in London and the thousands of small and medium businesses that generate a substantial proportion of the 5.86 million jobs in the capital (20 per cent of the UK total jobs). Our Economy, Enterprise and Skills Team is focused on the health of the capital’s businesses and workforce. In 2020/21 this work included:
- Successfully lobbying to close gaps in government support for London’s businesses impacted by the pandemic, with businesses with a rateable value of over £52,000 becoming eligible for government grants. This secured additional rounds of discretionary funding to support supply chain and other businesses impacted by the pandemic.
- Successfully lobbying to ensure the allocation of the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) took account of both business and resident population over different funding rounds.
- Supporting London boroughs to share practice and approaches to administer over £6.4 billion of grants quickly to local business in response to the pandemic, while continuing to safeguard against fraud.
- Ensuring that the boroughs’ role, alongside the GLA and London businesses, in re-opening London’s economy was reflected in pan-London planning.
- Working with the Association of London Directors of Children Services (ALDCS) to establish new pan-London and sub-regional structures for resilience reporting during the pandemic and supported these structures.
- Working with boroughs, sub-regions and the GLA to agree a set of priorities for London’s long-term economic recovery, as part of the missions-based approach of the London Recovery Board, focusing on the Good Work for All and High Streets for All missions. We continue to work on and influence the missions, so that borough priorities are recognised, and existing activities built upon.
- Commissioning the development of a strategic framework for borough input into economic recovery across London. The framework builds on the nine recovery missions (see p18), but broadens the scope of these activities and identifies the potential borough and sub-regional contribution.
- Commissioning and publishing research on the numbers and make-up of unemployed Londoners at a pan-London, sub-regional and borough level preCovid; during the pandemic and then forecasting this in the short and medium terms. It shows wide variation between boroughs and can be used by boroughs in inform local services.
- Influencing government employment programmes as part of its Plan for Jobs, such as Restart and Kickstart. For the Restart programme we secured smaller Contract Package Areas (CPAs) that aligned to borough sub-regional partnerships and have participated in the procurement process. London Councils published a guide to a good Kickstart placement, working with boroughs and the GLA.
- Supporting boroughs and Sub-Regional Partnerships to deliver the devolved Work and Health Programmes (WHP) across London and set up the WHP JETS programme to provide support for Londoners who have become unemployed during the pandemic.
- Hosting a successful on-line London Borough Apprenticeship Awards in September 2020 to celebrate the work of apprentices in London boroughs and their suppliers.
- Undertaking a survey of 1,250 businesses across the capital with LCCI (London Chamber of Commerce & Industry), focusing on business confidence, remote working, skills and climate change issues, launching this at a pan-London event. The survey results have informed our lobbying on these issues.
- Publishing a report on ways to strengthen London’s early education offer following the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Supporting the delivery of the Evolve programme that provided practical support to boroughs on how to use culture to improve place and support the recovery.
- Supporting the rapid establishment of resilience coordination arrangements for borough children’s services, including daily monitoring and creation of new sub regional structures to support Directors maintaining an overview of risks and issues and design of system support plans. Through this, London Councils enabled boroughs to direct the children’s services London Innovation and Improvement Alliance (LIIA) towards boroughs’ emergency response and place the LIIA at the core of London’s collective work to sustain and improve high quality children’s services.
- London Councils convened meetings of borough Lead Members for Children’s Services to consider pan-London issues affecting children and young people and share information and different approaches being taken by boroughs across the capital in response to new and emerging challenges.
Crime & Public Protection
London boroughs play a key role in working with the police and others to keep local streets and neighbourhoods safe and feeling safe. While low in absolute terms, rises in violent crime in particular have reflected national trends in London and impacted on public confidence. Working with the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police to get to the root of crime and to provide reassurance to the wider community is a high priority for London Government. In 2020/21, our work in this area included:
- Facilitating member engagement to shape implementation of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Transparency, Accountability and Trust in Policing.
- Delivering two successful Violence Reduction Partnership Sessions, one on the role of analysts and analytical products and one on responding to critical incidents.
- Developing a London local authority and police protocol on partnership enforcement of Covid-19 legislation.
- Securing agreement for continuation of funding for domestic abuse support services previously funded through MHCLG grants, to be drawn from the 2021/22 domestic abuse allocation for the GLA.
- London Councils engaged with the government and partners throughout the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill to its enactment, which included successful lobbying for the inclusion of a deprivation factor in funding formulas for new duties under the Domestic Abuse Act. London Councils also played an active role in preparations for the implementation of the duties, including making representations on behalf of London boroughs to ensure continuation funding is made available for programmes previously supported by MHCLG grants and engaging in preparatory work for the development of a pan-London approach to commissioning of support services.
- Continuing to lobby for a strengthened approach to Prevent delivery, which provides support for all boroughs and Prevent co-ordinators. This includes further engagement with Prevent members and coordinators such as presenting at the London Prevent Board and seeking to understand challenges and best practice at the London Prevent Network.
Health & Adult Social Care
Boroughs have longstanding responsibilities to support the public health and wellbeing of their communities, as well as to provide Londoners with the adult social care services that can enable them to live their lives as fully, independently and safely as possible, despite illness or accidents, frailty, old age, disability or vulnerability. In the context of a public health emergency our work in these areas in 2020/21 included:
- Working closely with adult social care finance leads to provide them with accurate and timely information to address the key financial challenges caused by the pandemic. This included hosting three joint health and adult social care events and bi-weekly council sessions focused on overcoming the financial obstacles to ensure they continued to work collaboratively with health partners and social care providers to deliver safe quality services during the pandemic.
- Working closely with boroughs throughout the year in exploring and quantifying the key challenges that social care departments experienced in the face of the pandemic. This work culminated in the publication of the report Key Asks for the Recovery of the Adult Social Care Sector in London.
- Working closely with the Home Office liaising, collaborating and lobbying to ensure that asylum seekers in contingency hotels (comprising more than 6,000 residents in 54 hotels across 23 boroughs at its peak) were receiving the support they needed, including access to school places, health advice and good quality food.
- In partnership with the Home Office, Clear Springs, London boroughs and the Strategic Migration Partnership we agreed the first Procurement Framework for Asylum Accommodation in London, which set out agreed principles to ensure that procurement of properties for asylum dispersal in London are based on a set of agreed principles. These were: equitable distribution across the capital, will not cause rental price escalation; will meet minimum quality standards; support boroughs to tackle rogue landlords; collaborative data sharing and constructive consultation prior to procurement.
The London HIV Prevention Programme (LHPP)
Supported by London Councils and commissioned by Lambeth on behalf of London boroughs, the London HIV Prevention Programme (LHPP), branded Do It London, launched its ninth successful marketing campaign since 2015. The campaign, titled “Four Sure… ways to prevent HIV”, was the most innovative to date and reminded Londoners of the importance and effectiveness of HIV prevention. The campaign also achieved innovative ways to support the Covid response, including advocating sensible sexual behaviour during the pandemic.
London’s Sexual Health Service
The Sexual Health London (SHL) Programme’s e-service has provided Londoners continued access to STI testing via an online service during the Covid-19 pandemic. Additional service developments introduced during this time include providing routine and emergency contraception pathways within 11 London boroughs. SHL also supported vulnerable Londoners via access to a Health Adviser team.
Housing & Planning
London’s housing problems are complex and deeply entrenched. The reality, however, is that the capital has become increasingly unaffordable to an increasingly sizeable proportion of the population and homelessness has become endemic. The distortions and inadequacies of London’s housing market have not been lessened by the pandemic. Our housing and planning policy team work with colleagues in the boroughs and make the case to government in a wide range of innovative responses to mitigating the capital’s housing and homelessness crisis. In 2020/21 this included:
- Working with the London Housing Directors’ Group, MHCLG, the GLA, homelessness providers, NHS partners and boroughs to form the Rough Sleeping Strategic Group, set a collective strategic direction and collect ongoing data on the response to the government’s ‘Everyone In’ policy.
- Making the case quickly and effectively to government for the need for additional funding (informed by work with the LSE on council costs) since March 2020. As of the 29 May 2021, 3,600 people were in emergency accommodation provided by London boroughs and the GLA.
- Since May, nearly 4,700 have been placed in settled move on accommodation. We estimate around 400 people are still sleeping rough. Since the start of the pandemic, boroughs and the GLA have helped well more than 6,500 people off the streets and into safe accommodation. This meant that thousands of people were protected from Covid-19 and as a result can access new levels of care, housing support and improved wellbeing.
- The pan-London partnership work has also led to much improved joint working on rough sleeping to continue post-pandemic.
- We also worked closely with government in terms of the implementation and ending of the eviction ‘ban’, including contributing to a Master of Rolls Working Group on which households should be prioritised with the limited court time (e.g. tenancy abandonment and anti-social behaviour).
- The Social Housing White Paper, especially in combination with the Building Safety Bill and the Fire Safety Bill, set a new context for councils’ landlord functions in particular.
- This year London Councils has forged close relationships with the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) and is working with the Housing Directors’ Network to ensure councils are ready for the new regime. London Councils is represented on the Decent Homes Review Working Group, a key area of the Social Housing White Paper, making the case strongly for additional investment to accompany any new measures.
- London Councils has also sought to influence the developing implementation of the government’s Planning White Paper, some of the measures within which reduce council control over development in their areas, potentially leading to poor quality development. We have continued to lobby strongly to limit Permitted Development Rights (PDR), and have seen improvements via the new space standards to be applied to PDR from August. We will continue to push for more council control over PDR however.
Environment & Transport
London Councils works with a range of stakeholders across the capital to develop policy on a number of transport and environmental challenges facing London. London Councils also administers on behalf of member boroughs some specific travel services, most notably the Freedom Pass and Taxicard service for older and vulnerable Londoners. Our work in this area is governed by our Transport and Environment Committee (TEC), a statutory committee comprising councillors from all 33 London local authorities. This work in 2020/21 included:
- Supporting LEDNet and other borough officers in their Covid-19 response through co-ordinated daily updates and commissioning supporting work for environmental services, particularly waste and parks management – communications, availability of waste storage and working with the private sector.
- Negotiating with both TfL and DfT on the way in which funding will be made available to boroughs for transport schemes, highlighting the importance of Local Implemention Plans (LIPs) and borough funding and received a fair share of the settlement for London (£25 million).
- Organising two informal meetings for TEC on walking and cycling initiatives to enable social distancing, with senior DfT and No.10 officials present.
- Negotiating borough representation at TfL’s and DfT’s joint active travel oversight group, with Cllr Clyde Loakes attending.
- Hosting three briefings for boroughs on new government funding for retrofitting with the GLA, resulting in a number of bids and many of them successful.
- Hosting three events as part of London Climate Action Week, with over 450 live views and including a number of external speakers, such as from BEIS, ADEPT, Ashden, CBI (Confederation of British Industry) London, Repowering and Schneider Electric.
- Developing an ambitious set of nine green recovery proposals, agreed by TEC and Leaders’ Committee, and supported by CELC, these fed into the development of joint GLA / London Councils Green New Deal recovery mission.
- Delivering a programme of climate capability training for senior members and officers.
- Running, together with TfL, a robust procurement for the London e-scooter trial operators (to begin in June 2020).
- Commissioning and publishing baseline polling on important issues to Londoners: climate change and air quality.
- Continuing to support EV (Electric Vehicle) infrastructure roll out through the co-ordination function at London Councils, with over 3,000 charge points now delivered plus a dashboard for borough officers created where they can see the usage of their individual charge points.
- Securing nine boroughs to lead the seven climate change programmes set out in the Joint Statement on Climate Change (see p36 for more on our Climate Change work).
- Joining the BEIS’ Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Consultative Panel.
2020/21 was an unprecedented year for Freedom Pass (which can trace its origins to 1973). The pandemic meant that journey volumes decreased significantly. As a result, the settlement for 2021/22, announced in December 2020, was £70 million less than the previous year, with all boroughs making significant savings.
London Councils provided financial assistance, in line with DfT guidance, to non-TfL bus operators and maintained payments at pre-pandemic levels adjusted for service levels. During the course of the year, we also successfully reissued approximately 100,000 Freedom Passes that expired in March 2021. Lessons were applied from the previous reissue and, at the time of writing, no (zero) complaints about the process had been received. Day-to-day administration of the scheme has continued largely unaffected by the pandemic and staff and contractors have hard to ensure this was the case.
Like Freedom Pass, the numbers of journeys undertaken on Taxicard were significantly affected by Covid-19 and were approximately 50 per cent lower than a normal year. However, this provided an opportunity for London Councils and its supplier CityFleet to continue improving service levels, which over the last sixmonths have exceeded expectations.
The Taxicard scheme has provided a vital lifeline for its members, and officers introduced a collection and delivery service to enable members who were shielding to access vital groceries and medicines. The scheme has also provided a valuable source of work for a number of London’s taxi drivers, whose trade has been adversely affected by the pandemic.
Grants & Community Services
The London Councils Grants Programme, overseen by the Grants Committee - on which all 33 London local authorities are represented - enables boroughs to address high-priority social needs where Leaders have identified that this is best achieved through commissions at a pan-London level.
Organisations funded through the pan-London Grants programme worked tirelessly to respond to need during the pandemic, and rapidly adjusted their services to support people remotely.
London Councils’ Grants Committee enabled partners to do this through the purchase of equipment, staff changes to increase support for frontline activity, broadening of outcomes to recognise new and innovative approaches to delivering services, and increased mental wellbeing support for frontline staff.
They extended the programme by 12 months to give partners surety of funding during the pandemic so they could deliver vital services to the boroughs and the people of London.
In May 2020, London Councils’ Grants Committee invested nearly £1million to support Londoner’s with no recourse to public funds, to get help and advice.
London Councils worked with other funders and the voluntary and community sector to continuously assess the stability of the voluntary and community sector, support contingency plans in response to the needs of Londoners and provide links across local, sub-regional, pan-London and national support structures.
In March 2021, London Councils co-funded emergency accommodation for under 25 year-olds, supporting the creation of London’s first youth specific accommodation and support service for younger rough sleepers (see below).
Hotel 1824, a refurbished 40 bed hotel in West London, will accommodate up to 350 young people over the coming year and strengthen the safety net for the most at risk.
The project is a collaboration between New Horizon Youth Centre, London Youth Gateway partners, London Councils, the GLA and youth homeless charity Depaul.
Outcomes from the current Grants Programme in 2020/21 include:
- 5,914 people were helped to obtain crisis or intermediate short-term accommodation (including 2,393 young people).
- 10,819 people were helped to obtain settled accommodation.
- 14,361 survivors of rape and sexual abuse were supported through the pan-London Helpline.
- 3,777 young people supported through Healthy Relationships projects can identify the warning signs of sexual or domestic violence.
- The Grants Committee invested nearly £1 million to enable partners to expanded immigration advice for people with no recourse to public funds. Almost 2,000 people have been supported so far.
- London Care Services (LCS) has secured 93 fostering and 112 residential services at best value prices, to help boroughs to look after children in care. LCS launched a new bespoke web portal to better serve subscribing local authorities.
LOTI: The London Office of Technology & Innovation
LOTI (The London Office of Technology and Innovation) was launched on 10 June 2019 at London Tech Week and started its formal operations on 15 July 2019. LOTI works with a multi-disciplinary team drawn from its membership of London boroughs, the Greater London Authority and London Councils. LOTI supports a coalition of London boroughs who want to work together, bringing the best of digital, data and innovation to improve public services for Londoners. Boroughs currently in membership are: Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Havering, Hounslow, Kensington & Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Newham, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Westminster. In 2020/21 LOTI’s work included:
- At the start of the first Covid lockdown, LOTI helped boroughs by providing guidance on how to hold elected member meetings online; finding technology solutions to support the new vulnerability hubs, and advocating for improvements to Covid datasets shared with boroughs by national government and NHS.
- Creating guidance and conducted three pilots to show how Assistive Technology can be used to support vulnerable people to live more independently.
- Launching the Covid Innovation Fund to put £150,000 towards two borough projects that aim to help those left more vulnerable as a result of the pandemic. Those projects look at designing preventative models to help residents avoid ending up in crisis; and using data to understand the scale of digital exclusion across the capital.
- Developing partnerships with Microsoft, AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Google to offer skills and career development training for 100 digital apprentices working in London boroughs.
Tackling Racial Inequality
At their July 2020 meeting, in agreeing London Councils’ business plan for the coming year, Leaders’ instructed London Councils’ officers to: Support service improvement, by collecting and sharing the best emerging local government practice in tackling inequality; coordinating, where appropriate, across service areas – with the aim of helping local Content initiatives to tackle unfair outcomes – supported by targeted early intervention.
Statement on Racial Inequality
In September 2020, London’s Leaders agreed a joint statement on race equality, as follows:
In recent months, the brutal killing of George Floyd has brought to the forefront feelings of enormous frustration and anger about the ongoing scale of racial injustice that confronts us.
The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic communities underscores the longstanding challenge that we must address – making London a fairer place for its citizens.
London Councils is itself reflecting on that challenge and the things that the organisation can do to contribute to addressing that challenge. That includes its day-to-day work with London’s boroughs, our partner organisations and with Londoners, as well as our organisation internally.
This statement captures the state of that reflection to date, but also acknowledges that there is an ongoing and evolving conversation on these issues and that the content will change as that conversation changes.
London local government and racial inequality
London Councils recognises that racial inequalities exist in all areas of public life with devastating consequences for far too many Londoners. We pledge to work with our member authorities to create a fairer and more equal society.
As public bodies, we and our member authorities have a legal duty under the Equalities Act 2010 to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.
Councils across the capital along with London Councils itself agree that they can make a difference by committing to lead change across different communities, building more diverse and inclusive workplaces and challenging ourselves and others to identify and remove inequalities in access to services.
By working together and with London’s Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic communities, London local government will work consistently towards the goal of greater equality.
London Councils working with its member authorities
London Councils has begun work with its member authorities on this agenda across the three broad areas of activity below.
The importance of this agenda is reflected in our Business and Work Plans. Our 2020/21 Business Plan commits to us working to build a fairer, more inclusive capital and to collecting and sharing best emerging local government practice on tackling inequalities, co-ordinating, where appropriate, across service areas with the aim of helping local initiatives to tackle unfair outcomes. The importance of this theme is reflected more broadly in the Business Plan and work plans, for example in the work with Public Health England and other partners to identify and tackle the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Londoners from minority ethnic communities.
We have also worked to ensure that tackling racial inequality is an issue that is captured in the work of the London Recovery Board (see p18).
Building Inclusive Workplaces
Supporting London local government to collect, analyse and publicise pan London local government workplace ethnicity data.
Supporting the development of inclusive employment policies and practices (e.g., training and mentoring programmes) as well as career progression and recruitment initiatives designed to advance the goal of building more inclusive workplaces at all levels.
Challenging and Improving Practice across Services
Facilitating and supporting thematic reviews by CELC Lead Advisers exploring disproportionality issues across a range of service and policy areas and share emerging best practice among member authorities in tackling inequality.
Challenging our own direct service delivery at London Councils to identify disproportionality issues and practice that may tackle inequality.
Developing a Programme of Work
London Councils, under the leadership of Cllr Muhammed Butt (Portfolio Holder for Welfare, Social Inclusion and Empowerment) worked closely with chief executives and other local authority professionals to co-design a programme of activity to provide effective support to boroughs in taking this agenda forwards.
A CELC working group, chaired by Kim Smith (chief executive of Hammersmith and Fulham Council) provided managerial leadership.
This programme clearly did not start with a blank sheet of paper; indeed, many authorities have well developed models of intervention and effective programmes for promoting equalities, which have led to a number of improvements across services and in employment practice. In addition to locally based practice, a number of professional networks (such as the Association of London Directors of Children’s services) are developing their own initiatives to share and promote good practice.
There were a number of immediate opportunities where London Councils had the levers to act, and quickly moved forwards with:
London Leadership Programme
We instigated a review to swiftly adapt the offer to address the need to support the development of a cohort of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic managerial leaders.
We have begun the work of collecting a repository of promising practice across the London boroughs.
We have initiated discussions on co-designing a ‘standard’ to support authorities in benchmarking their practice.
We have begun work to identify a strategic approach to collecting data that will support practice improvement.
Procurement practice and social value
We have instigated discussions around how authorities can improve their approach to procurement and social value consideration.
Our communications team supported the creation of a Race Matters newsletter to keep stakeholders informed of work across this area. Two editions of the e-newsletter have been distributed so far, and we continue to be part of the working group in order to make sure this is a priority in our communications agenda.
London Councils as an Employer
In October 2020, following an all-staff meeting on tackling racial inequality within London Councils, the chief executive established a race equality working group with membership drawn from across the organisation. The group was tasked with making recommendations that could be delivered quickly against the following themes:
- Coaching and Mentoring
- Data and Communications
- Connections to our more external facing policy and services work.
The Working Group delivered a report to London Councils’ Corporate Management Board (CMB) in February 2021 setting out a series of short-, medium- and long-term steps and objectives to advance the agenda of improving racial equality at London Councils.
A programme of action has been instigated as a result of the Working Group’s report, this programme includes:
- The development of a corporate Race Equality Strategy.
- Relaunch of the Corporate Equalities Group.
- A regular survey of employees to establish data on the lived experience of staff.
- Mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all staff.
- Recruitment to a new (12 month) post of Special Projects Lead on Racial Equality Delivery.
- Consultation on the creation of a new role of Race Equalities Champion at CMB level.
Climate Change Strategy
Climate change has been high on the list of London Leaders’ priorities for a number of years now and has come ever more sharply into focus as we move toward the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), taking place in Glasgow in November 2021.
London Councils Climate Change Strategy
Nationally, there were a number of important policy and strategy developments around climate change in 2020/21, such as the roll out of the Green Homes Grant starting in summer 2020, the National Infrastructure Plan in November 2020, the Energy White Paper and the sixth Carbon Budget with extensive supporting research, including the role of local authorities in achieving net zero by 2050, in December 2020. Many more are expected during this year of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), taking place in Glasgow in November.
London Councils’ TEC and Leaders’ Committee approved London Councils’ priorities and resourcing for climate change in December 2019, and in June 2020, approved eight green recovery proposals.
London Councils TEC and Executive Committee considered climate change policy and strategy at their December 2020 and January 2021 meetings respectively, and thus shaped and endorsed a strategy for 2021/22.
Climate Change progress to date and strategy for 2021/22
Below is a summary of progress that has been achieved on this agenda:
- Recruiting of nine boroughs to lead the delivery of the seven climate priority programmes in the London Councils Joint Statement on Climate Change. These nine boroughs will work with both geographically and political representative groups of boroughs to develop and implement action plans.
- Establishing working groups to draft action plans for four of these priority programmes, including securing £75,000 funding to support development of the retrofitting action plan.
- Integrating London Councils’ green recovery proposals into the missions under the London Recovery Board, including developing a £1.1 billion pipeline of green projects.
- Hosting three London Climate Action Week events attracting a total live audience of more than 450, including the launch of our inaugural polling on Londoners’ attitudes to climate change.
- Lobbying BEIS to ensure that London receives a fair share of well-designed and targeted retrofitting funds, and securing an invitation to join their Social Housing Decarbonisation Consultative Panel.
- Supporting the establishment of a Heads of Communications Climate Change Steering Group.
- Supporting the development of climate capability training for Directors and elected members, led by LEDNet and attended by more than 100 people.
Building on the above, officers developed a climate change strategy for 2021/22 that was endorsed by Leaders’. The programme aims to create learning and opportunities for all boroughs, without a one size fits all approach. Key elements of the strategy are:
- Delivering an analysis of published borough climate action plans, a borough-level consumption
emissions profile and establishing a carbon emissions accounting task and finish group to
consistent approach in this area:
- Boroughs secured: £25 million under Green Homes Grants (GHG) and Local Authority Delivery (LAD) schemes phases 1a; and
- Have an indicative allocation of £27.5 million under LAD2; at least £68 million under Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme; we are optimistic of success for two further schemes under the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund demonstrator.
- Supporting lead boroughs to finalise and oversee delivery of ambitious and well supported action plans for our seven priority climate programmes, including appropriate governance structures.
Recovery Board missions
- Lobbying on the indispensable role of local government – and London as the nation’s capital – in delivering net zero, with a particular focus on the Net Zero Strategy, Spending Review and UNFCCC COP26.
- Delivering effective communications that support boroughs, our policy and funding asks, and the role that all Londoners can play in tackling the climate emergency; and
- Ensuring that London Councils itself both ‘talks the talk’ and ‘walks the walk’ on climate action.
In delivering on this strategy in 2021, we have to date:
- Established a Climate Oversight Group comprising Directors from our lead boroughs and representatives of key director groupings on environment, housing, finance and public health. The group has a remit to oversee strategic delivery of the climate programmes, avoid duplication of effort and maximise synergies, and consider cross-cutting themes including investment and resourcing, green jobs and skills, communications and engagement, public health and knowledge partnerships; it will report back to TEC and Leaders’ Committee on a six-monthly basis, and will be supported by a Climate Officers.
- Organised a meeting between Lord Callanan (Minister for Climate Change and Corporate Responsibility), Cllr Rodwell and Mayor Glanville, to put the case for improvements to the Green Homes Grants scheme and offer a partnership to deliver retrofitting and the associated green jobs and skills in London.
- Hosted a ‘climate roundtable’, bringing together Cabinet members from lead boroughs with the Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy and representatives of London Councils’ political groups, to agree an approach to shared climate priorities for the coming year. This includes key points of the narrative we will use around climate, and an indication of how we will articulate this to key audiences, including communities, businesses, investors and other cities, and to government.
- Secured a partnership with Core Cities and the Connected Places Catapult to develop a City Investment Prospectus, which will articulate low carbon investment opportunities and business case for aggregating investments across cities to create more attractive propositions at greater scale and volumes. The prospectus was launched at a high-profile Investment Summit ahead of COP26.
- Began the development of a communications campaign and toolkit for boroughs around active travel.
Resourcing climate change activity
To maintain the current level of resource going forward, Leaders’ approved a one-off transfer of resources from TEC special projects specific reserves to London Councils Joint Committee to extend a Head of Climate Change post for a further two years (to 2024) and support a dedicated policy officer (fixed term to 2024) to enable London Councils to continue to support borough ambitions on climate change by:
- Delivering the ‘roadmap to COP26’, including the development and launch of the COP26 City Investment Prospectus with Core Cities and the Connected Places Catapult, and capitalising on the outcomes of COP26 and the launch of the prospectus from 2022 onward.
- Supporting the climate change lead boroughs to oversee the delivery of each of the seven climate change programmes (whose targets run to 2030) and report to TEC, and seeking further resource to support those programmes.
- Coordinating strategic oversight of the seven climate programmes, including through support to the Climate Oversight Group and the Climate Officer Coordination Group.
- Co-leading development and management of the Green New Deal mission, with the GLA, including through the Expert Advisory Panel, which is jointly chaired by Mayor Phil Glanville and Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues and links through to the green economy climate programmes and green skills work led by the sub-regional partnerships.
- Coordinating and managing relationships on climate policy and evidence with the GLA, and with pan-London organisations such as UK Power Networks and NHS London.
- Delivering cross-cutting data, evidence and research, and advocacy and lobbying activities on behalf of boroughs, including specific needs arising from the climate programmes.
- Developing joint advocacy activities with local government partners, including the LGA, through the Blueprint Coalition.
- Supporting the development of training and best practice, for example around Climate Action Plans and their overall costs, which will continue to rapidly evolve, including working with groupings such as the London Environment Directors’ Network (LEDNet).
- Supporting the development of evidence-led communications activity and support to boroughs, via the Heads of Communications Climate Change Steering Group, including annual polling on Londoners’ attitudes to climate change.
- Supporting collaboration and coordination across London Councils, including ensuring that we ‘walk the walk’ and ‘talk the talk’ on our own carbon emissions.
About London Councils
London Councils represents London’s 32 boroughs and the City of London. We are a cross-party organisation that works on behalf of all our member authorities regardless of political persuasion.
What we do
London Councils makes the case to government, the Mayor and others to get the best deal for Londoners and to ensure that our member authorities have the resources, freedoms and powers to do the best possible job for their residents and local businesses.
London Councils runs a number of direct services for member authorities including the Freedom Pass, Taxicard, London lorry Control and Health Emergency Badge schemes. It also supports two independent environment, traffic and parking appeals services via London Tribunals, and a pan-London grants programme for voluntary organisations.
London Councils acts as a catalyst for effective sharing among boroughs – be that ideas, good practice, people, resources, or policies and new approaches.
The strategic direction of London Councils is set by the Leaders’ Committee. Our Leaders’ Committee comprises the Leaders of all of London’s local authorities. There is also a cross-party Executive Committee which guides the organisation’s day-to-day work.
The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and the Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime are also members.
Adding Value for London’s Boroughs
London Councils acts as host for a number of bodies which add value to the work of our member authorities by helping them co-ordinate their work with pan-London organisations. These include:
London Safeguarding Children Board – representing London’s councils in a broader partnership with police, health and other partners to promote child safeguarding across London.
London Young People’s Education and Skills Board – the lead strategic body for 1419 education and training in the capital.
London Councils is the Regional Employer body for London local authorities. Boroughs are members of the Greater London Employer Forum and are represented on the Greater London Provincial Council for the purposes of negotiations with trade unions.
London Councils also provides a key interface between boroughs, the London Fire Brigade, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and emergency services on issues around city management and resilience.
The Local Authority Performance Solution (LAPS) – London Councils collects and analyses a range of data sets provide voluntarily by London authorities, to provide authorities with comparative data through which they can consider their relative performance against the other London local authorities, indicate areas of potential improvement and highlight those boroughs that might provide improvements.
Advancing London Local Government
London Councils acts as a focal point for representing borough interests – informed by the political and professional networks that we run with government, the Mayor, the wider GLA and London’s public services.
To ensure our member authorities influence the decisions made at pan-London level which impact on them and the communities they serve, London Councils has developed a series of shared governance arrangements with the Mayor, TfL, Metropolitan Police, health and other partners (including London business organisations). London Councils nominates – on a cross party basis – members to serve in such shared governance arrangements, including:
- London Housing Board
- London Waste and Recycling Board
- London Crime Reduction Board
- London Enterprise Partnership
- London Health Board.
Some of these have statutory underpinning. The overall progress of these is monitored jointly by the Mayor and borough leaders.
In addition, London Councils ensures that the London local government perspective is part of policy development at national level by, for example, organising a full set of ministerial meetings and senior official discussions, and also by promoting ideas and policies at each of the party conferences.
London Councils provides the secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for London group on behalf of London government including the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. The group is listed on the APPG Register.
Keeping our members informed
Web: London Councils’ corporate website had 1.8 million unique visits in 2020/21 and more than 8 million page views. In 2020/21 our digital team worked with colleagues across a number of councils (including LB Croydon) as part of LocalGov Drupal, a project collaborating to build a better web publishing platform for all councils. It is currently being used by 12 councils across the UK. The work has been supported by MHCLG as part of the Local Digital Fund and has been nominated for a Digital Leaders Impact Award under the Sharing Economy category. The project has already initiated a number of improvements to London Councils website, including an updated news and press section of our website, currently being live tested with journalists and other users.
Key Issues: Subscription rates to our weekly local government e-newsletter continue to grow. In 2020/21 a net additional 4,176 subscribers signed up to receive the newsletter, which is emailed at 8am every Wednesday morning (we paused Key Issues in the pre-election period in the run up to the delayed 2020 Mayoral and borough by-elections). The total number of Key Issues subscribers as of March 2021 was 36,696.
Member Briefings: Our member briefing service provides members with timely policy analysis and information across all our main policy themes direct to their inbox. Our password protected member website provides exclusive access to our policy briefings and members can edit or amend their preferences to receive briefings on as many or as few topics as they find useful. In 2020/21 we sent 47 policy briefings to subscribing members. Members can access briefings and set their personal preferences at londoncouncils.gov.uk/members-area
Parliamentary Briefings: We regularly brief MPs and Peers on government bills and other matters that affect our member boroughs. In 2020/21 these included briefings in support of our lobbying work on a range of topics, including: The impact of Covid: Local Government Finance; The Budget; Domestic Abuse; The Environment and Net Zero; Highway Maintenance; Racial Inequality; Adult Social Care; Unemployment; and Homelessness.
Media: Our press team dealt with 254 media enquiries in the last year and issued 103 press releases, resulting in more than 300 pieces of media coverage, including BBC Sunday Politics London on local government finance pressures, the Guardian covering London’s rented e-scooter trial, BBC London TV on pandemic food hubs, Newsnight on addressing vaccine hesitancy and the Financial Times on our concerns about the 2021 census.
Twitter: London Councils’ Twitter account was an important communication tool to promote clear and timely messaging on Covid-19 measures, particularly in periods where information from government was evolving rapidly. A number of campaigns, including #LondonTogether #ProudToCare and #KeepLondonsafe were Twitter-led. The London Councils Twitter account continued to grow throughout 2020/21 and as at March 2021 had over 22,700 followers.
Instagram: London Councils set up an Instagram for the first time in 2020/21. The nascent account is in development but will hopefully provide a useful additional channel for sharing messages to overlapping but slightly different audiences. As at March 2021 the account had 140 followers and we will report on its growth in the next annual review.
London Leadership Book 2021: London Councils produced the second edition of the London Leadership Book in February 2021. The Book was sent to every London Borough Leader, Cabinet and Executive Members, the senior staff teams in every London borough and a range of selected stakeholders. The Leadership Book is free to members and is sponsored by the London Communication Agency.
Policy reports: London Councils publishes a comprehensive range of policy reports, providing data, analysis and recommendations on key policy challenges in the capital. Policy reports published in 2020/21 include: Local Government Finance (Comprehensive Spending Review 2020); Housing (Resilience and Homelessness); Education (Sustaining London Schools’ Success post 16) Adult Social Care (Key asks for Recovery); Climate Change (Polling Results and Challenges). London Councils also shares borough good practice. In 2020/21 these included borough case studies on: Disproportionality in the Criminal Justice System; Tackling Racial Inequality and Reducing Violent Crime.
Events and awards
Throughout the period of lockdown London Councils has hosted a number of successful online events for and with members. These included:
- December 2020 all-councillor covid briefing
- From Jan-Jun 2020 we hosted a weekly online briefing for all Leaders and CEX
- March 2021 vaccine best practice event for Leaders and CEX
- Joint youth shout out event with LB Camden sharing young people’s experiences of the pandemic
Public events with councillors as a key audience
- July 2020 London Climate Action Week: Accelerating the green recovery
- November 2020 London Climate Action Week: What do Londoners think about climate change? and Empowering local government to be climate leaders (2 separate events)
- June/July 2021 London Climate Action Week: Net Zero Strategy: How can local government turbocharge delivery?
The 10th annual London Boroughs Apprenticeship Awards were held online from the 7 to the 14 September 2020 with winners announced at 12pm each day on London Councils Twitter and LinkedIn pages, with judges’ videos in lieu of the traditional awards ceremony. The winners of the 2020 London Borough Apprenticeship Awards were:
- Apprentice of the Year: Joseph Huston-Mendy – London Borough of Islington
- Best Contribution by a New Apprentice: Hayley Navarro – London Borough of Westminster
- Best Progression by an Apprentice: Nazifa Chowdhury – London Borough of Croydon
- Best Apprentice Working in the Supply Chain: Charlotte Hughes – London Borough of Islington
- Best Manager or Mentor: Julia Cooke – London Borough of Camden
- Best Work with Supply Chains and Local Businesses: London Borough of Croydon.
Income and Expenditure
|Payments in respect of Freedom Pass and Taxicard||353,375,000|
|Commissioned grant payments||6,173,000|
|Improvement and efficiency||182,000|
|Young People Education & Skills (YPES) regional/provider activity||50,000|
|Challenge Implementation Fund||452,000|
|Commissioning and research||542,000|
|Other operating expenditure||60,000|
|Contribution in respect of Freedom Pass and Taxicard||353,910,000|
|Borough contribution towards commissioned grant||6,173,000|
|Borough contribution towards YPES activity||180,000|
|Income for direct services||10,626,000|
|Core member subscriptions||5,744,000|
|Borough contribution to LCP payments||496,000|
|Use of Reserves||1,522,000|
London Councils' Executive
- Cllr Georgia Gould* (Lab) Chair
- Cllr Teresa O’Neill OBE (Con) Vice Chair
- Cllr Ruth Dombey OBE (LD) Vice Chair
- Catherine McGuinness (City) Vice Chair
- Cllr Darren Rodwell (Lab) Deputy Chair and Housing and Planning
- Mayor Philip Glanville (Lab) Executive member for Transport and Environment
- Cllr Muhammed Butt (Lab) Executive member for Welfare, Empowerment and Inclusion
- Cllr Clare Coghill (Lab) Executive member for Skills and Employment
- Cllr Elizabeth Campbell (Con) Executive member for Schools and Children’s Services
- Cllr Damian White (Con) Executive member for Health and Care
- Cllr Danny Thorpe (Lab) Executive member for Business, Europe and Good Growth
- Cllr Jas Athwal (Lab) Executive member for Crime & Public Protection
* Cllr Gould was elected Chair in October 2020, replacing Cllr Peter John OBE
By the boroughs, for the community
Early in the pandemic and throughout the first lockdown, we began collecting examples of the measures boroughs were taking to help their communities respond. Below is a snapshot of some of the examples on London Councils’ website.
Barking & Dagenham
Residents in need of emergency assistance were offered a lifeline by their council’s discretionary hardship support payments, known as Individual Assistance Payments, that provided support with emergency living expenses including food, fuel (gas and electric for customers who pay via a key meter), travel expenses, and household appliances and/or clothing in exceptional circumstances.
In the first weeks of the pandemic more than 600 volunteers signed up to Bexley’s volunteer hub following the council’s call to #doitforbexley. Bexley fielded hundreds of calls from concerned residents and a small army of council staff worked around the clock to organise emergency food boxes and welfare visits to specific residents to check that they were okay and collect/deliver prescriptions.
Barnet Council quickly pledged £125,000 in funding to aid the work of the borough’s voluntary and community groups; contributed £50,000 into the Barnet Community Response Fund and up to £25,000 to match pound-for-pound public donations. The council worked with tthe Edward Harvist Trust to make available a further £50,000 of their allocation to Barnet as a Covid-19 Sustainability Fund.
Brent transformed its Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre into an operational Hub delivering much-needed supplies to the most vulnerable. Pickers, packers, delivery drivers, administrators, and a battalion of callers were drawn from across the council to provide this vital service that delivered more than 3,500 packages to vulnerable households and self-isolators in the first weeks of lockdown.
As libraries were forced to close during the first lockdown, the council quickly offered free online classes with more than 600 different sessions for all abilities. Library staff added to the online offer during lockdown by filming themselves at home, to produce more than 300 videos of rhyme times, story times, sing and sign, craft sessions, poetry readings and science sessions.
Camden teamed up with leading tech companies, including Google, Skanska and the Francis Crick Institute, to deliver a virtual ‘work experience’ programme giving them the opportunity to gain valuable work experience during lockdown. More than 250 local students in Years 11, 12 and 13 took part in June and July 2020 to help them gain the skills and confidence needed to help them in a future career.
In May 2020, Croydon’s Adult Learning & Training, the borough’s adult education hub, and Croydon Works, the council’s free jobs, training and recruitment service, partnered together to deliver a series of one-hour courses to help residents (over 19), who may have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, explore and develop new skills to help them get into work.
Recognising that lockdown had seen an increase in incidents of domestic violence, Enfield worked with partners to establish a dedicated domestic abuse hub and free phone servive to enhance the borough’s existing arrangements and make it easier for people to get help quickly to ensure vulnerable adults and children were kept safe.
Early in the pandemic, the council was able to free up hospital beds for the NHS by ensuring a sheltererd housing scheme was up and running and could be used for hospital discharges. The council took innovative steps to keep lettings going by creating virtual viewings, enabling residents to move into the brand-new affordable housing development in Charlton despite the lockdown.
Work to widen pavements and footpaths, introduce new markings, oneway systems and temporary barriers were all introduced in the boroughs’ busy shopping areas during the first lockdown, to support the safe return of shoppers maintaining social distancing ahead of the ahead of shops reopening in summer 2020.
Hackney teamed up with myvirtualneighbourhood.com to launch My Virtual Hackney, a comprehensive online directory to help residents find independent shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants, markets and service providers in the borough as part of its successful Love Hackney Shop Local campaign to help boost local businesses and encourage local shopping.
Hammersmith & Fulham
The ‘Parcels not Pollution’ emissions-free delivery service offered an ideal opportunity for businesses struggling to fulfil deliveries due to the coronavirus outbreak without adding to current overheads. By partnering with H&F Hammersmith BID, TfL and e-cargo bikes on the scheme, the council was able to support businesses while improving air quality and reducing congestion.
Haringey Council partnered with Edible London to work with more than 150 volunteers and the community to deliver organic fresh groceries, food and other basic supplies to thousands of local families in need during the coronavirus pandemic - delivering more than 1,000 food parcels a week and sending out 600 hot meals each day.
To recognise the efforts of staff, comunity volunteers and local residents who had gone above and beyond to help their neighbours and their communities during the first lockdown, Harrow launched a month-long online ‘local heroes’ celebration that honoured and recognised the selfless spirit and community action demonstrated in the borough.
Havering Music School took its lessons online early in the first lockdown and came up with innovative ways of keeping the students engaged while providing the community with a much-needed respite from the coronavirus crisis. Their Live at Five music initiative saw students and teachers play music to their neighbourhood every Friday at 5pm.
Hillingdon worked with a partnership of five local charities to create a wideranging community support network able to offer support for vulnerable residents, including: help with food shopping; emergency food parcels; prescriptions; a regular telephone call - for those feeling lonely and isolated; information and advice; dog walking and posting mail.
Hounslow worked rapidly to roll out a range of traffic-management measures that made more space for people to follow social distancing guidelines, including closing some roads, widening pavements and introducing more ‘school streets’. The council launched a simultaneous public consultation on better traffic management and ways to make streets made more pedestrian and cycle friendly.
In addition to its targeted grants programme that offered vital financial support for more than 400 local businesses not covered by government business support schemes, the council created an interactive directory of small, independent businesses in the borough that had been visited and approved by the council’s environmental health team and were operating safely.
Kensington & Chelsea
In April 2020, sole traders and small businesses in the borough were afforded an extra safety net, on top of the government’s support package, via a £500,000 emergency business interruption fund from the council. Businesses that were unable to access other government support were able to apply for grants up to £5,000 to tide them through the early stages of the first lockdown.
Kingston upon Thames
Kingston Stronger Together was established by the council and its voluntary partners to ensure residents got the help they needed. In addition to its food hub, its advice service fielded 1,000s of calls, while the council’s Neighbourhood Rangers and Cycle Instructors teamed up with volunteers from Good Gym to deliver medical prescriptions for residents across the borough.
A free Zoom event provding clear and practical advice about Covid-19, vaccines and access to healthcare was delivered entirely in Spanish by the council in collaboration with the community-led Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO), who also provided a series of guides on employment rights druing the pandemic in both English and Spanish.
Lewisham has one of the highest proportion of small businesses in the capital. In addition to processing more than £40 million in grants to local businesses, the council worked with the South East London Chamber of Commerce on a high-profile Shop Safe Shop Local campaign included a series of weekly blogs to provide inspiration and give residents plenty of reasons to shop locally.
While all councils offered a reduction in council tax bills to council tax support recipients, Merton went further than most by offering all residents of working age in receipt of council tax support up to £200 off their council tax bill. The targeted benefit helped offset the economic impact of Covid-19 for around 2,650 of the borough’s least well-off residents.
Newham’s Covid Pledge, backed by a £6.5 million special budget, helped the borough’s most vulnerable people with food and household items and provided £500 of support per child per year for working families by guaranteeing Eat for Free for all children in Newham primary schools. People living in overcrowded homes were helped with hotel rooms to self isolate.
Redbridge teamed up with local community groups to launch ‘Redbridge Joins Together’ on Facebook to provide a platform for local people and businesses wanting to help others following the coronavirus outbreak. The online network galvanised the goodwill and community spirit that local community groups and businesses were quick to demonstrate by offering support to vulnerable residents.
Richmond upon Thames
The #RichmondGivesBack initiative was created to recognise and celebrate the many local organisations and charities across the borough that went above and beyond to help during the coronavirus pandemic. The project included a series of videos giving residents an insight into the work that is being delivered by various volunteers and charity workers.
The council worked with organisations across the voluntary and charity sector including local foodbanks, Community Southwark, Pembroke House, Age UK, tenant and resident associations to set up weekly deliveries of food to shielded residents and, thanks to Divine Chocolate, a local Fairtrade company, they were able to include Easter eggs for shielded resident over the Easter bank holiday.
To mark the first anniversary of the lockdown, Sutton Council announced plans for a Covid Garden of Reflection in partnership with Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust and Sutton Housing Partnership as a way of honouring those who have died of Covid and celebrate the community spirit and hard work of NHS colleagues that has helped carry Sutton through the pandemic.
As supermarkets saw a surge in demand during the first lockdown, Tower Hamlets moved quickly to identifying local job seekers with appropriate skills. They remotely interviewed candidates to get them onto its temporary Recruitment Service and referred them to supermarkets in need of extra staff. The borough’s initial call out received more 230 responses in a single day.
In summer 2020, Waltham Forest’s Economic Recovery Plan set out plans to help residents, businesses, town centres and high streets recover. The plan included a support package for local businesses and residents and the introduction of a ‘rent holiday’ for businesses in council property and the reimagining public spaces to put businesses in the strongest position to re-start trading as lockdown ended.
To help venues serve customers safely, Wandsworth Council simplified the process of applying for a street licence and waived the normal fees for businesses putting tables and chairs on the pavement. Originally introduced in summer 2020 the temporary arrangement was renewed in 2021 to enable hundreds of cafes, bars and restaurants across the borough to provide outside tables.
Westminster’s Employment Service worked with WES Jobs and Training and local business groups, including Heart of London Business Alliance (HoLBA) and New West End Company (NWEC), to ensure residents were informed of emerging new opportunities, such as social distancing ambassadors, to help businesses get back up and running and locate the best local job seekers for these important roles.
City of London
The City Bridge Trust quickly pledged £1 million to a new emergency support fund to help London’s community and voluntary organisations affected by the impact of Covid-19. The emergency programme, known as the London Community Response Fund (LCRF), provided a lifeline to charities that were facing immediate financial pressures and uncertainty.
Thank you London
From the outset and throughout the pandemic, London Councils and our member boroughs have worked closely with colleagues across a very wide range of organisations in a united effort to support Londoners, combat the spread of Covid-19 and Keep London Safe. As we begin to build back better, many of the collaborative approaches and new ways of working that have evolved as we jointly faced the threat of the pandemic will continue to be vital to our recovery. London Councils would like to take this opportunity to give thanks to colleagues across London for their help and support throughout the pandemic and beyond.
- Against Violence and Abuse
- Albert Kennedy Trust
- APPG for London
- Ashiana Network
- Asian Women’s Resource Centre
- Association of London Directors of Children's Services (ALDCS)
- Association of London Directors of Public Health
- British Parking Association (BPA)
- Central London Forward
- Chief Executives London Committee (CELC)
- Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
- Chinese Information and Advice Centre
- Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT)
- City Bridge Trust
- Confederation of British Industry
- Connected Places Catapult
- Core Cities
- Depaul UK
- Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance
- Domestic Violence Intervention Project
- EACH Counselling
- Federation of Small Businesses (FSB London)
- Greater London Authority (GLA)
- Homeless Link
- IMECE Women's Centre
- Iranian and Kurdish Women s Rights Organisation
- Jewish Women's Aid
- Keep London Safe
- Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women's Organisation
- Latin American Women's Aid
- Latin American Women's Rights Service
- Local Authorities Panel (LAP)
- Local Government Association (LGA)
- Local London
- London Association of Directors of Adult Social Services
- London Black Women's Project
- London Boroughs Heads of Communication Network
- London Care Services
- London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)
- London Crime Reduction Board
- London Enterprise Partnership
- London Environment Directors Network (LEDNet)
- London Friend
- London Housing Board
- London Innovation and Improvement Alliance (LIIA)
- London Local Authority Gold (LLAG)
- London Funders
- London HIV Prevention Programme (LHPP)
- London Housing Directors’ Group
- London Plus
- London Prevent Network
- London Resilience Forum (LRF)
- London Resilience Group (LRG)
- London Violence Against Women and Girls Consortium
- London Waste and Recycling Board
- London Health Board
- London Pandemic Steering Committee
- London Recovery Board
- London Technical Advisors Group (LoTAG)
- London Transition Board
- London TravelWatch
- Mayor’s Advisory Group
- Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)
- Midaye Somali Development Network
- Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC)
- New Horizon Youth Centre
- NHS Improvement London
- North Central London Partners in Health and Care
- North East London Health and Care Partnership
- North West London Health and Care Partnership
- Our Healthier South East London
- Proud to Care London
- Public Health England (PHE London)
- Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre
- Regulator for Social Housing
- Rights of Women
- Rough Sleeping Strategic Group
- Sexual Health London (SHL)
- Society of London Treasurers (SLT)
- Solace Women's Aid
- Southall Black Sisters
- South London Partnership
- South West London Health and Care Partnership
- St Mungo’s
- Standing Together Against Domestic Violence
- Stonewall Housing
- Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG) London
- SCG Communication Group
- Strategic Migration Partnership
- Tender Education and Arts
- Thames Reach
- The LGBT Domestic Abuse Partnership
- Thrive LDN
- Transport for London (TfL)
- West London Alliance (WLA)
- Woman's Trust
- Women and Girls Network
- Women’s Aid
- Women's Resource Centre