Intelligence Bulletin - 27 July, 2020
Housing and Welfare Update
The number of households that were in receipt of council tax support or housing benefit (excluding those in receipt of the Housing element of UC) in Cornwall in June had grown by 4,166 since March this year. Of these new households, 2,515 are in work, and 1,651 are out of work. 3,007 of the new households are classed as in relative poverty and due to the proportion of households in this group being so high, this has pushed the overall proportion of all households in this group in poverty to 50%. There were nearly 25,000 households in Cornwall in June living below the poverty line, including over 14,000 children, an increase of 15% since March.
Due to a change in the eligibility criteria for peripheral benefits in March 2020, in Cornwall there are now an additional 3,347 households that could be eligible for the Warm Homes Discount, bringing the total to 40,908. There are also an extra 1,221 households that are eligible for free prescriptions, bringing the total in Cornwall to 21,818.
April’s welfare reforms have shifted the balance of people who would now be better off if they moved from legacy benefits to Universal Credit, with 50% being better off compared to 47% being worse off. Previously, 24% would have been better off, compared to 54% who would have been worse off.
An extra 2,374 households in Cornwall have gone into council tax arrears since March, an increase of 24%, bringing the total to 12,150. However, 1,118 households have been identified that could be eligible for Council Tax Support but are not yet claiming it. There was a 7% increase between March and June of households in Cornwall who are in receipt of housing benefit or council tax support, with the increase mainly in council tax support. There are nearly 25,000 children living in households who receive these benefits.
The House of Commons website has published a dashboard on housing supply by local authority area. Using the tool you are able to select a local authority area and view data on housing stock by sector, compare this across the local region and the national sector breakdown, look at how new homes are being delivered, and where they are being lost. You can also look at a dashboard for affordable housing and access all the data sources used to create the dashboards.
The House of Commons has published Universal Credit data for June 2020 by constituency on its Universal Credit Rollout dashboard. The constituency can be selected and both statistics and graphs can be generated. The chart below compares the number of people on Universal Credit compared to those still claiming legacy benefits in the Camborne and Redruth constituency as an example. This can be run for any constituency. The Government currently expects all households claiming legacy benefits and tax credits to have moved across to UC by September 2024.
PWC have released their latest UK Economic Update which covers scenario based analysis of the potential short-term impacts of COVID-19 on UK economic growth. The data shows the decline in economic activity has slowed and that in May the economy grew by 1.8%, driven by an expansion in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Their estimates for GDP growth in 2020 range from -10% to -13%. They estimate that the level of GDP may still be around 1% to 7% below pre-crisis trends by the end of next year.
The Office for National Statistics has released data on Average household disposable income and income inequality in the UK. In the financial year leading up to the pandemic (2019/20) average household disposable income (after taxes and benefits) was £30,800 – up 2.3% (£700) compared with 2018/19, after accounting for inflation. Also in 2019/20, real earnings increased by an average of 1.5%, however more recently total annual pay growth for March to May 2020 fell by 1.3%, after accounting for inflation, which will likely impact adversely on income growth rates in 2020/21 (this financial year).
LGiU examines the issues facing live music venues and those who work in the sector considering Covid-19 and the potential role of local authorities in their recovery. The lockdown put an estimated 90 per cent of venues and festivals at imminent risk of closure. Mass closures of music venues would mean the loss of a £5 billion industry and thousands of job losses. (You will need to set up a free account to view this briefing).
Ratings agency Moody’s has warned that it could downgrade the UK’s credit rating if it fails to provide a credible debt reduction strategy following Covid-19. (you will need a free Public Finance account to view this article). The agency forecasts gross general government debt will rise to around 112% of GDP by the end of this year, up by close to 27 percentage points from 2019. Moody’s said: “The UK's rating would likely be downgraded if Moody's were to conclude that policymakers' capacity and appetite to develop a credible medium-term strategy to reduce debt was low. Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the government has borrowed a record £127.9bn between April and June - more than double the £55.4bn borrowed in the whole of the last full financial year.
MPs have slated ministers for failing to give local government sufficient funding and urged them to ensure a 'clear and timely financial settlement’ in readiness for the next phase of the pandemic. The House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said ‘central government has not given local authorities the clarity or support they need over long-term funding'. It said central government ‘promised’ councils they would have the resources they need but many are now facing income shortfalls. They said local government needs clarity to avoid them having to issue Section 114 notices imposing spending restrictions.
Health and Wellbeing
The LGiU (Local Government Information Unit) have released a report which discusses the question of urban density and its relationship to disease in general and to the transmission of the Covid-19 virus in particular. (You will need to set up a free account with LGiU to view this report).
In the most recent results from University College London’s COVID-19 social study, which now looks at data compiled over 16 weeks of the survey, they have focused on the psychological effects of the restriction imposed by Government to fight the pandemic. They have found that 1 in 4 respondents have reported that their relationships with colleagues or co-workers got worse over lockdown. You can also add your experiences to the survey and take part at any point.
The Health and Safety Executive has published statistics on workplace health a safety for the year 2019/20. 111 workers were fatally injured at work. It is the lowest annual number of workplace deaths on record, and a fall of 38 from 2018/19. HSE notes that this decrease was accentuated by the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy in the final two months of the year, when many workers were not at work. Fatal injury statistics do not include deaths from occupational diseases, including COVID-19. Data for non-fatal injuries and illness caused by work will be published for 2019/20 in November 2020.
The Public Health Director of Blackburn with Darwen Council, Professor Dominic Harrison has said that England's contact tracers have only reached about 50% of people who have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 in an area of Lancashire where new cases are rising. He warned of "exponential growth" of new infections if the system did not become more efficient. The Government's most recent statistics reveal that of the people in England who tested positive for Covid-19 between 2-8 July, 17.1% could not be reached and a further 4.1% did not provide their phone number.
Despite expecting to live longer, people in their 40s and 50s are likely to suffer more years of ill health than older generations now in their 60s and early 70s, according to a new University College London-led study. The study, published in the journal Population Studies, compared generations born between 1945 and 1980 and found a greater prevalence of ill health among those born later, with these younger cohorts more likely to rate their health as poor and have clinically measured poor health at equivalent ages during their working lives. The researchers concluded that, although life expectancy has increased in recent decades, many of the years gained are likely to be spent in poor health, with conditions such as diabetes and obesity affecting people earlier.
Public Health England have produced a monitoring tool analysing the wider impacts of COVID-19 on health. The tool looks at a range of topics including change in alcohol consumption, grocery purchasing, social determinants of health, access to care and more.
A national network of data experts has been established to help solve the UK’s most pressing health and care challenges. Led by the Health Foundation, this network is designed to focus on health and social care issues, overcoming existing barriers of fragmentated data collation throughout this sector. The ‘Data Lab’ has already linked together local data with the aim to extract local insights.
Society and Welfare
The Corporate Director for Children and Young People at Kent County Council, says there could be an increase of 250% in referrals of children that need to be investigated and kept safe when lockdown is eased further. Mr Dunkley said: "What we are looking at is a huge surge in September in children needing to be seen, families needing to be assessed, when they are at the end of their tether after six months being locked down or being out of the eye of their school.... that leaves us with a huge budget problem.
The LGiU has published a report on the impact that COVID-19 has had on the UK-EU negotiations for the UK’s exit from the EU. Only a few months remain until a deal must be concluded and the public health situation remains unpredictable. Local authorities will have to contend with the coronavirus public health response, the economic recovery, and the Brexit changeover simultaneously. The report covers recent developments in the EU-UK future relationship negotiations; preparation for the future relationship; and the impact of the coronavirus and future relations. (You will need an LGiU account, which is free to set up, to view this report).
Women seeking asylum in the UK have described a significant increase in unsafe and unsanitary living conditions during the Covid-19 crisis, according to a report from a coalition of charities. The report is published by Sisters Not Strangers. They report that more than a fifth of 115 women surveyed were homeless during the coronavirus pandemic and three-quarters of 115 women surveyed were not able to get enough food. Further, nearly 2,500 patients were discharged from mental health units in England – raising concern that vulnerable people were released into the community before they were ready.
The Resolution Foundation has released their annual Living Standards Audit for 2020. In it they look at how households were faring before the coronavirus crisis, but also how the incomes of different groups were affected during lockdown. They also look to the future, and discuss the importance of maintaining and improving protection from the effects of rising unemployment in the months ahead.
Half of Britons noticed brands supporting Pride month according to a YouGov survey. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Pride celebrations were more subdued for Pride month in June 2020. But Brits are split on whether they’ve seen more or less activity from companies supporting Pride this year. Nearly half of Brits (48%) have noticed companies making their logos Pride-themed during June – for example by using rainbow colours. Three in ten people (31%) have also noticed social media posts about Pride or LGBTQ+ issues. However, Britons are sceptical of the motives when brands show their support for LGBTQ+ causes during June. Only a quarter believe it’s genuine, while nearly half (47%) say it’s not.
Beauty spots and conservation areas are being put at risk by increasing numbers of irresponsible wild campers leaving behind piles of rubbish and lighting fires. The guardian reports that the National trust had seen a huge increase in what it dubbed “fly camping”, where vast quantities of litter and sometimes tents are left behind by illegal campers. Ben McCarthy of the National Trust said, “This is not only causing us issues with having to spend valuable time clearing up sites – taking our staff away from vital conservation work and engaging with visitors – but also leaving debris and litter behind, which can cause issues for wildlife such as injuring animals and destroying habitats.”
The LGA has responded to a campaign launched by Keep Britain Tidy to keep parks litter-free. Chair of the Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “Councils are working hard to keep parks and public spaces clean. “Services have been disrupted during the pandemic but staff are determined to tackle a backlog of parks maintenance as they return from temporary redeployment to other areas, including supporting bin collections and helping shielded residents. “Responsibility for clearing up litter lies with the person dropping it or leaving it behind. Councils need the public’s cooperation to help keep parks, green spaces and streets free from litter.
Webinars and Engagement Opportunities
LGiU Online meeting: Sustainable Futures policy roundtable – This virtual policy roundtable offers the chance for attendees to outline what they would like to see included in LGIU’s work on Sustainable Futures, as well as an opportunity to share your experiences and plans for the future on these timely issues. The meeting is part of LGIU’s ongoing Post-Covid Councils project. Themes include: sustainable tourism in cities, towns and rural areas, rural and coastal communities, transport/active travel, green recovery plans and collaborating across boundaries.
When: 5 Aug 2020, 14:00–15:30