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Friday 8 January

After the Christmas break I was back at work on Monday to join the Deputy Leader, Councillor Jim Beall and the Council's Managing Director, Julie Danks to review the Cabinet meeting agenda before Members meet formally on 21 January.

On Tuesday I attended the first of the week's virtual Covid meetings led by Julie Danks, who gave myself and Councillor Beall a detailed update on recent Covid developments. As you will be aware on Monday the Government announced a second national lockdown which is now in place until Government next reviews the restrictions on 15 February. It is absolutely critical that we all follow the rules to stay home, keep indoor spaces well ventilated and follow the "hands, face, space" advice if you do need to go out so that we can get case numbers down again.

Following the Prime Minister's announcement, on Tuesday I was invited to a virtual Ministerial update with the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall MP.

Later in the week I had a useful meeting about integrated care systems with representatives from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England and NHS Improvement. Integrated care systems are a partnership between the NHS, local councils and others partners such as the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector - they take joint responsibility to manage resources, deliver care and improve the health of the residents they serve. It was a timely meeting given the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

The Tees Valley Leaders, Mayor, Chief Executives and regional Public Health colleagues had a regular meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the latest Covid developments and our response to the virus.

After that I was briefed on the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) by the Council's Director of Finance Development and Business Services, Garry Cummings and Deputy Chief Finance Officer, Tony Montague.

I then stayed on the Teams call with Garry to meet with our Inclusive Growth, Planning and Development Manager, Chris Renahan. Our monthly meetings are a good opportunity to stay up to date on business and regeneration work across the Borough.

Later on Wednesday, Members met with the Corporate Management Team to review the Forward Plan of reports that will be considered by Cabinet in the next few months.

Some of you may have seen in the media the possibility of a freeport in the region and yesterday there was an update with the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) on what that might involve.

Today Councillor Beall and I will be meeting with Julie Danks again for the second of our Coronavirus updates this week. I'll then chair a regular meeting of the Local Outbreak Engagement Group (LOEG) to discuss the latest coronavirus case figures in Stockton-on-Tees as the rate continues to rise.