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Friday 22 January

It's been another busy week, which began with a briefing on the Council's town centre plans, led by Director of Town Centre Investment, Richard McGuckin. Joining me at the virtual meeting were the Council's Managing Director, Julie Danks, and Deputy Leader, Councillor Jim Beall.

Later on Monday I joined a meeting of the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership Board and informal cabinet ahead of next Friday's Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) cabinet meeting. Among the items up for discussion at next week's TVCA cabinet meeting will be the budget for 2021/22 and an update on the investment plan.

It was useful to be briefed by the Council's Assistant Director of Administration, Democratic and Electoral Services, Margaret Waggott. There are Council by-elections, the Tees Valley Mayoral election and Police and Crime Commissioner election all scheduled to be held in May and we continue to prepare for these as planned.

I then had my usual catch-up with Julie Danks and Councillor Beall to keep up to speed with the latest coronavirus developments in the Borough.

On Wednesday I joined Tees Valley Leaders, Mayors, Chief Executives and Public Health Colleagues for our regular Covid-19 meeting. We discussed the latest local and national infection rates and also the ongoing rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

This was followed by a meeting with the TVCA Chief Executive, Julie Gilhespie, to discuss the possibility of the UK Treasury having a base here in Teesside.

The Council's latest Cabinet meeting took place virtually this Thursday. A very busy agenda included the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP), an update on this year's Census and a scrutiny review of fly-grazed horses.

Today I have held another regular catch-up with Julie Danks and Councillor Beall on the Council's ongoing coronavirus response. I'll then be joining MPs and leaders from across the region on a call with Cleveland Police's Assistant Chief Constable, Steve Graham. It's always interesting to hear how policing across the area is going throughout the latest national Covid-19 restrictions.

A busy week in the diary will then conclude when I chair the Local Outbreak Engagement Group (LOEG) meeting this afternoon. At LOEG we'll be discussing the latest coronavirus infection rate figures in Stockton-on-Tees.

At the weekend I am looking forward to seeing how Middlesbrough get on against Blackburn Rovers, who are managed by Boro legend Tony Mowbray. After Wednesday night's brilliant victory against Nottingham Forest, this is another opportunity to make up more ground towards the top of the league.