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Friday 29 January

It has been another varied and challenging week as our response to the impacts of COVID-19 across the Borough continues. My first meeting on Monday was conducted on Microsoft Teams alongside the Council's Deputy Leader, Councillor Jim Beall, when we remotely met with Cllr Tony Riordan and Cllr Lynn Hall who represent the Norton West and Hartburn wards respectively. We meet every couple of months and it's a useful opportunity to share the latest developments with them relating to the Council's COVID-19 work and on a number of other topics.

This was followed later in the day with a similar meeting with Cllr David Minchella who represents Bishopsgarth and Elm Tree ward.

In-between those calls with fellow councillors I met with Richard McGuckin, Director of Town Centres Investment, to be briefed on the progress of the various projects and plans that are moving forward across our six town centres.

On Tuesday, again with Cllr Beall, we met remotely with the Council's Managing Director, Julie Danks, for one of our regular calls to discuss developments primarily concerning any decisions that need to be made regarding our COVID-19 response but we are seeing a robust amount of what I would call 'normal' Council business also on the agenda.

Later that day there was a Members Briefing Session which covered an update for councillors on the work of the Tees Valley Combined Authority and a briefing on the Council's work to counter the local impacts of COVID-19.

On Wednesday I participated in a meeting of the Tees Valley Leaders. As you'd imagine, a lot of our discussion was focussed around COVID-19 as we shared the issues happening in our areas. I find these are useful sessions as we are aiming for a degree of consistency in our efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, so it's a plus that we're all able to link up in this way.

A busy day continued when I spoke with Margaret Waggott, Assistant Director of Administration, Democratic and Electoral Services, about the Council's Forward Plan. The plan contains all of the decisions due to be made by the Council through its Cabinet Members, as well as any that may be taken by senior officers, in the coming months. Margaret briefed me on the progress of a number of items as they move towards the decision stage where they'll be given full consideration by the appropriate Members or officers.

There was a full meeting of Council on Wednesday evening which was held remotely via Microsoft Teams. It featured a packed agenda including items on the adoption of supplementary planning documents, the Members' Allowance Scheme and a series of motions put forward by councillors for consideration.

On Thursday I took advantage of a lighter day in the diary to catch up on some important paperwork before joining Cllr Beall online to meet with Cllr Bill Woodhead MBE and Cllr Maurice Perry who represent the Fairfield ward. This is another of our regular scheduled meetings with fellow councillors to ensure they are up to date with our latest work and to hear of any issues that may have arisen in their areas.

This morning I have attending a meeting of the Tees Valley Combined Authority's Cabinet which concentrated on a variety of items including financial updates and an in-depth discussion of some investment plans that are progressing well.

This afternoon brought around the weekly meeting of the Council's Local Outbreak Engagement Group which I chair. Cllr Jim Beall, Cllr Steve Nelson and I are joined by a number of officers to review the latest COVID-19 dashboard figures and plot out future communications activity to help us in the fight to reduce the spread of this deadly virus.

This weekend I am hoping for much better from Middlesbrough as they face a tough test against Championship league leaders Norwich City. It was a dreadful result on Wednesday evening to lose 3-0 to struggling Rotherham United so I will be looking to see a strong reaction from the team to put that behind us.