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Friday 4 December

My week began with a briefing meeting alongside the Deputy Leader, Councillor Jim Beall, with the Council's Managing Director, Julie Danks. We focussed on a series of items that will be coming before Cabinet in the near future including a couple of scrutiny review reports, an update on our Bright Minds Big Futures work, a six-monthly refresh of the Council Plan and an in-depth review of how we consult with the public among other reports.  

It was very useful to catch up remotely with Garry Cummings, Director of Finance, Development and Business Services, and Tony Montague, Deputy Chief Finance Officer, for a localised briefing following the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review being presented in Parliament last Wednesday. Garry, Tony and their teams have been working through the detail to assess its impacts on our Medium Term Financial Plan so it was a good opportunity to consider how things stand.

On Monday evening I joined a meeting with fellow Members to discuss the ongoing Local Boundary Review which is being undertaken by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. It's currently in a stage of assessing warding patterns before recommendations are consulted on in the spring and summer of next year and the final report is due in August 2021.

I reviewed the latest work that's been going on recently relating to the Education, Employment and Skills portfolio that I chair in my role with the Tees Valley Combined Authority's Cabinet. There's an upcoming meeting for the group on Monday 14 December so I took the chance to get fully updated on how things are progressing.

Following this on Tuesday was another meeting with Cllr Beall and Julie Danks to again review our ongoing response to the various local challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The picture is one that changes daily, sometimes hour-by-hour, and it was useful to stay in regular conversation ahead of our area going into the third tier of restrictions following the national lockdown ending on Wednesday.

Wednesday itself was a busy one packed with meetings. My first diary appointment saw me speak to Garry Cummings again, but this time joined by Chris Renahan, Inclusive Growth, Planning & Development Manager. It's a monthly meeting where I'm briefed on the latest progress of our business and regeneration schemes.

Later in the day I joined a meeting of the Tees Valley's Leaders, Chief Executives, Managing Directors and Mayors. It's a weekly meeting that gives opportunity for us to all to stay up-to-date with the emerging issues relating to coronavirus from across the patch. We are aiming for as much consistency in our response as possible so these conversations are vital.

My final appointment on Wednesday was to meet with Julie Danks as we had reached the six-month mark since her full appraisal. Since being formally appointed to the role of the Council's Managing Director in September last year, Julie has had to steer the ship throughout unprecedented challenges. It was helpful for us both to review the last six months and look ahead to the coming months as we hopefully can begin our recovery in earnest from the pandemic.

On Thursday I joined Julie along with Cllr Beall, Cllr Steve Nelson and Jamie McCann, Director of Community Services, to meet with Superintendent Sharon Cooney from Cleveland Police. It's a regular meeting in our diaries where we can share any concerns we have picked up ourselves and also present those forwarded to us by fellow councillors from across the wards. We have a very positive working relationship with the force and these meetings always strengthen the ties between us to achieve the safest Borough possible.

Onto today and I again have spoken to Cllr Beall and Julie Danks on the very latest aspects of our local response to coronavirus and this was good preparation for our usual meeting of the Local Outbreak Engagement Group this afternoon.

This weekend I am looking forward to following Middlesbrough as they face a typically difficult away game at Stoke City on Saturday. The Potters are in a similar position in the league table as Boro so it'd be great if we could put a bit of distance between us with three points.