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Friday 11 December

Our developing local response to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been at the forefront of my efforts once again this week. I joined my fellow Cabinet Members for a pre-agenda meeting ahead of the full Cabinet meeting on Thursday 17 December. We'll be considering a wide range of items at the main meeting including the final reports of various committees on issues such as business support, Council Tax support, public consultation and an update on the Council Plan 2020-23.

I was pleased to attend a meeting of the Council's Learning and Skills Service's governing body as a guest. They have been delivering learning programmes here for more than 50 years thanks to skilled and friendly tutors. I enjoyed hearing of their latest achievements in what has been an exceptionally difficult year.

On Tuesday I joined the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Jim Beall, to meet with the Council's Managing Director, Julie Danks. We have met regularly throughout the pandemic to ensure we're fully briefed and to discuss together any decisions that need making.

Wednesday brought around a meeting with Nik Milne from Community Homes Tees Valley. It was an interesting conversation that explored how they can assist local authorities to bring empty properties back into use and deliver new projects.

Later that day I had a meeting with colleagues that reviewed the latest progress of the Local Boundary Review. It's currently in the stage that features a consultation on warding patterns and we're expecting the final recommendations to be published in August 2021.

On Thursday together with Julie Danks, I took the opportunity to catch up with Guru Naidoo and Jon Carling, the Chair and Chief Executive of Catalyst respectively. I'm sure you are familiar with Catalyst who do such brilliant work in building capacity for the Borough's voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to develop and deliver their services. As is the case across the board, the VCSE sector has been stretched and challenged in an unprecedented way by the pandemic so it was good to see how their community efforts are doing and how we can continue to support them.

On the subject of COVID-19, again alongside Julie and the Deputy Leader, we hosted a briefing for local political group leaders on the very latest developments in our response to the effects of the virus across the Borough on numerous levels.

A busy week drew to a close with a meeting this morning of the Corporate Parenting Board which featured an update and analysis on the number of children and young people currently in our care. The board then considered reports from the fostering panel, an update on the post-16 and care leavers transitioning out of our direct care and the forward plan covering next year's priorities.

This afternoon I will be chairing the next meeting of the Council's Local Outbreak Engagement Group (LOEG). We meet every Friday afternoon to review the very latest coronavirus figures across Stockton-on-Tees and our recent actions to mitigate the impact of the virus locally.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Middlesbrough get on against Millwall at the Riverside on Saturday. It was disappointing to lose quite tamely away at Stoke last weekend but this represents a good opportunity to get things back on track.

The local restrictions are due to be reviewed in the middle of next week so I would once again ask everybody to follow the guidance to keep yourselves and your families safe and help get the infection rate down in our area.