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Friday 20 November

This week has been another one spent focussing on our response to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

On Monday I had a regular virtual meeting with colleagues from Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA). They gave a useful update on the Employment, Education and Skills work by the authority so that we can continue to support people in this sector as best as we can.

Straight after that I dialled into a Place Select Committee meeting where there were several scrutiny reviews on the agenda to consider including a report on Business Support and Engagement and another on burial provision across the Borough. At the end of the meeting Committee members also reviewed the scrutiny review programme for the remainder of the year 2020/21.

I was back in a meeting with TVCA colleagues on Tuesday morning to discuss the Tees Valley Culture Programme. Through the programme the combined authority, together with the Council and Darlington County Council, has led the Stockton and Darlington Railway Heritage Programme.

In the afternoon I spoke with the Council's Director of Finance, Development and Business Services, Garry Cummings to talk through the latest round of Government support grants for businesses forced to close under the second national lockdown restrictions. We've had more than 500 applications and are also drawing up a local discretionary grants scheme which should go live this week.

After that, the Deputy Leader, Councillor Jim Beall and I met with the Council's Managing Director, Julie Danks for the first of this week's Covid update meetings.

Later that day I met virtually with one of the Borough's ward councillors. That was before joining a national Community and Wellbeing meeting. At the meeting, representatives of councils across the UK came together to discuss the impact of Covid on local health and social care services, both in terms of the long-term pressures that adult social care is facing, and the challenges posed by the pandemic.

The weekly meeting of Tees Valley Leaders, Mayor and Chief Executives was held on Wednesday morning. We were joined by representatives from Public Health England as well as the regional authorities' Directors of Public Health who again gave a helpful update on national and local developments.

Now that we are back in the swing of regular council meetings, this week I also met with Democratic Services officers to review the Forward Plan of items that will be considered by Cabinet and Council over the next few months.

Full Council met via Microsoft Teams on Wednesday night and this month's agenda included an update on the ward boundary review which is being carried out by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. The review is now in its second phase and once complete, it will recommend the total number of councillors that should be elected to the local authority in future, as well as the size and names of each ward boundary.

Yesterday brought about my second catch-up with Julie Danks and Councillor Jim Beall to further discuss the Council's ongoing coronavirus response. I'm ending the week by chairing a virtual meeting of the Local Outbreak Engagement Group today where we will discuss the latest coronavirus picture in the Borough.

This weekend I'm looking forward to seeing how Middlesbrough get on against Norwich. It has been an excellent start to the season for Boro, who are unbeaten since the opening game of the season. It would be great to get one over against the side who pipped Boro to promotion in 2015 and I am confident Neil Warnock's side can get a win.