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Friday 3 July

It has been another very busy week as the Council's response to the COVID-19 pandemic progresses. We're continually adapting to new guidance and taking the decisions we feel are best for our residents, businesses and town centres.

On Monday I held my usual briefing with the Deputy Leader, Councillor Jim Beall, and the Council's Managing Director, Julie Danks, with a particularly preparatory focus on the upcoming Cabinet meeting to be held on Thursday 16 July.

Following this was a separate meeting with Julie and the Director of Children's Services, Martin Gray, to discuss the contents of the Council Plan which will be presented before the full Council on Wednesday 22 July.

The day ended after a briefing for the local political group leaders by senior Council officers with the latest local developments relating to our COVID-19 response.

On Tuesday morning I met with Garry Cummings, Director of Finance and Business Services, for our weekly catch up to get up to speed on the financial implications we're facing as an authority at this unprecedented time.

Following a meeting of the Council's Corporate Management Team (CMT), the Deputy Leader and I met virtually with Julie Danks to consider their discussions and findings.

Later in the day, via Zoom, I joined a meeting of Billingham South Community Primary School's governors where I represent the local authority. It was a good opportunity to learn how the staff, children, parents and carers are all adapting to their new circumstances.

The majority of my diary on Wednesday was taken up with a virtual webinar conference with fellow members of the Local Government Association. It's always useful to network and converse with peers across the country, none more so than at this time where we are all reacting to specific local conditions and challenges.

Yesterday I centred my attention on financial matters again as we are nearing the time to consider the latest update of our Medium Term Financial Plan. This maps out both our current financial position and also where we project things to stand in the months and years to come, so it really is of vital importance and we are working through the detail very closely.

Today I have again joined the Deputy Leader on a call with Julie Danks to be briefed following the latest meeting of CMT.

Later this afternoon I will be part of a teleconference involving regional MPs, elected Mayors and fellow Council Leaders, hosted by the Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, Richard Lewis. As you may imagine the conversation will focus exclusively on the local impact of COVID-19 and national guidance will be discussed on a number of fronts.

My week will draw to a close with a briefing from Ian Miles, Assistant Director, on the annual report from Xentrall Shared Services. It's a ground-breaking public partnership between ourselves and Darlington Borough Council which, as of last year's report, had achieved close to £15million of savings between the authorities. It's a very effective way of working so it was useful to discuss with Ian how the past year has gone and how things may be improved in future. 

Over the weekend I am looking forward to spending time with my family.

Neil Warnock got off to a winning start as Middlesbrough manager last weekend, registering a sorely needed 2-0 win away at Stoke City. The tough fixtures keep coming and we face QPR on Sunday at what will be an empty Riverside Stadium for the first time since the lockdown began. I'm sure it would put a smile on everyone's face if the team could pick up another crucial three points.

Once again I would like to say thank you to everyone for your support and hard work as ever and I hope you and your families stay safe.