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Friday 3 December 2021

The week began with a remote meeting on Monday to discuss important items due before Cabinet in the coming weeks. These included an update on the Medium Term Financial Plan, a progress report on Bright Minds Big Futures and the 2022 calendar for our popular Memorial Lighting programmeThe scheme sees the Riverside, Newport Bridge and Town Centre lighting columns and fountain lights lit up in different colours on nationally recognised commemoration days, including those of a particular relevance and significance for Stockton Borough.

Tuesday began with a Microsoft teams meeting of the NEREO (North East Regional Employers' Organisation) Executive Committee. NEREO's function is to support local authorities and partner organisations in the fields of human resources, organisational development and employee relations.

Later that day there was a Members Briefing Session which covered an update for councillors on Children Services as well as our Environmental Sustainability and Carbon Reduction strategy.

Wednesday began with an early meeting at the University Hospital of North Tees to hear how North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are continuing to work more closely together during the pandemic and beyond.

In the afternoon I met with our Director of Finance and Business Service, Gary Cummings via Microsoft Teams for my monthly update on business regeneration in the Borough. Later I was joined by Deputy Leader Jim Beall for a regular online catch-up with one of the Borough's ward councillors.

This was followed by a useful update on the Council's town centre plans, led by Director of Town Centre Investment, Richard McGuckin. Joining me at the virtual meeting were the Council's Managing Director, Julie Danks, and Deputy Leader, Councillor Jim Beall.

A lighter diary on Thursday allowed me to focus on some important Council paperwork. I then joined Cabinet Members for an informal meeting later in the afternoon.

This morning it was my pleasure to attend the Mayor's Carol Service at Stockton Parish Church. There were a number of schools from the borough who also attended and it was wonderful to hear the enthusiastic singing from their pupils who were getting into the Christmas spirit.

This afternoon I am meeting with the Council's Managing Director, Julie Danks, and Deputy Leader, Councillor Jim Beall, to discuss the latest COVID developments. We will be discussing the concerning news this week of the global spread of the new Omicron variant. A number of cases have already been identified in the UK, and the wearing of face coverings is now compulsory on public transport, in shops and in places like banks, post offices, and hairdressers, unless people are exempt from wearing one. We're urging everyone to follow the national rules and work together to protect each other. 

I will then chair the Local Outbreak Engagement Group (LOEG) meeting afterwards, where we'll be discussing the latest coronavirus infection rate figures in Stockton-on-Tees as well as the Omicron situation.

At the weekend I am looking forward to spending some time with my family and seeing if Middlesbrough can capitalise on their away win at Huddersfield last weekend. Three points at home against Swansea tomorrow would see us leapfrog them in the table and hopefully make up some ground on the teams above us.

Our fantastic Stockton Sparkles winter festival has got off to a great start and I would certainly encourage people to visit the wonderful Sparkles Christmas Market, which is now open on Stockton High Street until Sunday. Come and support your local charities and voluntary organisations at the Borough's Community Partnerships' cabin, and find out more about the work of our partners, support community fundraising and browse homemade crafts and gifts. There's also festive entertainment for all ages in the Spiegeltent, and don't miss the magical Reindeer Lantern Parade, on Stockton High Street on Sunday from 4pm.