Friday 25 February
My week began with a useful briefing from the Council's Assistant Director of Administration, Democratic and Electoral Services, Margaret Waggott, on the Council's Forward Plan.
On Tuesday morning I joined Managing Director Julie Danks for one of my regular catch-ups with the Council's directors, this time Beccy Brown, the Council's Director of HR, Legal and Communications. In the afternoon I joined fellow councillor's for a remote Members Briefing Session on issues around Adult Social Care and Environmental Health.
On Wednesday I met online with Beccy Brown again for a briefing on a report due to go to Cabinet next month.
Then on the evening it was time for the special full Council meeting at the Baptist Tabernacle to consider approving the Medium Term Financial Plan Update, which includes setting both the budget and Council Tax. Councillors considered and approved a proposal to increase Council Tax by 2.9%, which includes the Government Adult Social Care Levy of 2%.
Once again, the Council is setting its Medium Term Financial Plan for the next four years having received just a one-year financial settlement from Government, with the uncertainty of a potential local government funding review and reforms to national business rates also looming on the horizon. I will continue to join council leaders from across the political divides in pushing the Government for fairer funding - it's imperative that any future funding model is based on need and takes account of levels of deprivation.
Thursday began with my monthly town centre update with Garry Cummings, the Council's Director of Finance, Development and Business Services. Then in the afternoon I paid a visit to the North East Hub at the Oakwood Centre, on Cleasby Way, in Stockton. As well as being given a tour of the distribution centre and hearing about its warehouse plans, I also met with Ste McFarlane, Director of the Three13 Training & Enterprise charity who are doing amazing work around training and employment with some long-term unemployed there.
Today I was due to be travelling to Gateshead to join a North East Economic Forum (NEEF) lunchtime forum at the Baltic Centre, where the Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer was to address the event. But the event has been cancelled as Sir Kier had to re-join Parliament today due to the Ukraine/Russia situation. So with a lighter diary today I will be catching up on some important Council paperwork.
This weekend I'm looking forward to spending time with my family and seeing how Middlesbrough fare in their away match against bottom of the table Barnsley. After another win against West Brom midweek I'm hopeful of another three points in our fight for promotion.