Friday 21 January
On Monday morning I met via Teams with Julie Danks, the Managing Director of the Council, and Deputy Leader, Councillor Jim Beall, for our regular catch up early in the week. It's always a useful way to discuss emerging issues affecting residents and businesses across the Borough, and plan forthcoming business in the week ahead.
In the afternoon I joined local river user Tony Campbell online for a welcome update on the Canal and River Trust. The Trust is responsible for the 22 miles of the River Tees from Worsall, (the highest tidal point in the river until the barrage was built) through Yarm and up to and including the iconic Tees Barrage.
This was followed by a Microsoft Teams meeting of the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board and Informal Cabinet. The LEP supports the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority by working with the wider business community and other partners to create growth, investment and jobs in the area.
On Tuesday morning I had the pleasure of joining some schoolchildren from St John the Baptist School for some tree planting at Primrose Hill Park in Stockton. The children had the honour of planting the first 100 new trees in our ambitious Trees in Stockton-on-Tees initiative. The Council, in partnership with national charity Trees for Cities, has secured £360,000 funding to plant nearly 16,000 trees over the next two winters to improve the Borough's canopy cover and help tackle 'green inequality' in more deprived areas. The initiative will also celebrate the Borough's trees, new and old, raising awareness of their value and involve local communities in tree planting, aftercare and other activities.
In the afternoon I was joined by Deputy Leader Jim Beall for the first of two online catch-ups this week with ward councillors from the Borough. The second was on Wednesday. These regular updates are a useful way to share and understand any issues in councillors' patches and the wider Borough.
On Wednesday I joined other local leaders online for a Tees Valley Covid-19 meeting to discuss the local and national Coronavirus situation. With encouraging signs that the UK has passed the Omicron peak, national rules have changed once again. But there are still high numbers of infections across the country and I would urge everybody to stay vigilant in protecting themselves and others in the coming weeks.
You can find out about the latest rules as well as some advice about what we can all do to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 across Stockton-on-Tees on our website.
Cabinet met yesterday afternoon to consider a busy agenda. It was great to hear from fellow Cabinet member Councillor Steve Nelson the details of the Council's recent Customer Service Excellence accreditation. The Council has been accredited with meeting all 57 points of compliance within the Government's CSE mark, which rewards organisations who demonstrate a customer-focused commitment to all they do. Assessors also complimented the Council for the services it has delivered during the pandemic, and for the 'energy and enthusiasm' shown by staff. I'd like to join Cllr Nelson in acknowledging the efforts of not just the customer services staff but of all our staff who have really stepped up during these challenging times.
This afternoon I'm joining an online Regional Leaders and Elected Mayors meeting of the Association of North East Councils' (AMEC). On the agenda are updates from the Local Government Association (LGA) and the North East Culture Partnership (NECPT), a collective of representatives from the arts, culture and heritage.
This weekend I'm looking forward as always to spending time with my family.