The Leader began his statement
by wishing everybody a Happy New Year and discussing a major power
outage that had occurred on New Year’s Eve at Collins House,
during which all 38 residents had to be
temporarily relocated. He stated that all residents
had been moved out and back in quickly
once the power had been restored. He thanked the residents,
families, and staff who had managed the incident, and felt that
everybody, particularly residents, had kept their spirits high
during the difficult time. He also discussed a second major
incident that had occurred on 6 January during which 415,000 litres
of sulphuric acid had been spilled. He
thanked the emergency services who had attended, and had received
minor injuries, and thanked every officer and department who had
worked throughout the night to manage the incident. He stated that
the gas cloud had dispersed naturally, but schools had been closed quickly to minimise the impact, and
again thanked everyone for their management of the situation.
The Leader moved onto discussing two recent inspections that had occurred of Thurrock’s vulnerable people services which had come back positive, as well as the recent OFSTED inspection, during which Thurrock had received a ‘good’ rating. He elaborated that Thurrock had narrowly missed the ‘outstanding’ rating, but this was due to timing. He thanked everyone for the effort they had put in to make the inspection a success, and for their continued hard work throughout the year. He stated that Thurrock’s care homes had also recently had an inspection by the Care Quality Commission, and these services had also been rated ‘good’, which was an improvement on the previous inspection. He clarified that these services were also on the path towards an ‘excellent’ rating, and felt that many people had worked hard for this.
The Leader then mentioned the recent Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) scores that had improved since the last inspection, and mentioned that Thurrock had previously inspected themselves, but had moved this responsibility to Keep Britain Tidy, as they were independent. He felt that although there was still room for improvement, the directorate was moving forward and had numerous plans in place to improve the KBT scores. He highlighted that the Environmental Enforcement team had recently been shortlisted for an award by KBT, and wished officers good luck. He clarified that last year the environment directorate had doubled their street cleaning capacity, installed 600 new bins, 4 new road sweepers, and had improved the old road sweepers, which had made an impact across the borough. He also highlighted that the Civil Enforcement team had received devolved powers from the police, so they could now enforce certain laws such as underage possession of alcohol. He stated that additionally Thurrock had received the powers of injunction to remove illegal encampments, which was already being used where necessary, around the borough.
The Leader then talked about housing and the work Thurrock was doing to tackle rogue landlords and the successes that had been seen in court. He described how a review of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) had been undertaken, during which 100 HMOs had been visited, 7 of which were found to be unlicensed, which Thurrock were taking action against. He stated that Thurrock had £27,000 to tackle criminal landlords who ran unlicensed care homes for vulnerable people, and this work was being discussed around Essex and London. He added that if residents knew of any potentially unlicensed HMOs, they could contact the council who would investigate.
The Leader then discussed £36million town centre funding, which had been granted for the improvement of Grays and Tilbury, and stated that Grays had also been one of only 50 towns nominated for the Future High Street fund, which was a share of £1billion to attract businesses and people to the area. He added that £200million of private investment had also been granted to improve Grays town centre and the Thames, which showed that private companies were willing to invest in the town.
The Leader highlighted the work of the Trading Standards team, which had seized 120,000 counterfeit cigarettes worth £170,000 from 120 shops across the borough, with the help of sniffer dogs. He stated that one shop had been fined £13,000 for the possession of 17,000 illegal cigarettes in his shop, and although the Leader felt there was more to do, he felt glad that the number of prosecutions had risen since 2016. He added that the Trading Standards team were working closely with the police, and were now going after the suppliers of illegal cigarettes, as well as the shops that sold them.
The Leader detailed the work of the Civil Enforcement team as part of his statement and outlined a recent success whereby Civil Enforcement officers had found a marijuana growth site whilst tackling a fly-tip in East Tilbury. He felt that this showed the teams were not just focussed on one issue, but were working collaboratively. He stated that 15 Fixed Penalty Notices had been issued for fly-tipping, and 15 had been issued for anti-social behaviour, as well as 1 arrest for possession of drugs. He added that 10 community protection notices had issued for possession of marijuana, and 30 had been issued for anti-social behaviour including the use and disposal of nitrous oxide canisters. He added that these schemes would be extended in the new municipal year, and would have a wider scope of powers.
The Leader summarised and finished with the Clean It, Cut It, Fill It update and stated that since April 2019 156 potholes had been filled, 99% within target timeframes; 927 fly-tips had been cleared; 2720 tonnes of waste had been removed; 3213 Fixed Penalty Notices issued; and 3 illegal encampments moved. He added that 208 £400 fines had been issued for fly-tipping, and 268 people had been prosecuted for failure to pay fines.