Agenda item

Briefings on Policy, Budget and Other Issues


Councillor Mayes added to the Leader’s statement regarding Coronavirus and highlighted that new cases around the UK were not unexpected, and plans to tackle the pandemic were already in place and ready. He clarified that the risk remained low, but he was in contact with Public Health England to ensure residents were protected. He stated that most cases of the virus could be treated by self-isolating, but was most dangerous to older people and people with underlying conditions and respiratory problems. He reiterated the Leader’s advice to follow good personal hygiene and hand-washing procedures, and if you had any symptoms to contact 111 and the Public Health England website.

Councillor Halden stated that this virus disproportionately affected the elderly population, and stated he was working with the Corporate Director Adults, Housing and Health, as well as Basildon Hospital, to ensure that staff in the council and residents were supported. He added that business continuity and contingency plans were in place to ensure the necessary support was available for vulnerable residents, those in care, and those on the verge of care. He asked residents to consider their elderly neighbours and offer help and advice where necessary. He summarised and stated that the team were currently sending leaflets and notes to schools, churches, libraries, and care homes, and schools were being contacted so they could spread the message to parents and teachers.

Councillor Huelin added that the Council had agile working in place, so many staff members could work from home if necessary. She explained that the IT team were currently checking the system to ensure it could handle increased numbers of people working from home, but felt confident this would be ready. She added that as there was a policy of hot-desking, staff already had a sanitising routine in place, so used antibacterial wipes on their desks and telephones at the end of every working day. She stated that vulnerable staff members who were more at risk from Coronavirus would be allocated a fixed desk to reduce the likelihood of them catching the virus.

Councillor Watkins moved on and stated that the team were in the final stages of procurement for the new Household Waste and Recycling Centre, which would improve access and recycling across the borough, and he would announce the new contractor within the next two weeks. He also welcomed the news from central government that 30,000 hectares of trees would be planted across the UK, and stated that the team would be lobbying government to ensure some of these additional trees would be planted in Thurrock. Councillor Watkins highlighted that the first phase of the Tree Planting Strategy would commence soon, and work would begin planting trees in streets and avenues across the borough, beginning with Lodge Lane. He stated that the next stage would also begin soon to work with the transport team to heat-map trees and improve air quality through tree planting.

Councillor Watkins added that a new waste consultation was also being sent to residents across the borough, and urged residents to fill this in, as well as placing the stickers attached to this documentation on their bins. He felt this would improve recycling rates and make it clear for residents what items could be recycled. He added that a new scheme was also being rolled out to encourage recycling in flats, after a successful pilot scheme last year. He stated that due to the recent wet weather, grass cutting was being increased across the borough, with a particular focus on cemeteries in time for upcoming Mother’s Day.

Councillor Watkins stated that this would be his last Cabinet, and thanked the Leader for choosing him to be a Portfolio Holder in 2017. He thanked Members, officers, and gave particular thanks to the Director of Environment, Highways and Counter-Fraud for her support, as well as Councillors Halden, Hebb and Coxshall, and the local MPs.