Councillor Watkins presented his fourth annual report which was being delivered under very different and difficult circumstances. Firstly, Councillor Watkins acknowledged the amazing work being undertaken by staff either on the front line or in offices for the work undertaken this year and thanked every member of staff for their contribution. Councillor Watkins passed on his thoughts and well wishes to those who had lost family and friends in the current pandemic.
Some of the key points made were:
· Residents were thanked for their patience over this difficult time where more waste was being collected where more people were at home.
· The service has had to deal with an increased number of parked vehicles that had caused blocked access issues.
· This and the absence of staff due to a number of reasons had put a great strain on the service.
· The team had worked flat out to deliver the best service over this time.
· During the pandemic and lockdown it would continue to prioritise the waste, refuse and recycling over this period and aimed to bring the garden service collections back up as quickly as was possible.
· The first phase of the communal recycling programme had been rolled out with all council areas now complete.
· Over the year this would be rolled out over private estates and work would begin with estate operators and residents.
· Over this period the cleaner and greener teams had continued to do a fantastic job to keep the borough tidy.
· Investments made had seen a magnificent difference and within the last two periods of the tranche scoring of the Keep Britain Tidy, the Council had seen the best scores they had ever seen.
· The Active Place Strategy had been passed and would now enable sports which would make a difference within the borough.
Councillor Watkins stated that in 2021 when safe to do so, services would be resumed to where they once were and recognised this would not be easy. That garden waste would return when it was safe to do so without putting a strain on refuse and recycling collections. The HWRC site would be back to normal as soon as was possible. The Trailer Thursday would enable trailers to access the site all day on Thursdays on an initial trial basis but members were reminded this would be done to ensure the safety of staff on site and residents. Other projects would include the improvements of recycling, aim to launch a new recycling campaign “Getting Thurrock Recycling”, a new missed bin collection scheme, a separate food waste system to which a date had yet to be confirmed. Councillor Watkins encouraged members to come forward with any ideas, comments or feedback. Work would also continue to improve on street cleaning, cemeteries and tree strategies.
Councillor Redsell referred to the Sports Strategy and asked for assurance this would be taken forward as the youth of the borough need sport now and even more so post COVID. Councillor Watkins gave his reassurance and stated an update would be provided to the Cleaner Greener and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee within the autumn period of 2021 outlining where the strategy was but it was imperative this was done right first time.
Councillor J Kent stated his disappointment members were unable to comment and ask questions on Councillor Gledhill’s portfolio report and commented although he understood members had issues or ill health that prevented them from attending meetings he stated Councillor Gledhill’s attendance at both Council and General Services Committees had been woeful.
Councillor J Kent stated his surprise the portfolio holder report had not mentioned the Cabinet’s decision to move to fortnightly collections of residual waste and questioned when this was expected to take place. Councillor Watkins stated the only change that would be taking place would be the new recycling campaign, the separate food waste collections would need to be administered by 2023 with all other aspects of the waste strategy being currently under review.
Councillor Byrne questioned whether Corringham Athletic would still be able to continue to play on the pitches on the Manorway and would the Council stand up to Shell to fight to save those pitches. Councillor Watkins stated yes as previously committed but we had to see sporting changes which did not mean destroying the sporting facilities the borough already had.
Councillor Allen touched on the Sports Strategy and the improved sport opportunities and wondered if this was the time for the Council to offer Grays Athletic the opportunity to continue their great work with youngsters. Councillor Watkins stated work and conversations were being undertaken with Grays Athletic about them getting back to their rightful home. That there were plans in the Active Place Strategy and there were aspirations to move forward into 2021 and into future years where this strategy would be a key part of that.
Councillor Muldowney referred to the commitment made by Councillor Watkins in June 2019 an investment would be made for play and sports equipment in parks in Chadwell St Mary. Councillor Muldowney questioned when would residents of Chadwell St Mary see the investment promised in play and sports facilities into their parks. Councillor Watkins stated investments had been made in other parks in the borough which had been part of the initial plan but due to the pandemic changes had to be made. The Council were still tackling the pandemic and services had to be changed in line with this and once services were back to normal and safe to do so this work would continue.
Councillor Rice questioned whether Impulse Leisure had approached the Council for any financial grants. Councillor Watkins stated conversations and work were being undertaken with Impulse Leisure in relation to the national leisure recovery fund grant which had come forward from Government.
Councillor Worrall asked for assurance the brown bin collections would be back ready for spring time and there would be no attached costs to this service. Councillor Watkins categorically stated there would no charges for these collections and in relation to when they would return they were currently on a rolling two week notice. That the portfolio holder and his team were doing everything physically possible but the safety of staff would continue to be the main priority. Councillor Watkins was unable to give Councillor Worrall any guarantees as to when the service would resume but guaranteed the team were doing everything they could.
Councillor Watkins summed up by stating members could ask him questions at any time. That it had been a pleasure to be in this position with the team undertaking an exceptional job over the previous year and continued to do an outstanding job. They were the front line staff of the Council and thanked them all for the work they undertook.