The Leader began his statement
by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. He stated that due to
increased levels of COVID-19 around the country, a new national
lockdown had begun a week ago, and the country was reaching a
critical stage in the spread of the pandemic. He explained that
Thurrock had also seen an increase in positive cases, and had been
the epicentre of the new COVID strain, which was 58-70% more
transmissible than the previous strain. He stated that the NHS and
other keyworkers had done an amazing job in fighting the virus on
the frontlines, but Essex had declared a major incident due to the
strain being put on hospitals, who would not be able to cope if
they did not receive additional help. The Leader stressed the
importance of the government’s ‘Hands, Face,
Space’ message and urged residents to follow lockdown rules
to protect each other and the NHS. He also urged young people and
children to follow the rules and not go out and meet friends, and
asked all residents to act as if they already had the virus and
take all necessary precautions.
The Leader then explained that the local rate of COVID-19 was now 1,324 cases per 100,000, which had decreased from 1,514 the previous week. He stated that Thurrock were now fifth in the country for the highest rates of COVID, which had again decreased from being the second highest rates in the country. He added that there were also currently 299 COVID cases in residents above the age of 60, which had also decreased from 313 cases in the previous week. He stated that although cases across the country were continuing to rise, cases in Thurrock were plateauing, and encouraged residents to follow government guidelines to ensure local case numbers continued to drop. The Leader explained that Priti Patel MP and the National Police Chief had recently given a press conference outlining how police forces around the UK would now move to enforcement action more quickly to encourage people to remain at home, and stressed that Essex Police would be following this guidance and would take action if necessary. He described how Essex Police had recently visited Butts Lane and the Maple Park Estate after reports of anti-social motorbike riding in the area. He added that police officers were also regularly patrolling open spaces and residential areas to ensure COVID compliance and increase interactions with the local community. He encouraged residents to report if they witnessed anti-social behaviour or COVID compliance breaches directly through Essex Police’s website or 101 non-emergency number. The Leader understood that there could be delays on the 101 number, bur urged residents to hold on, as he felt that all reports helped the police do their job. The Leader stated that the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner would be holding an online meeting on 19 January via Facebook, which he would be taking part in, and they would be answering some of the public’s questions surrounding COVID-19 and anti-social behaviour.
The Leader then explained that Thurrock had currently received £26million in central government grants, which had been distributed to local businesses to help them through the pandemic. He explained that this also included £2.6million which had been distributed to 260 local businesses since 2 December 2020. He stated that some businesses had fallen through the cracks in receiving this funding support, such as businesses which operated from home or community halls, and Thurrock had given these types of businesses more than £1million in grant support. He urged all local businesses to look on Thurrock’s website to find and apply for funding. The Leader then stated that support was also available for individuals too, for example people who were self-employed could now access a one-off grant payment if forced to self-isolate.
The Leader then moved on and discussed the recent coverage surrounding free school meals, and stated that parents across Thurrock had received £186,000 to support their children and ensure they did not go hungry. He explained that this included £11,000 worth of £15 vouchers, which would be expanded to include the upcoming February half-term, but explained that the free school meals responsibility had now moved to schools as it was term-time. He also outlined that none of the free school meal packages supplied through Thurrock Council had come from those companies mentioned in the press.
The Leader then described the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic was having on bin collection crews, and encouraged residents to report online if their bins had not been collected. He stated that if the entire street had been missed then the bin collection team would come back, but urged residents to contact their local councillor if their bin had not been collected and was more than one week overdue. He also advised residents to park considerately, as some of the missed collections were due to bin lorries not having enough space to enter roads, due to inconsiderate parking. He added that residents also needed to ensure their bins were out early, as crews now started collections as early as 5am.
The Leader then highlighted the work of the Tilbury Town Board, who were currently looking at a bid to increase youth provision, and help to transform the town. He stated that the first step would be submitting this bid to government, and felt it was an excellent example of the good work that the Town Boards could achieve. He stated that during consultation 93% of Tilbury residents had wanted increased youth provision, and this bid would show that residents were being listened too.