The Leader began his statement
by discussing the government’s roadmap to recovery as
children returned to school this week for face-to-face lessons;
care home residents could now receive one nominated visitor; and
residents could now meet with one person outside their homes, as
long as social distancing remained in place. He then stated that
39,000 first dose vaccines had been given in Thurrock this week,
and 1,300 second dose vaccines had also been given. He explained
that the number of positive COVID cases had dropped by 96% in
Thurrock from early January, and numbers were now returning to
levels that had not been seen since October. He felt that although
the numbers were moving in the right direction, people still needed
to follow the guidelines. He described how the next step of the
roadmap could not be carried out unless certain criteria, such as
reduced rates of infection, continued vaccine deployment and a
lower risk to the NHS, had been met, and urged residents to follow
the rules and guidance to ensure the next step of the roadmap could
take place when due.
The Leader stated that Thurrock needed to be prepared for the next step of the roadmap by continuing to get tested regularly, particularly working-age men who could not work from home. He explained that there were many locations across the borough where tests could be accessed, which included walk-through centres, drive-thru centres and a new drop in testing centre in South Ockendon. He urged residents to continue to take care as the next stage of the roadmap occurred, including parents on the school run maintaining social distancing and not forming crowds during drop-off and pick-up times. The Leader added that the Prime Minister would be assessing the data before moving on to the next roadmap step, and felt that this allowed Thurrock time to prepare for the next step of rule relaxation. He stated that Thurrock were working with pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues to ensure they can open safely outdoors, in a COVID secure way, on 12 April, as well as working with other non-essential retailers who were due to open. He urged residents to continue to follow the guidance of ‘hands, face, space’ and felt that if residents continued with their hard work, the ultimate goal of leaving lockdown for good would be achieved.
The Leader then outlined the COVID figures for Thurrock and stated that between 26 February and 4 March, there had been 15 positive COVID cases for those under 18, which had decreased from 26 cases the previous week; 60 positive cases for those aged between 18-49, which had decreased from 98 cases the previous week; 8 positive cases for those aged between 50-59; which had decreased from 21 cases the previous week; and 6 positive cases for those aged over 70, which had decreased from 10 the previous week. He stated that therefore there had been a drop in positive cases from 170 to 97 last week. The Leader then stated that 5,526 tests had been carried out in the previous seven days, which had increased from 4,964 the week before, which meant that there was currently a positive test rate of 55.6 per 100,000, which had again dropped from 97.5 per 100,000 the week before. He stated that Thurrock currently had the 82nd highest number of COVID cases across 149 local authorities, and this had decreased from 70th the week before.
The Leader moved on and outlined the success of the Thames Freeport bid, which had been agreed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of his budget, and meant that Thurrock would be one of eight new Freeports across the country. He felt that the Freeport would deliver transformational change across the borough, as well as creating thousands of new jobs and high levels of investment. He stated that Thames Freeport would contain 1,700 acres of development land, much of which already had planning consent due to previous industrial sites on the land. He felt that the Freeport would provide new opportunities for those who lived and worked in Thurrock, and would attract billions in private investment over the next 25 years. He added that over 25,000 direct jobs and up to 20,000 indirect jobs would be created across industries such as aerospace, automotive, manufacturing and processing across the borough.
The Leader stated that the successful Freeport bid also meant that new specialist training centres would be developed to ensure that residents could up-skill and secure better-paid roles in brand new sectors, which would help local communities. He mentioned that using the river for transport and freight, as well as increasing rail capacity, would also have a positive impact as it would reduce the use of road haulage and improve air quality. The Leader explained that the Free Port would also help Thurrock reach its goal of a net zero carbon footprint, as Thurrock would become a centre for clean energy innovation and transformation. He felt that Thurrock would become more attractive to investors, businesses and entrepreneurs, and would help improve the lives of residents. He welcomed the successful bid of the Thames Freeport and felt that it would reinforce Thurrock as the ports capital of the UK.
The Leader then discussed recent enforcement success, and highlighted how the Council were willing to take action on those that blighted the boroughs landscape and were a nuisance for their neighbours. He highlighted a man from West Thurrock who had to pay over £3,500 after allowing his rear garden to become a dumping ground, which had a negative impact on his neighbours. He felt that all residents had a right to enjoy their gardens, and stated that the Council would take action when incidents similar to this were reported by residents. He added that the Council would also take action against people who dropped cigarette ends, rubbish and undertook other anti-social behaviour. He stated that the best way to avoid a fine or fixed penalty notice was to take your rubbish home or use a litter bin. The Leader stated that since April 2020, over 3,800 fixed penalty notices had been issued for offences such as spitting, littering and dropping cigarette ends, as well as 166 fixed penalty notices for fly-tipping. The Leader commented that the Council had prosecuted 524 people who did not pay their fixed penalty notices. He mentioned that the Council had also attended every dumped vehicle within the borough within 24 hours, and removed all those which the Council had been instructed to move within 48 hours.
The Leader summarised and stated that this was the last Cabinet meeting that Roger Harris, the Corporate Director of Adults, Housing and Health would attend. He stated that Roger had had a distinguished 40 year career in health and social care, and had spent the last 13 years at Thurrock. He commented that Roger had been highly regarded by officers and Members, and would be missed by Cabinet colleagues, and officers at all levels. The Leader wished him well for his retirement and thanked him for all his hard and thoughtful work throughout the years.
Councillor Halden added that he had been a Councillor for 11 years, and a Portfolio Holder for 7 of those years, and had worked very closely with Roger. He felt that Roger had been an excellent director, and had been very supportive during the early stages of his Portfolio Holder career. He stated that Roger had helped to build a resilient care system and had helped to protect the most vulnerable residents. Councillor Halden thanked him for his hard work, and wished him well in his retirement. He welcomed the new Corporate Director Adults, Housing and Health, Ian Wake, into the role and felt the good work would continue under his leadership. Councillor Huelin also gave her personal thanks to Roger, as he had helped her over the past six years as Portfolio Holder. She felt that Roger should be proud of his achievements and wished him well in the future.
Councillor Hebb added his personal thanks to Roger for all his hard work, and felt he had been authentic and visible throughout his time as director. He added that Roger had managed to achieve good outcomes for the service, and had been an excellent leader during the COVID-19 crisis. He mentioned that Roger had also built a fantastic team, and felt pleased that Ian would continue this work. Councillor Mayes commented that although he had not worked with Roger as long as others, he was pleased to have worked with him for the 13 months he had been Portfolio Holder. He stated that they had only worked together for six weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic, but despite that they had still managed to push forward with the Integrated Medical Centres and other projects. He thanked Roger for all his guidance and support, and wished him the best of luck for the future.
Councillor Watkins reiterated the thanks that had already been given and added that Roger had been a particular help to him personally during his time on the Health and Wellbeing Board and Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He felt that Roger had always listened to his ideas, and had supported him in his Cabinet role. Councillor Johnson summarised and thanked Roger for his hard work in the Housing directorate. He felt Roger had continually worked hard and provided invaluable knowledge. He stated that both Roger and Carol Hinvest, the Housing Assistant Director, would be missed.