Agenda item

Chief Executive's Update

The Chief Executive will be in attendance to provide the Board with an update in respect of the Council’s response to COVID-19 and other organisational matters.


The Chief Executive was attendance and provided an update to the Board in respect of the following:-


·         COVID-19 update

·         Executive decisions, July

·         Upcoming Executive decisions, August

·         Staff communications

·         Children’s Proxy Indicators

·         Middlesbrough Children Matters priorities


In terms of the latest local COVID-19 data, as at 26 July 2021 the rolling seven-day rate of cases per 100k of the Middlesbrough population was as follows:


  • 134 new cases had been added to the system on 26 July 2021;
  • 1205 new cases had been diagnosed in the last seven days;
  • 854.7 rate per 100k of population (last seven days); and
  • 280.90 COVID-19 deaths per 100k population.


Reference was made to the vaccination rates and to date 58.4% of over 18’s in Middlesbrough had received 2 doses of the vaccine. This compared with 74.5 % in Northumberland, which had the highest rate in the North East region. It was emphasised that the uptake rates by Council area did not take account of the age demographics. Once deprivation and BAME was considered, it became more difficult for Middlesbrough to match Northumberland.


In relation to the Executive decisions scheduled taken in July it was noted that a number of reports had been considered. These included; a report the Community Safety Plan 2020-22; the Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy 2021-37 and the ECS Town-Wide Lighting Scheme. A number of Executive decisions were scheduled to be taken in August and these included; a report on the Council’s approach to Community Engagement; an update on the Children’s Improvement Journey; an extension of the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO’s); the Middlehaven option agreement and a number of land disposals.


In terms of staff communication and engagement it was advised that in 2019, staff were asked how valued and connected they felt to the organisation and it was found that:   


  • almost half of the staff that responded felt undervalued;
  • almost a quarter of staff didn’t meet with or receive communications from their managers; and
  • generally, there was not a consistent understanding of our strategic aims and priorities across the organisation.


It was explained that in January 2020, plans were developed and implemented to address those issues but before any real change could take effect COVID happened. A new staff survey was due to be circulated before the end of July 2021, with the results analysed by mid-September. Following the analysis a consistent set of tools would be developed to share corporate communications with the wider staff audience, regardless of their role with practical templates, materials and methods, suggested key messages for specific audiences and a set of minimum standards of engagement.


Reference was made to the Children’s Proxy Indicators and Middlesbrough Children Matters, although further detail in relation to these would be discussed as part of the specific agenda item covering these matters.


Following the update, Members were afforded the opportunity to ask questions.


In terms of vaccinations a Member queried whether these were yet being offered to children aged 15 or if the roll out for those aged 15 to 18 had yet commenced. It was advised that the roll out was currently fixed on those 18 or over unless an individual had serious health concerns.  


A Member of the Board wished to commend the staff in Public Health for the fantastic efforts to deliver COVID vaccines in the community, with events held in wards throughout the town to encourage take-up and promote the vaccine. The Chief Executive made reference to the fact that as of the 26 July 2021 the whole of the North East had become an area of enhanced area of support nationally. Although it was unknown at this stage what that would mean fully it was anticipated that Middlesbrough would receive additional support to increase the uptake rates of the vaccine.  


A Member queried whether any thought had yet been given to young people starting Teesside University or the Art College in September 2021 and if there would be the opportunity for them to get a vaccine on site. It was advised that the Strategic Co-ordination Group, which included representatives from Teesside University, Middlesbrough College and the Art College was scheduled to meet that afternoon and this item was on the agenda. The Melissa Bus had been used in Middlesbrough and a Middlesbrough Foundation Club Bus had also been used to encourage take up amongst different groups.


A Member queried the number of current staff absences related to COVID and it was advised that the Council’s sickness rate as at the 21 July 2021 was at 5.1%, approximately 1/5th of that was COVID related so around 1% of the workforce off with COVID. In terms of self-isolating approximately 69 members of staff were self-isolating whereby there were unable to work from home and were therefore not a cause of widespread organisational concern. However, there had been an outbreak in refuse collection and therefore there had been some issues in that area, as well as some issues in the commissioned care market. Overall these were not causing any significant problems.


In response to the comments expressed and concerns raised by Members in respect of the disappointing results of the 2019 staff survey it was advised that sustained efforts were being made to improve communication and connectivity with staff. Progress had been made and the results from recent surveys about home working and connectedness with the organisation were good. Staff satisfaction with working for the Council had increased by approximately 12 % over the last 3 years, although it was acknowledged that further improvements were needed.       


The Chair expressed the view that it was extremely sad to see that half of Council staff felt undervalued and it was queried as to whether the reasons were known. It was advised that the reasons were inevitably varied and it was for management locally to resolve the particular concerns of their staff. The proof would be whether in subsequent staff surveys a higher percentage of staff advised that they felt valued.     


The Chair thanked the Chief Executive for his attendance and contribution to the meeting. NOTED

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