The Chief Executive was in attendance and provided an update to the Board in respect of the following:-
· COVID-19 update
· Executive update
· LMT update
· Chief Executive briefing staff feedback
In terms of the latest local COVID-19 data, as at 18 October 2021 the rolling seven-day rate of cases per 100k of the Middlesbrough population was as follows:
Reference was made to the vaccination rates and to date 65.4% of over 12’s in Middlesbrough had received 2 doses of the vaccine. In terms of vaccination by age range 9.6 % of young people in Middlesbrough aged 12 to 15 had received 1 dose of the vaccine and the vaccination rates increased with age. For example, 87.3 % of people aged 55 to 59 in Middlesbrough had received 2 doses of the vaccine and 94.2 % of people aged over 80 had received their 2 doses. It was emphasised that the number of over 50’s unvaccinated in Middlesbrough was 8.2 %, which equated to 4,335 people and this was the area of greatest concern.
In relation to the Executive decisions taken recently it was noted that a number of reports had been considered. These included; a report on Middlehaven; the expansion of Middlesbrough College; Community Environmental Initiatives; Council Tax Reduction Scheme; Fountain Court and Centre Square Office development.
In respect of the current LMT strategic items if was advised that the focus was on poverty / social exclusion; reoccupation / Fountain Court; values / staff engagement; 2022/23 budget preparation; performance management and locality working.
Reference was made to the feedback received from staff in respect of the Chief Executive’s staff briefings and it was noted that over 95% of staff rated the briefings as very good / good overall; over 90% rated the relevance and usefulness of the content of the briefings as very good / good overall; over 90% rated the opportunity to ask questions at the briefings as very good / good overall and over 70% had opted for the briefings to be continued virtually in the future with over 20% opting for a mix of virtual / in person. It was anticipated that the briefings would continue to be held virtually but on a six monthly basis an in person event would be held.
The themes from the free text responses to the Chief Executive staff briefings were provided and these included the following;-
· Staff valued hearing direct from the top
· Staff wanted the same level of engagement at Directorate level
· Subjects that staff were particularly interested in were; Strategic Priorities; Reoccupation; LMT thinking
Following the update, Members were afforded the opportunity to ask questions.
A Member of the Board made reference to the fact that the take up of the COVID-19 vaccination by young people had been slow and queried whether there was any reported cases of young people in Middlesbrough being hospitalised with COVID-19. In respect of the older generation it was also queried as to whether people were being formally invited to receive their booster vaccinations or whether there was an expectation for them to present at vaccinations clinics. In response it was advised that there had been no significant hospitalisation of any children in Middlesbrough with COVID-19. The data showed that currently there were 3 children in James Cook University Hospital under the age of 19 with COVID-19.
In terms of the booster where individual had been inoculated and were over the age of 50 they were receiving invitations for their boosters.
In respect of the information provided by the Chief Executive, as part of his regular update to the Board, the view was expressed by Members that the information provided was extremely useful and informative and should continue.
Reference was made to the high number of cases of COVID-19 currently amongst the younger cohort and whether any action was being taken within schools to encourage take up of the vaccine. The Board was advised that work would be undertaken and there was currently discussions taking place across the whole of the North East in respect of this issue. A proposal had been put forward that a joint communication across all twelve local authorities be issued. However, it was felt that some of the communication material was not necessarily Tees centric and it may be more effective to adopt a more sub regional approach. A discussion was currently taking place amongst the Chief Executives of the Tees Valley to determine whether action should be taken on a Tees Valley footprint.
In terms of schools undertaking work to encourage young people to take up the COVID-19 vaccine a Member of the Board queried the ethical validity of schools undertaking this role and their entitlement to do that.
The point was also made that anecdotally the take up of vaccines and boosters at the pop up vaccination centre at Newport Hub today had been fantastic and more of these events should be held. Positive feedback was also provided in respect of the introduction of locality working and the view was expressed that there would be real benefits in adopting this approach throughout the town.
Reference was made to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and the point was made that there was a real need for a reduction in the cost of Council Tax for those people facing financial deprivation across the town. However, in order to finance the scheme it was queried as to whether the overall cost of Council Tax increased for other people within the town. In response it was advised that the two were not related and it was simply a case of the amount of funding the Council received for Council Tax support would be used in a more efficient and effective manner.
In terms of the current thinking by LMT in respect of poverty the view was expressed that there could be real benefits in involving the relevant ward Councillors on any working group that had been established to look in further detail at this issue. In response the Chief Executive advised that there would be merit in establishing an all-party working group to contribute specifically to this agenda.
In response to a query regarding the town’s preparations for any future rise in the number of COVID-19 cases it was acknowledged that there was the potential for cases to increase with the onset of winter. However, the Council was more than capable of responding to any spike in cases based on the experience gained throughout the pandemic to date. Although it was acknowledged that at this stage the future trajectory of COVID-19 cases over this forthcoming winter period was unknown. The Board was advised COVID-19 still presented a danger and the Council would be doing everything possible to encourage everyone to minimise the risks of infection wherever possible.
Reference was made to the £150,000 investment in the Community Environmental Initiatives over the next 3 years and further information was requested in respect of this scheme. The Board was advised that the money would be used for Community led environmental initiatives and a report would be available for Members perusal.
The Chair thanked the Chief Executive for his excellent briefing and contribution to the meeting.