Concerns over low coronavirus test uptake in Stockton and in person council meetings have resumed despite legal challenge.
Not enough people are getting tested for coronavirus in Stockton, that's according to the borough's director for public health. Work is ongoing to promote the uptake of tests for those not showing symptoms to help the borough contain the virus as lockdown eases.
In person council meetings
City leaders in Sunderland have held a meeting in person for the first time in over a year. Despite a legal challenge to continue meeting remotely, councils were told by the government that they had to resume in person meetings despite concerns over additional costs and the threat to people's health.
Rather than the usual venue in the Civic Centre’s council chamber, the event was shifted to the Beacon of Light, near the Stadium of Light, with masks mandated for all attendees, although they were allowed to remove them while speaking.
On Wednesday evening, while fans of the Black Cats watched their play-off tilt begin to unravel against Lincoln City, councillors said goodbye to Wearside’s longest serving mayor since the Second World War.
In previous years this would have seen a large public attendance, with family and friends of newly-elected and departing city councillors packing public galleries.
This time, however, social distancing measures saw swathes of the venue’s indoor area left vacant, with chairs set in regimented and well-spaced rows to ensure social distancing.
Outgoing mayor David Snowdon, who saw his term of office doubled as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, paid tribute to the efforts of local authority staff who have kept services running over the past year.
And new mayor Harry Trueman, a former leader of the council, compared the rollback of restrictions to the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, adding he hoped it was attached to an ‘express train’.
Following approval of the council’s diary for the 2021/22 municipal year, local authority committees are expected to continue meeting in person, but with most expected to move to larger venues, such as the Civic Centre’s council chamber, to allow social distancing to continue.
Government legislation passed last year (2020) had allowed proceedings to move online, but this provision has now expired and ministers have refused to extend it, despite a legal challenge.
(Written by James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporter).
Pay it forward
One of the country’s leading fish and chip restaurants has decided to temporarily stop serving alcohol to help surrounding businesses bounce back. Waseem Mir, who runs Harbour View Fish and Chip Restaurant and Takeaway in Seaton Sluice enjoyed record breaking success selling takeaway during the pandemic and wants to encourage people to visit other venues in the area.