Just over two weeks ago our schools returned as part of the first steps out of lockdown. Along with managing testing, I want to thank staff in our schools, as well as parents and pupils, for their help in making the return so smooth.

As a council, we are busy putting preparations in place for when lockdown eases.

I know the rollout of the vaccination offers us real hope for the future. For this reason, I want to thank all the staff and volunteers involved, especially those at the Broadway Theatre which saw its 10,000th injection recently.

Last week, another local vaccination centre opened at Londoneast in Dagenham, making it easier still for residents to get the jab near to home.

For now, restrictions will remain in place and there are still challenges ahead. One reminder of the challenges is, in the last year alone, we have seen a doubling in unemployment.

That is why we have put in place plans in the immediate future to help people back into work.

This includes a Kickstart scheme where we hope to create 250 new jobs alone. We are also busy finding people work through our job brokerage scheme as well as offering apprenticeships alongside our partners in the adult college. The Barking Enterprise Centre is also helping businesses update their plans.

The next big date is April 12 when non-essential shops reopen.

The borough is booming with lots of new homes being built which will create new job opportunities. As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to rebuild the economy in construction, care and retail. But we also need to grow new jobs in food, creative, digital and green industries.

Our plans for growth not only mean there is lots of construction work underway across the borough. As well as the film studios and three markets, we are seeing the growth of green technologies and that is why we are placing ourselves in a position to capitalise on these. The government’s approval of the Thames Freeport bid holds out the promise of repurposing the Ford engine plant.

These are just some of the examples of how we are leaving no stone unturned and will continue to work around the clock to secure the recovery for all our residents.

Barking and Dagenham Post: Cllr Darren Rodwell is preparing the borough for coming out of lockdownCllr Darren Rodwell is preparing the borough for coming out of lockdown (Image: Ken Mears)