Christmas at the Arnison Centre

Every year we try to find ways to cut congestion at the Centre. This year we have already been in touch with the site owners to ask that they look at what is possible to help with parking.

Thankfully the expanded carpark has been completed as well as the extra 50 staff spaces round the back. However the expansion of the centre means that it is looking busier than ever.

We have suggested they bring back the parking helpers who show where there are empty spaces, and continue to believe that the new layout needs some adjustment where some turns are too tight.

We have also asked if the council can signpost the Leisure Centre carpark as overflow parking at weekend.

Most importantly though, if you live close by and are not buying anything too heavy, consider walking to the centre at busy times – it’ll help burn off some of the calories we are all going to put on this Christmas and reduce congestion!!

Councillors commit £2800 from Members Funds towards Children’s Ward Improvements at University Hospital

On a visit to Treetops Ward at University Hospital I thought it could be brightened up a bit and had a chat to the staff. I then discovered that any non-essential improvements such as stickers on walls, toys etc were funded by donations. I also discovered that beds for parents to stay with ill children were not provided as standard.

This made me think that if each County Councillor gave a small amount from their Members Initiative Fund we could make a big difference. So working with officers we sorted out a form and I emailed out a request to 125 fellow councillors.

Amazingly, in total the request went out and dozens of Councillors supported the idea. In total over £2800 has been provided to the ward to carry out a whole raft of improvement. Councillors from across the County, from all political parties as well as independent councillors contributed to the total.

A huge thank to all those who contributed and hopefully the money will make a big difference to the children and their parents who have to spend time at the hospital.

Christmas Tree back in Newton Hall for another year and Framwellgate Moor gets new lights

Working with All Saint’s Church we have secured another year of Christmas decorations for Newton Hall. A bigger Christmas tree has been provided and the lights we bought last year will be up again. In Framwellgate Moor we have provided funding to the Parish Council towards the cost of new lights for the tree on Front Street.

110m stretch in to Pity Me to get big pavement/parking improvement

As many will have seen, the construction of the new footpath and cycleway we secured along the Framwellgate moor/Pity Me bypass is well under way. It occurred to us that if the work was extended into Pity Me, the long overdue improvement to the village could take place and be done cheaper.

We asked the council if they would pay for this and they refused, so we asked if they would contribute to the costs if we used local neighbourhood budgets towards it but they also refused.

Finally after repeated requests we got a price for the works which will save over £12,000 compared to this work being done separate to the Bypass works. So the 110m stretch of path from the roundabout to Potterhouse Terrace will now be resurfaced and rebuilt. The only bit not being done is the stepped area in front of the pub which we hope the Council will look to fund in the future.

We continue to be committed to improving the other side of the road too where the grassed area is in need of verge hardening as due to the lack of parking space, there is frequent parking. We are also working on improvements in other areas including on Framwellgate Moor Front Street.

Framwellgate Moor Parking restrictions installed

The new yellow lines and no waiting no loading markings we secured have now been installed on Framwellgate Moor Front St. This should help to reduce the dangerous parking which has been blocking the pavement.

New posts with signs are also being installed and enforcement of the restrictions will be starting. Hopefully this will make it safer for pedestrians and other road users.

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Labour council’s £12million bill to refinance £43million debt on 3 schools

Last week Lib Dem councillor Owen Temple (Consett) challenged the Council on a deal it is currently cooking up to re-finance £43 million still owing on three school buildings, here I have added some of his comments to my blog, as it is quite clear that once again we have a financial debacle at County Hall set to cost the taxpayer a fortune:

“Durham will have to pay eye-watering early redemption penalties of around £12 million to the banks to refinance the deal. That’s not a misprint. It’s not a mis-placed decimal point. It’s really £12 million. And despite that the county council still expects to save money on the new deal!

That begs the question. What sort of lousy deal was it that allowed the council (which says it is “common for this debt to be refinanced”) to be so badly stitched up that this common practice has turned out to be an ultra-expensive practice? What sort of a deal was it that allowed the county’s finance “partners” (who put the deal together) to write into the contract their share in any additional profit if they were subsequently to arrange a replacement deal?

An appalling deal in my view, and what adds insult to the injury is that now we’re paying lawyers and accountants at least another £68,000 to check out whether we should indeed hand this windfall to the banks and financiers.

I accept that this refinancing may be the right thing to do now because it may still save the council some small amount of money over the next twenty years. I’m pleased that the county’s political leadership agreed to the issue being discussed in public rather than behind closed doors. But I’m convinced that the complacency which I heard at cabinet this morning, the same complacency which allowed this deal to happen in the first place, remains a real threat to the financial well-being of County Durham.

If you want to read the report in full, you can find it here.

Spot on Owen – once again it seems that Labour councillors may have been sleeping on the job to allow such a deal. The amount of waste at Durham County Council appears to have no upper limit!

Local Lib Dems challenge government ban on local authority bus companies

The government is currently trying to change legislation so that local authorities would be banned from starting up bus companies.

The Lib Dem group will call for cross party support on Wednesday against these proposals. We will ask the Council to publicly challenge the plans and to write to the relevant government ministers in protest at these plans.

Any council at some point in the future could find that it has to set up services should there be no local private companies willing or able to run services. The remove this ability is clearly a political move by the Tory Government, and it is unacceptable. Indeed many rural areas of the Country could be aversely hit – ironically many of which are normally Conservative leaning in their views.

Private companies frequently find it difficult to set up bus services in rural areas, and if we remove the ability of a local council to do this then we in effect shut down localism – precisely the opposite of what this government professes to support.

The Link 2 service operated by the Council in County Durham offers a prime example of a service which has been set up to fill a gap in services. I would hate to think that in other areas, should a council wish to,  services could not be set up, or become far more difficult to set up, leaving the vulnerable, disabled or the elderly stranded.

We hope all councillors will support our motion, which Cllr Richard Ormerod is proposing.

Arnison Crossing installed

I’m please to be able to report that following our complaint about the new crossing near to Frankie and Bennies not having being completed, that the site owners moved very quickly and installed the raised crossing.

We remain concerned that many drivers haven’t got used to the new layout and ask pedestrians and particularly drivers to take extra care. I personally observed a driver go straight over the crossing without slowing down, with pedestrians waiting to cross.

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New parking restrictions in Framwellgate Moor – A step closer

There were no formal objections to our plans to put Double Yellow lines and no loading no waiting on the pavement/road opposite the shops in Framwellgate Moor.

As Lib Dem councillors we have listened to residents and acted to stop the pavement parking – there is no excuse for this as there are plenty of car parks and parking bays in the area now.

The single width pavement from near the doctors surgery down towards the bus gate will now get the new markings installed. New signs are being ordered and we hope this will all be in place very soon. We are chasing the Council to get this done asap.

Once in place it will reduce the amount of pavement parking and also allow for far better enforcement against offenders. Of course we will also be pushing for very regular enforcement once the new restrictions are in place.

For anyone doubting the parking provision, you can currently park:

In the club carpark, the business centre car park behind Sainsbury’s, King George’s Carpark (next to the play area), in the car park behind the Community Centre, in the parking bays running the entire length of Front St and in Coop (Salutation) car park – and of course you can always walk to the shops or take the bus too.

Framwellgate Moor Takeaways

We are continuing to report the unacceptable practices of certain takeaways in Framwellgate Moor. Over the last few months not a week has gone by without overflowing bins or cardboard boxes lying around. We have now reported over a dozen times this problem and will continue to do so. The Council is now finally taking it seriously and some legal orders have been issued. If you notice any overflowing business waste bins or dumped commercial waste anywhere in the area please report it to us immediately.