Lib Dems challenge Labour’s council budget

This morning is budget day at the Council. With my Lib Dem colleagues we have been pushing using for greater investment in road and footpath repairs, an initiative to help local communities install 20mph schemes and funding to help groups hit by Labour’s devastating youth service cuts.

Once again Cllr Napier (Labour Deputy Leader) said the council has used reserves – £70 million since 2011. Once again I had to point out this was not true – In 2011 reserves were £97 million – they are now over £200 million. So his comments are indefensible – he is treating the public with the upmost disrespect by saying things which are patently untrue.

Our proposals to invest more in roads and footpaths, to protect youth services and provide funding for community safety were voted down by Labour councillors.

This despite the fact that we were funding them from money which the council had placed into its reserve against its own policy.

General reserves should not rise above 7.5% of council spending according to the councils rules. They will be up to £2m above that, in breach of the Council’s own rules yet Labour councillors refused to listen and refused to support spending on the priorities we put forward.

Having refused to accept our proposals this left the money in the accounts unallocated. In addition, with reserves of well over £200million, it was simply not right to then ask the public for a 2% council tax rise on top of a 2% rise for adult care.

So we proposed removing the 2% rise. This was also voted down by Labour who offered no explanation of why reserves had gone up rather than down as they suggested.

So once again services are cut unnecessarily and more money will sit in council coffers unspent – taken out of the pockets of local people.

Can you spare a few quid to help Jade Gadd and her family

Jade lives in Newton Hall with her parents and has a genetic condition which causes her joints to spontaneously dislocate at any time.

They need alterations to their house so she has proper access to it.

We all see adverts and news stories asking for help for people across the UK or even overseas. On this occasion we can actually help someone who lives just round the corner.

The Council has so far agreed to fund part of the works through funding provided via the government, however the overall cost is far higher than the maximum grant available. I am currently pushing for further help and to get things moving. However we need to do more.

There’s more information on the funding page about the conditions Jade is living in and the work needed. The have so far raised over £8000 but need to get closer to £30000!

Link to fundraising page: https://gogetfunding.com/disabled-house-renovations-for-jade/

 

Councillor sleeping rough to promote homelessness initiative

It’s not often I find myself praising a Labour councillor, but Cllr Nearney (Annfield Plain) is sleeping out with SHAID (Single Homeless Action Initiative Durham) staff and volunteers. Well done.

We don’t have an enormous visible homelessness problem in County Durham, however there are a lot of unreported and unrecognised problems. There are many people who find themselves for a variety of reasons struggling to find somewhere to stay. The more we can promote these issues the better

You can donate to the group at https://shaid.charitycheckout.co.uk/

 

The Shame of Labour’s Youth Cuts – Entirely Labour’s Fault

Durham Council is set to cut funding for ALL 204 weekly youth club sessions despite reserves of well over £200 million!

Labour-run Durham County Council has announced all its funding for youth clubs will stop. The Council currently provides funding towards 204 sessions a week.
These plans are outrageous. We have repeatedly pleaded over many months with Labour councillors not to carry out the cuts, including asking Cllr Simon Henig and his deputy at least twice at full council meetings.
I also again asked last week at the Overview and Scrutiny board meeting for the committee to agree to put forward a proposal to provide funding to give local charities and groups time to adjust. Councillor Joe Armstrong (Langley Park/Witton Gilbert councillor) once again refused to allow a vote on the issue – he really is the most undemocratic, unreasonable councillor I have ever had the misfortune to meet.
These youth cuts are an attack on our young people. Everyone in County Durham should know that these plans are not necessary. The Council can afford to keep funding these sessions. The Council has millions of pounds allocated to nothing. Every year they increase their reserves despite saying they are spending them.
The public have said they do not want big cuts to youth services. Durham Labour are ignoring them. They are picking on people who don’t have a vote. This will cost far more in the long term as we will have to deal with a whole raft of knock on effects.
Councillors will vote on the budget on Wednesday. We will be putting forward proposals to provide funding for youth groups to compensate for the huge cut in funding by Labour.
Scrapping funding for all open access youth clubs will result in more funding needing to be found to deal with problems caused by the plans. Many youth sessions provide young people with advice on sexual health, phone and internet safety, help with bullying, sports and leisure activities, as well as simply having somewhere to go.
Most people know that youth clubs help to reduce anti-social behaviour and can give young people valuable experiences. Local youth clubs in the Framwellgate Moor area have run Duke of Edinburgh schemes which we helped fund for example. These have been immensely rewarding and successful.
If local charities and groups don’t have even basic funding from the Council, it becomes much more difficult for them to be sustainable. I am truly appalled at the short sightedness of the Council, and gobsmacked that it’s a Labour-run administration ripping apart youth provision.
And for any hardened Labour supporters and members out there reading my blog who will cry that this is down to Tory cuts, just go and take a look at the list of over 50 reserves and cash limits which the council has. Indeed only last week we were told one reserve was million pounds over the top end level required.
So when something really important like this is being cut, I can assure everyone that there is always somewhere to find some money to help to protect the service or assist in transitioning groups. Its all about priorities and these cuts are 100% Durham Labour’s fault!

Take away takeaways? No – let’s just get some cajones and force them to respect our area

For the umpteenth time (as many of you will know) I found myself reporting problems with takeaways in Framwellgate Moor today. At least three of them had overflowing bins once again – with boxes and containers lying around or blowing down the street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I seemed to sufficiently embarrass staff at the one shop for them to take action and clear up their mess – yet it will be the same again in a few days or weeks or months:

The owners need to properly train staff, have sufficient bins and have the common decency to respect our area. Its common sense that if a takeaway bin is overflowing it is a littering and vermin risk. If containers are outside with no lids on half-full of fat they are a fire risk. If packaging is blowing down the street it’s unacceptable.

I know from personal experience that the Council staff we have in various departments work really hard and really care about keeping our area tidy and improving it. I know wardens have been out many times.

However after over twelve months of banging on about it to officers and directors I am struggling to understand how with all the legislation out there we haven’t managed to hit these owners with fines. We need a properly resourced enforcement and legal team with every weapon available. And we need them to have cajones and use those weapons! Up the fines to highest levels possible and have a zero tolerance approach. Where necessary name and shame the offending businesses or shut them down.

If you spot any of the takeaway bins in our area overflowing or takeaway rubbish lying around please photograph it and email it to help@durham.gov.uk with the location/time of the infringement, copying me in. I figure that the only way the Council is going to get hard on these guys is if they are inundated with complaints and photos from the public. Perhaps then the rats in the area might go hungry and our streets will look clean and tidy.

I for one will not be using any of the businesses I see repeatedly leaving our area looking a mess.

Flytipping – cracking down across our area – Can you help?

Do you walk around our area a lot? Please help us spot flytipping and rubbish so we can get it cleared up.

On a  walkabout this week from Pity Me to Framwellgate Moor I found a fair bit of stuff dumped off the old Wagonway between Pity Me and Framwellgate Moor.

This has been reported and we expect the Council will sort it out fairly quickly.

Any potholes out there? Help us get them fixed

In the last week we have requested action at the Arnison Centre roundabout, on Carr House Drive, Bek Road and Rothbury Road in Newton Hall all for pothole repairs, and on Pity Me Front Street where the road is cracking up.

Of course we don’t think these are as bad as some we saw in another area of the County last week. See picture below of some pretty deep holes filled with rainwater. Needless to say the area has Labour councillors!

We think we are pretty proactive in chasing up road and footpath defects, so if you spot anything like this in our area we would be surprised, but please do let us know.

We think the Council needs to invest far more local funding into road and footpath repairs. It is one of the top complaints we get and as Lib Dem councillors we will continue to push for action.

Cracking down on illegal Framwellgate Moor Parking? Seems Council needs a huge shove!

Framwellgate Moor Front Street

I was pretty unimpressed this morning to find a council vehicle parked blocking the pavement, parked on double yellow lines with no loading markings. And they were’t doing any work – they were getting their dinner. How are we supposed to stop the illegal parking if the Council’s own staff are ignoring the rules. These markings were put down for very good reasons:

The main ones being to stop the obstruction of the pavement, to stop someone being knocked over by a vehicle mounting the pavement, to stop someone being knocked over walking between illegally parked vehicles, to cut congestion, stop damage to kerbs and the pavement, to name a few.

I have asked for more rigorous enforcement of the restrictions. And reported this and the other two vehicles I photographed.

Problem households causing major rubbish and vermin headache

There are a small number of problem households in the area causing real concern to residents.

As this picture shows it is pretty serious. One such property in Pity Me has been an issue for many months, with three residents taken to court and issued fines, yet the problem continues.

The Council is working hard to address problems at this and other properties following repeated requests from local residents and your Lib Dem councillors. This kind of behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated and we are chasing up the Council regularly where an issue is not dealt with.

If you are aware of any properties where there are similar problems please let us know asap. We need to make sure they are dealt with to avoid vermin issues and cost to the council of clearing up wind blown rubbish. Its also unacceptable to us to have any part of the area looking a mess like this.