Dozens of potholes, pavement defects, blocked drains and damaged kerbs reported by your Lib Dem councillors

Over the last few months we have been out and about noting problems across the area. In addition, our surveys have been coming back in and we have been reporting the problems you have identified. Many of these have already been fixed following our intervention, more are still to be done. We also know there will be other local issues not reported yet. Please let us know about any potholes, pavement defects, streetlights not working, blocked drains or broken kerbstones or anything else you feel is affecting the look of the area.

Streets where we have recently reported problems include: Newton Drive, Gray Av, Winchester Rd, Hylton Rd, Aykley Vale, St Cuthberts Av, Front Street in Pity Me and Framwellgate Moor and Old Pit Lane to name a few.

Big tree update – Sadly its too badly rotten to save

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 12.45.09

 

The tree near Pullmans Volkswagen we thought could be saved last week is rotten right through and is being taken down today by the Council’s tree surgeons. It had been hoped it could be saved last week when it was inspected, but the inside is just too rotten and there is a risk it could be blown over in heavy wind.

The council has agreed to plant a number of trees to replace it, but obviously losing an 80 year old Ash tree is a terrible shame.

Article 4 Consultation – urgent

The council is consulting again on the proposals we secured to add our area into the Article 4 Direction.

This will make it easier to challenge the conversion of properties into Houses of Multiple Occupation. We need residents to back this proposal to make sure that we keep the sustainable community we need.

This is not just about student accommodation, there are properties being converted to four five or six beds which are basically terraced houses. The knock on effects are significant to local residents.

Please attend the consultations. Consultation dates:

  • Wednesday, 18 May, 1pm to 5pm – Framwellgate Moor Community Centre
  • Thursday, 2 June, 3pm to 7pm – All Saints Church, Newton Hall

Student accommodation/houses in multiple occupation (HMO) – Framwellgate Moor area – Council explanation

What are we doing? We are currently consulting on a proposal which will impact on student accommodation in Framwellgate Moor, Pity Me and Newton Hall. This is an Article 4 Direction which would mean that all future changes of use from a residential property to a HMO would require planning consent in Framwellgate Moor, Pity Me and Newton Hall.

Why are we doing it? The use of an Article 4 Direction would help the council maintain mixed and balanced communities in the area.

Where does it apply? It would apply to a defined area within Framwellgate Moor, Pity Me and Newton Hall.

The closing date for comments is Monday 6 June 2016.

More info from my previous posts below:

The council completed its first consultation on introducing new rules in the City on student/HMO housing earlier in the year. The aim of this is to protect areas from having too many houses of multiple occupation, to avoid the negative consequences. When we found out about this last year, we immediately asked for our area to be included as it had been ignored. An initial consultation was arranged by your Lib Dem councillors.

The council has now accepted that  the area should be considered for inclusion, and a final round of consultation will start soon, along with a couple of drop in events in our area which we have requested.

Our previous post on this can be found here:

http://markwilkes.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/09/29/article-4-direction-framwellgate-moor-area/

Please do join in the consultation and help us ensure that our area retains a mixed community without any further increase in the problems which HMOs can cause in the wrong places.

Another day of shame as Labour agrees to dismiss 2700 teaching assistants and re-employ them on worse conditions and lower pay

57 Labour councillors lined up today to approve the dismissal of 2,700 teaching assistants. They will then be offered their jobs back – minus 10% or more of their pay.
There is no surprise in that. It was pre-determined when the Labour Party refused permission to discuss the question in December, and then voted against a review of the position in January.

Lib Dem councillors including particularly Cllr Owen Temple have led this fight against our undemocratic and increasingly employee averse Labour councillors.

There are even more questions to be answered now though.

Where were the rest of the Labour councillors?

39 of the 96 Labour councillors were not in the chamber to vote. Some of us wondered whether Labour’s top brass called for a “named vote” in order to have something to beat the opposition with, or because they wanted to know exactly who they were going to have to whip into line in their own group. Time will tell.

Why did Councillor Napier duck his question?

Having stated that he had only become aware of the equality issue in teaching assistant’s pay contracts a year ago, Councillor Napier – deputy leader for nearly a decade (the most senior politician with responsibility in this area) didn’t answer the question of why he’d only known about it a year when the report said that the problems had been known since 2012.

It rather begs the question of who runs the council? And whether Cllr Napier and his colleagues are asleep on the job.

How did Labour Councillor Jane Brown, Portfolio Holder with responsibility on the council’s side, get hold of Unison’s legal advice?

The council has jealously guarded it’s own’s legal advice in order that it cannot fall into “the other side’s hands” – indeed initially we were refused permission to see it and only our group leader has had that opportunity after repeat requests. So how has “the other side’s” legal advice (She even mentioned the solicitor’s name, Thompsons) been provided to the Labour councillor in charge of HR?

Presumably this has nothing to do with the unions having free accommodation from the county council, together with part payment of union officials’ salaries! Is there really any difference between the Labour party and the unions? Who is fighting the corner of the employee?

Well done teaching assistants and their heads.

We were surprised that some teaching assistants had come to voice their concerns, and did so with the approval of their headteachers – only a small number – as the rest had to stay and look after children – proper dedication and professionalism.

Labour failure

I remain convinced that this decision will come back to bite the Council and that Labour’s decision to hang TAs out to dry has cost them any belief they have a moral backbone or work for the low paid in our county. Hopefully it will also cost them a raft of votes too.

A final thought – the Labour Party has cut TAs pay so much that a huge number of them will be required by law to have pay rises in the coming years as the living wage and minimum wage rise. TAs in County Durham are paid the lowest rate in the whole of the North East! A really sad state of affairs to think that someone working so hard to improve the education and well-being of our children is being paid a wage which barely keeps them above the poverty line – thanks to a LABOUR council.

Arnison Centre Works continue

Work to redesign the car park at the Arnison Centre are fully underway now. When finished there will be 70 extra parking spaces.

What is less visible to residents is that a new car park for staff has been finished and is now in use at the back of the site with 50 spaces. We had insisted on action to improve parking and reduce staff parking within the retail area as part of the planning application to improve the site.

Staff carpark:WP_20160507_17_11_17_Pro

Of course at the moment its a bit of a nightmare with the car park closed off, but hopefully when all the changes have been finished, the site will look and work much better.

Balanced information on EU debate

Whichever way you are voting in the EU referendum, you may find the BBCs reality checker worth a read. Both sides in this debate are pushing the boundaries of reality and this page gives as close to an honest answer to the questions claims and counter claims as I have seen so far:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35603388

This page has a guide to the issues:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36027205

and this one has details of how the EU works:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zgjwtyc

If you look at the debate perhaps slightly selfishly and only think about the North East, I would suggest that there is a huge reason for voting to remain in the EU. No UK government of any persuasion can be guaranteed to provide the investment into the North East which comes from the EU. County Durham alone is getting over £120m of EU investment over the six years to 2020. A big chunk of this is investment in job creation, and I remain unconvinced that any money saved – if money was saved – from leaving the EU would ever find its way to the North East, and as a result we would end up in a far worse situation. The Tories don’t care about the North East and Labour take us for granted. I predict that is set to continue as it has done for decades. Being in the EU helps to counteract this and it would be dangerous to lose such huge investment in our County and our region. Just one small consideration out of many.

Special Full Council Meeting 16th May – TA Contracts and Another top Management reorganisation

The Council has slotted in a special council meeting this coming month to debate two issues:

Firstly their plans to cut pay of teaching assistants by up to a quarter. We are yet to see the final proposal and will be discussing it in the next few weeks.

The second issue to be debated – and it is only 7 years overdue, is the re-re-re-restructuring of the senior management system at County Hall. For years we have pushed for a more slimlined top level. Finally it appears Labour may have listened. Had the Labour Party agreed with us all those years ago, we would now have had over a millions of pounds more to spend every year on frontline services – that is assuming the proposals we have yet to see make the changes we have previously recommended. They have repeatedly tinkered round the edges on this issue.

We will be looking closely at the plans for what we hope are fewer directors and heads of service to make sure that it is a proper, final reorganisation. I personally would like to see some of the money saved ploughed back into frontline services rather than simply added to reserves once again.

Stalled Brasside flood works back on track

The works at Brasside to improve the storm drains is continuing this week after rain delays the previous week. The work, part funded by the home office and part by our local neighbourhood budgets is set to cut flood risk on Beech Close. We have had to fight hard for residents to get this sorted for many years and I am pleased to see action quite literally on the ground thanks to our intervention.

Tindale Avenue Flytipping and rubbish finally sorted after further Lib Dem intervention

I was pretty unimpressed a couple of days ago when revisting South Terrace and Tindale Avenue to discover this:

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I had previously asked months ago for some of this to be shifted, then asked again a a month or so later, then two weeks ago on site with council officers I was given a date it would be shifted and it wasn’t. And of course it was even worse this week when I checked.

I am pleased to say that after elevating the issue and kicking up a fuss, the whole lot has now been cleared and in future I will not be so tolerant of such delays by the Council.

If anyone knows of any areas with flytipping and rubbish please let us know immediately so it doesn’t get out of hand, and if it isn’t shifted within a few days let us know again. We need to keep on top of such issues to make sure our area is kept clean and tidy.

Also if anyone knows who might be dumping rubbish anywhere let us know. The council can impose hefty fines on the culprits.