More than 100 Apprenticeships at DCC

Delighted to announce that the Council will be recruiting over 100 apprenticeships. Council press release:

We are recruiting apprentices across a wide range of occupations from entry to degree level, offering people the chance to earn as they learn. The scheme is our largest apprenticeship recruitment campaign to date.

Apprenticeships are open to people of all ages. Applicants can be a school leaver, someone looking to return to work after a period of absence or those looking for a complete change of career.

Roles currently available span a range of occupations including: adult care, gardener, bricklayer, catering, refuse and recycling, leisure, joinery, premises assistant, human resources, ICT, financial management and customer services. Other positions available include HGV technician, electrician, heating engineer, data analyst, project management, chartered surveying, civil engineering, procurement and solicitor, among others.

Gaining experience 

We were awarded a place in the government’s Top 100 Apprenticeships Employers in October 2020, with the list celebrating outstanding apprenticeship employers from both the public and private sectors.

Jess Ball started her Level 3 business administration apprenticeship with us in April 2021 after transferring from a solicitor firm. She is now based in the health and safety team on a two-year apprenticeship.

The 16-year-old said: “I knew I didn’t want to go to college full-time so an apprenticeship seemed like the perfect option. I’ll finish my apprenticeship with the same qualification as if I had been at college full-time, but I’m being paid to complete it and gaining great experience along the way.

“It was really nerve-wracking to start a new job working from home but the team has been so helpful. They couldn’t have done more to help me settle in and support me in the new role and I am so pleased that this is the route I have taken.”

Attract and retain talent

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for people to get into work and earn while they learn, gain valuable experience and progress in their career.

They also help us to attract and retain the very best talent and a workforce for the future. In turn, this allows us to deliver the highest quality services to communities across the county.

I’d encourage those who think any of the various roles on offer would suit them to find out more and apply. Our current chief executive, John Hewitt, started his career as an apprentice, so who knows, perhaps this recruitment exercise will unearth a chief executive of the future.

Find out more 

The closing date for applications for the roles is Sunday 8 May, with the positions beginning in September. Applicants can apply through the North East Jobs Portal 

For further information on apprenticeships.Website feedback

Bus service improvements – 6/7/64 services every 15 min instead of 20 min from 10th April

The Council has been working with bus companies to address some of the issues with usage. A number of small but positive changes have been implemented in our area, as shown in the following list (some are for other areas).

The main changes for us are the 6, 7 and 64 service going from once every 20 minutes to once every 15 minutes mainly Mon-Fri – Changes start from next week (10th April)

Date of changeService NumberOperatorFrom/ToComments
4th April83Scarlet BandWoodland – CockfieldEmergency contract awarded to Hodgsons operating to exactly the same timetable as now in place of previous contractor Scarlet Band. Arises from Scarlet Band struggling to deliver the timetable due to driver shortages.
10th April6ArrivaDurham – Cockfield via Spennymoor & Bishop AucklandMonday to Saturday frequency increased to every 15 minutes from current every 20 minutes. Pre-covid frequency had been every 12 minutes. Extra peak time journeys to Framwellgate Moor.
10th April7ArrivaDarlington – Durham via Newton Aycliffe & FerryhillMonday to Friday daytime frequency restored to every 15 minutes from current every 20 minutes. Pre-covid frequency had been every 15 minutes. Extra peak time journeys to Framwellgate Moor. Saturdays to remain at every 20 minutes.
10th April8/8AArrivaDarlington – SpennymoorMinor change to last trip from Spennymoor to improve reliability.
10th April56/56AArrivaDurham – Bishop Auckland via Coxhoe, West Cornforth and CoundonMinor changes to early journeys towards Durham improving headway. Evening service on Sunday withdrawn – last journey from Durham 1850 (currently 2300), last journey from Stobb Cross 1918 (currently 2328).
10th April57/57AArrivaDurham – Hartlepool via Coxhoe & KelloeMinor changes to early journeys towards Durham improving headway.
10th April64ArrivaArnison Centre – Sherburn Village via Durham City centreMonday to Saturday daytime frequency revised to every 15 minutes from current every 20 minutes. Pre-covid frequency had been every 10 minutes. Pattern will be two per hour to/from Sherburn Village and two per hour short to/from Sunderland Rd Estate.
10th April86ArrivaBishop Auckland – Toft HillService withdrawn however DCC have, through open tender, contracted Rural Link to operate a near identical timetable including the evening journeys until recently operated under contract by Go North East. To be called service 87 to differentiate from Arriva’s continuing 86 to Bishop Auckland College.
10th AprilX12ArrivaMiddlesbrough to Newcastle via Coxhoe & DurhamMinor changes to early morning journeys between Middlesbrough and Durham improving headway.

Want something to do this coming weekend or any weekend from now until the autumn? How about a visit to Killhope?

A popular mining museum attraction in County Durham is set to re-open for the new season following its winter break. 

Killhope Lead Mining Museum, in Bishop Auckland, is a multi-award winning 19th centurymuseum in the centre of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), where visitors can experience the life and work of the lead mining families.

The centre, which is run by Durham County Council, will re-open to the public for 2022 on Friday 1 April, ahead of the Easter holidays. Admission is free and the museum will once again be offering a diverse events programme, including its blacksmith workshops and demonstrations.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, the council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “Killhope is a fantastic day out for people of all ages, with various different activities and attractions available at the museum.

“It is the type of attraction that is integral to our bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025, having reached the final four of the competition. Harnessing the fascinating heritage of County Durham and showcasing our extensive cultural offering to residents and visitors alike is one of the things that we do best.”

Famous for its iconic working waterwheel, Killhope offers a stunning landscape, the Vug artworkinstallation which displays interesting minerals and strange formations found underground, scenic walks and amazing wildlife – including red squirrels. Visitors can also accompany one of the centre’s guides on an unforgettable underground mine tour.

In November 2021, VisitEngland awarded Killhope a Best Told Story accolade for the exciting and engaging way it tells the story of what life was like for lead mining families in the 19th century.

For further information on the museum go to killhope.org.uk/

Bidding for the Great British Railway HQ

We are bidding to host the HQ for the railways. Council press release:

County Durham’s illustrious rail heritage, thriving train building industry and pioneering cultural and economic ambitions make it the ideal home for the Great British Railways (GBR) headquarters.

RailwaysThat is our message, having submitted a bid to house the new national rail body in County Durham in conjunction with our quest to be UK City of Culture 2025.

The Government launched a competition to identify a location outside of London for the GBR headquarters last month, as part of its levelling up agenda. The winning location will benefit from investment and the creation of highly skilled jobs, helping to spread opportunities across the UK.

Towns and cities with strong links to railways have been encouraged to enter the competition and, for County Durham, there is no shortage of connections. Not only is it home to Shildon, the world’s first railway town, but it is a major player in the future of the industry, with the next generation of high-speed trains being built at Hitachi Rail Europe’s Newton Aycliffe factory.

Locomotion museum in Shildon, meanwhile, tells the story of County Durham’s role in the early development of the railways and attracts visitors from around the world. And thanks to a £5.9m redevelopment, it will soon house the largest museum collection of historic rail vehicles in Europe.

The creation of GBR comes at a special time for County Durham and the wider region. Preparations to mark the 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 2025 are well underway. Steam train journeys, exhibitions, parades and arts and theatre events are just some of the highlights in store.

County Durham’s rail heritage is also an important theme within Durham’s countywide bid to be UK City of Culture 2025. Earlier this month, the county was one of just four locations to be shortlisted for the prestigious title from the 20 places that applied.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, our Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We believe County Durham would provide the perfect home for GBR and that this offers a brilliant opportunity to build on our historic links to the rail industry.

“The timing of the competition could not be better for County Durham, with our bid to be UK City of Culture 2025 still very much on track. Together with our partners at Durham University and Culture Durham, the bid draws upon our rail heritage – and the spirit of innovation at its core – to champion growth and creativity.

We are reopening the DLI Museum and Art Galley

Yesterday I was proud to be a Cabinet member on Durham County Council. We have stuck to our promise made at the election and will be reopening the DLI. However we are going much further and will be increasing the internal floor space by 96%, providing a cafe and restaurant and significant dedicated DLI exhibition space along with a World Class Art Gallery and extensive improvements to the external area too.

We are righting a terrible wrong inflicted on our County by Labour when they were running the Council and I’m delighted that my Lib Dem colleagues and I have been an instrumental part of bringing this forward with our colleagues in the Joint Administration running the Council.

Sign language help

County Durham residents who use British Sign Language (BSL) can now access the support of an interpreter to contact us. 

Following a successful trial, we are working in partnership with SignVideo to connect deaf or hard of hearing residents to an interpreter, who will provide live access to customer services. 

Interpreters will be able to relay any queries or issues to council teams and provide a response as part of the video call. 

Access the service

Residents can access the service by visiting our Contact us by British Sign Language web page and clicking on a link to talk to an ‘Online British Sign Language interpreter’. Once connected, the interpreter will confirm that they want to contact us before calling the customer services team.

The service is available from 8.30am until 5pm Monday to Thursday, and from 8.30am until 4.30pm on Fridays. 

Engaging with more residents

Cllr Alan Shield, our Cabinet member for equality and inclusion, said: “We are committed to making information as accessible and inclusive as possible for all residents in County Durham. By adapting to the needs of our users, we can provide the best possible service. 

“Following a successful trial, we look forward to providing additional support to residents who are hard of hearing and successfully engaging with even more residents.” 

Further information

In order to use the video relay service, residents need to make sure they can access the internet on their device and that it has video capability. It should also be: an Apple mobile device running iOS 11 or above; an Android device running Android 4.4 or above; or a desktop or laptop computer with the latest version of Google Chrome or Firefox. 

Free WiFi is available to residents in our libraries should they not have access at home. People without a device can also access the service through our Customer Access Points. More information is available on our Contact us in person web page.

If residents need technical support, they can contact help@signvideo.co.uk or call 020 3388 0771.

For more information on the support available for people with a hearing loss, visit the The Adult Sensory Support Team web page.

Street festivals

We are running a series of free festival-style events across the county’s main towns throughout March, as part of a bid to get people visiting and enjoying their high streets.

Outdoor entertainment

Each weekend of the month will see fun activities descend upon a different town centre, where people can enjoy a variety of entertainment including circus performances and workshops, walkabout acts, craft workshops and face painting.

In some areas there will also be an outdoor performance ring, a stage and seating, grass street furniture, pop-up marquees, a climbing wall and crazy golf.

The events support the county’s current bid for UK City of Culture 2025. If successful, the bid will mean more opportunities to bring exciting events to towns and communities across the county.

Dates and times

The street festival kicked off with events in Seaham and Shildon last weekend, with the next to take place on:

  • Saturday 12 March, 11am to 3pm – Crook Market Place
  • Sunday 13 March, 11am to 3pm – Ferryhill Market Place
  • Wednesday 16 March, 4pm to 8pm – Durham Market Place
  • Saturday 19 March, 11am to 3pm – Stanley Front Street
  • Sunday 20 March, 11am to 3pm – Middle Street, Consett
  • Friday 25 March, 4.30pm to 8.30pm – Bishop Auckland Market Place
  • Saturday 26 March, 11am to 3pm – Chester-le-Street Market Place
  • Sunday 27 March, 11am to 3pm – Scar Top, Barnard Castle

Ukrainian Flag Now Flying at County Hall

I’m proud to report that Durham County Council stands alongside Ukraine and it’s Citizens. We have raised the Ukrainian Flag on one of the new flag poles we installed outside County Hall. It now flies alongside our County Flag and the Union Flag.

We can only hope that this terrible war is over very soon before even more innocent lives are lost.