Investing Millions in Frontline Services

Next week we will discuss at Full Council plans to invest millions of pounds in frontline services, including highways, streets, parks and nature reserves, along with proposals to reduce carbon emissions.

The Core Council Tax will be frozen at 0%. We will increase the adult social care precept by 3% to make sure that care workers helping our most vulnerable residents get properly paid.

I’m delighted to be able to announce significant investment in our frontline services, which will help to improve the lives of our residents and visitors as well as the environment in County Durham.

Funding will also further address issues such as pest control, upgrading our allotment sites and improving visitor attractions such as Hardwick Park. Just as importantly, we are investing in our efforts to tackle climate change as we work towards eliminating carbon emissions from our operations.

The budget will see almost £16 million spent on highway maintenance, with £8.8million being spent on the county’s unclassified roads network – including estate roads. A total of £4 million is to be spent on improving the Morrison Busty Depot. Work will include energy efficiency measures and improved access. We are installing a solar array and batteries so that we can charge our electric fleet and save money on diesel and petrol.

A total of £500,000 has been allocated for the decarbonisation of fleet vehicles and for heating energy efficiency measures in council buildings. Funding of £1 million will be provided to the council’s Climate Change Business and Community Loan Fund, to help businesses and communities become more energy efficient.

Repair work to Burnigill Bank in Meadowfield which is collapsing has been allocated £2.5million – Labour failed to fund this and risked the road collapsing. An investment of £360,000 will enable improvements across the county’s allotment sites, reducing the current waiting list for plots. And in Framwellgate Moor we will soon bring forward the development of the new allotment site.

Sustainable drainage works will be carried out at cemeteries to avoid flooding, and rural footpaths are to be upgraded following a £900,000 investment. Funding of £130,000 will be provided for two new street sweepers and for all of the fleet to be provided with the latest tracking technology to help ensure work is targeted at the areas where it is most needed. Labour didn’t know where our sweepers went, and cut the service by 34%. so we are fixing that and hope to increase capacity by over 20% and be more proactive.

Our investment plan will further tackle flooding issues, ensuring the county’s roads and streets are in better condition as well as enhancing our green spaces and parks, delivering environmental and community benefits too.

A total of £300,000 has been allocated to supporting the cleaning of vennels in Durham City, improvements to riverbank footpaths, and for the cleansing of underpasses.

Investment of £1.3 million is also proposed at Hardwick Park to enhance the visitor experience by improving the park’s visitor centre layout, education hub and developing innovative play infrastructure. Riverside Park will also receive £30,000 and Pow Hill County Park £169,000 for access and parking improvements.

A total of £100,000 will go towards replacing and repairing bins – Labour left no long in the budget for this, while £1.3million is to be spent on improving the county’s public rights of way, nature reserves, and on woodland protection. An allocation of £1million has been made for street lighting column replacement.

As part of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy, two officers will target nature reserves and local wildlife sites, engaging stakeholders and volunteers through a £105,000 investment. An investment of £140,000 will help extra staffing in pest control reduce the backlog of investigations and allow speedier treatments. The service will be also reviewed during the year ahead to develop a welfare assistance scheme.

A countywide recycling contamination campaign will be carried out with education schemes and stickers on bins to help remind households what can be recycled and what can’t.

Two new neighbourhood warden posts are to be created to significantly improve the running and management of the service, while £45,000 will be spent on a woodland protection officer who will deliver new and ongoing tree and woodland initiatives linked to the new North East Community Forest. And £390,000 is to be spent on making jobs within the Low Carbon Team permanent, whilst also boosting partnerships to tackle climate change.

Full council meets on Wednesday, 23 February and can be watched live on youtube here

Serious weather warnings this Wed/Thurs

Just when we thought the climate couldn’t chuck anything else at us, more storms on the way from Wednesday. Currently Amber Warnings in place for the whole county on Wednesday and Thursday for severe winds up to 90mph. Please be prepared. We may see widespread power cuts again, we will see more trees coming down, roads closed and danger to life.

Bin collections may be affected on Thursday in our area – please don’t put out your bin if it’s not necessary to reduce risk of rubbish blowing around the area from fallen bins. The household waste sites may also be closed on Wednesday and Thursday and there is likely to be other disruption to services.

Take care when out and about.

One of Labour’s £16583 Lies Billboards Covered with something useful

I’m delighted to report that the billboard outside county hall which was put up at significant cost by the previous Labour administration has been covered with a more appropriate sign promoting fostering services.

If just one child is helped from this it will have been worth it.

So happy to be one of the Councillors who proposed this change. It also puts a smile on your face when you see it!

£2m investment in children’s homes

As part of the budget we are bringig to full council, we will be investing in 6 new children’s homes. This will ensure that looked after children can be looked after safely in our county nearer to their wider family, rather than in other parts of the country. It will also enable the council to reduce costs, helping to protect frontline services.

Framwellgate Moor Planning Decision – Labour shame

I attended the Central and East planning committee this morning to speak against one of the small two bed ex-Miners cottages in Framwellgate Moor being converted into a four bed HMO (House of Multiple Occupation).

The proposal was in breach of national guidelines and local planning policies. Labour councillors led by their leader voted en-masse in favour of the application, with the Labour group leader saying their were no policies in place to refuse the application. Despite the fact the policies had been discussed and debated for an hour.

It would seem that Labour councillors are still happy to allow housing to be converted in Durham so that people have to live in cramped conditions. It beggars belief.

Police Council Tax rises – £900,000 wage bill for Police and Crime Commissioner Jobs

I think everyone wants the police to be well funded. A significant part of that funding comes through from government with the remainder from our council tax.

What many people will not understand though is how the Police and Crime Commissioners office has a wage bill excluding all other costs of £900,000 and why the Labour PCC has chosen to employ ex-Labour councillor and other Labour people including her agent at taxpayers expense when what we need is more visible policing.

I never agreed with politicising the police and would scrap the PCCs tomorrow and save millions of pounds to put straight in to frontline policing.

Perhaps the Labour PCC could look at cutting some of the costs of her own department and put that money in to tackling issues in the county rather than just paying more Labour people to fill unnecessary posts.

Then people might have sympathy for the latest council tax hike she is proposing.