Up to £120 million available from Government to improve each part of County. Labour left us with just one viable bid out of six ready to go.

Every Parliamentary Constituency via the Council can submit a bid for funding to improve their area. Despite running the Unitary Council for over a decade, Labour has left us with very little in the way of projects to pull off the shelf and submit.

The government says we can bid for up to £20m per constituency, yet only one bid was ready to submit, for Bishop Auckland Constituency, to tackle a more than two decade congestion and pollution problem around Toft Hill, fix Whorlton Bridge and improve Shildon Locomotion and links to it.

Yet despite the Toft Hill bypass (and its route) having been on the table for 20 years, and despite having been the Cabinet support councillor for Highways (Neighbourhoods) Labour Councillor Rob Yorke (West Auckland) is now kicking off about the route of the road.

It is the height of hypocrisy six weeks after losing power for this councillor to now say the proposals his colleagues drew up are wrong. Indeed it is Labour councillors who have actually helped cause congestion problems in that part of the County by ripping the heart out of Bishop Auckland and building the out of town shopping centre at Tindale Crescent.

Thankfully there are three rounds of bidding for the Levelling up fund, and whilst I believe the Government needs to do far more than it is to boost the North East, it is a step in the right direction. I’m certain we will have five more robust bids ready in time for the the future rounds of funding.

What we now need the government to do is to provide the funding our schools need to help our children catch up after the pandemic – even their own adviser resigned over the paltry help offered.

The Government should also honour their promise to Councils to “do whatever it takes” to cover the loss of income and increased costs caused by the Covid crisis. So far they have paid over less than half of what they promised.

Three important decisions at next weeks Cabinet: DLI review, HQ review, Local Funding Boost

Despite the fact that the new joint administration has barely been in post for two weeks, we are already bringing forward some important reviews and changes.

Next week at Cabinet the following reports we have secured will be discussed and voted on:

  1. A full review of the previous Labour administration’s horrendous DLI decisions. This will include looking at the future options for the DLI collection and its storage as well as looking at the future options for the DLI museum building and the surrounding grounds. having been down to the site last week, I will be personally visiting the area again with officers of the council as I am really quite disgusted at the way in which the area has just been left. I’m certain there are some immediate works we can do to improve the visual appearance of the area, and I am keen to hear from residents with their thoughts.
  2. There will also be a full review of the options for the new County Hall building which is currently under construction in Durham City. Clearly the building will have to be completed, but there is nothing to stop us looking at what the buildings future operations should be, as well as re-looking at the future of the Aykley Heads employment site too.
  3. We will also be proposing to direct £1.26m of funding straight into our communities for Councillors to invest immediately in local priorities. This £10,000 per councillor boost should help our communities as we recover from Covid and make it easier for Councillors to get projects off the ground quickly. All too often money is promised, then doesn’t materialise. This money will be available immediately to improve every single part of the County, instead of sitting there waiting for reports or being bogged down by administration.

If there are specific priorities you have for our area (Brasside, Framwellgate Moor, Pity Me and Newton Hall), please do get in touch with your ideas.

Joint Administration Starts Work

Following last weeks historic decision to work cross party with other political groups and independent councillors, I realised we hadn’t updated on our new positions.

Amanda is now the leader of the Council and I am Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods and Climate Change, whilst Mamie is Chairing one of our most important committees – Corporate Parenting:

The Panel has the following responsibilities:

1. To ensure that the Council acts as a good corporate parent to children and young people in care and care leavers, including:

•           Young people in residential care

•           Children and young people in foster care

•           Children placed for adoption

•           Children placed at home under Placement with Parents Regulations

•           Young people who are living in supported lodgings

•           Young people in secure services

•           Young people in custody

2. To engage and listen to the views of children, young people and their carers for whom the Council is the parent.

3. To work in partnership with other statutory agencies to drive forward improvements in care.

4. To act as the governing body for the Virtual School for looked after children and young people.

5. To act as the governing body for Aycliffe secure services, monitoring and ensuring the quality of secure accommodation, education and care.

Back to my portfolio – Neighbourhoods and Climate Change, which includes:

Relationships with Town and Parish Councils
Community Development
Community Facilities
Neighbourhood Streetscene
Climate change
Environment  Policy, including sustainability
Environment, Health and Consumer  Protection
Waste Management
Bereavement services 

Of course underneath all these titles is the finer detail like sorting out flytipping, getting bins emptied and much much more.

After 100 years of the Council being run by Labour, we have certainly entered a new era. Let us know your views and of course continue to get in touch about all the local issues.

We may have new roles but we still have our old roles too, improving our area and helping you wherever we can.

Network Rail vegetation management

We have been notified that Network Rail will be carrying out vegetation work on the main line through our area.

The following message was sent to us. We have raised concerns about the likely impact on both residents views and wildlife, particularly as we are still in nesting season.

Vegetation management – Newton Hall

I’m writing to let you know that we will be working on vegetation alongside the railway around Newton Hall, to the north of Durham Station.

We need to remove trees and woody vegetation from either side of the track to a distance of 6.5 metres (21 feet). This is for the safety of our track workers and to provide a safe and reliable railway. We will also be removing or cutting back trees within striking distance of the railway if they were to fall.

We will be working until October 2021. Most of this work will be done during the daytime, but some work can only be done when the railway is closed at night for safety reasons. We will use a variety of equipment including chainsaws, chippers, flail machines and handsaws. Our team will monitor the amount of noise caused by this, and limit it where possible. We have written to our railside neighbours to let them know about this work. We’ll write a separate letter to residents when we will be working in their area by night to give them the dates, times and further information.

I recognise that the railway provides a natural wildlife corridor, but it must be carefully managed to keep the railway safe. Before we clear vegetation, an independent ecologist checks the area to see if any protected species are living there. If we find protected species, we put appropriate exclusion zones around them. Where suitable, logs and branches will be left on site, or chipped and spread across the site, to create habitats for wildlife. If this is not suitable, the logs and branches will be completely removed.

I hope this information is useful. Please contact me if you have any queries.

Running the Council

Discussions are ongoing between non-Labour councillors about the running of the Council.

The Full Council meeting which will decide this is tomorrow (Wednesday 26th). So tomorrow afternoon we will know who is running Durham County Council.

Whoever it is, one thing is sure, County Durham is going to get a council which is more democratic, one that listens to the public, and acts on what you want, not on what Labour decides you want.

Broadband Update 5

Following a meeting I have had with Netomnia, they have confirmed that they will not be installing poles for their broadband services on streets where there are not currently poles.

My colleagues in Belmont have also had a meeting with some residents and Netomnia has confirmed that poles there will be removed.

During my meeting I repeatedly pointed out that the poles installed on Alexandra Close and The Orchard need to be removed as a matter of urgency as no one on these streets can install cables across their land without breaching the covenants in their deeds.

I await an update on the next steps from Netomnia, but what is aboslutely clear is that the poles on these two streets need removing sooner rather than later.

Hopefully we can get to a point where superfast broadband is installed properly in our area.

£1068 a day and STILL counting

So once again I have spoken with senior management about Labour’s horrendous waste of money managing our waste tips. We still have no booking system – which we were told would be in place by May (despite us asking for this last year).

I’m convinced that the council could return the tips to a more normal way of operating without safety risks, but they insist government rules forbid it. I’m not convinced that they are interpreting the rules correctly. Whatever the solution it certainly can’t be to continue to waste £1068 a day having someone say in a van at Pity Me and an amount which must now be approaching £1.5 million just on traffic management for our tips.

This issue needs addressing now. Too much taxpayers money is being wasted by Labour.

Sniperley Roundabout road surface and other road repairs

We’ve had a few complaints about the road surface near Sniperley Roundabout / Dryburn Park.

This was reported by us a few weeks ago. The council were planning not to do any major repair works in the area while the bridge closure is ongoing in Durham City to avoid further congestion on major routes but has recognised some works need to be done and following our communications are looking to book work in at the best time to avoid causing traffic issues.

Carr House Drive is also down for work in the coming months but we do not have a date yet from officers, and there are a number of other locations requiring patching work across the area which will be done as soon as they can be including on Finchale Rd.

Let us know if you spot any issues on your street.

Broadband update 4

This is the latest email we have received regarding broadband roll out – this one is specific to The Orchard but the principle applies elsewhere. Clearly there are still some issues to be dealt with regarding telegraph poles, since on many streets without poles, overhead cabling is prohibited by property deeds.

Back to the drawing board it would seem.


Upon initial discussions with Cllr Wilkes, we agreed that works would be placed on hold until the necessary communications had been completed, and that we had double checked the reports of existing ducting. 

We agreed that we would review the reports of an underground network to the The Orchards, and other areas of concerns that had been raised. I can confirm that this has been completed, and the network in the area is direct buried, which means we are unable to use this for access to the properties. My apologies for the confusion, as I appreciate this was advised by the contractors completing the installations. This has been handled accordingly. 

As we are unable to use existing infrastructure, the next step was communication to the residents. All residents will receive a letter of notice before the works take place.

We have addressed and apologised for the lack of initial contact as fully accept this was a mistake on our behalf, and do be assured it has been handled and actioned internally. 

Moving forward all residents in poled areas, will receive a letter from us prior to build commencing. I understand that contractors were working in the area this week, on the telegraph poles that have already been installed, and apologise for any confusion that this has caused. 

We want to use our investment to improve the connectivity for homes and businesses in County Durham, however the method of installation can be completed in many forms. Most of which would be repeated by other providers should they have chosen to connect the area. 

Due to the existing infrastructure, the best method of connection for your community is via overhead network.