I have been trying to get updates from various places on the plans for Newton Hall Post Office.

The first thing to say is that the consultation process is still running behind the scenes. The national CAB / Consumer Futures who analyse the consultation data have confirmed to me that following our representations they are pushing for “Main” Branch status. They will thrash out their views on the 22nd with PO management at a national level.

The pressure from residents and ourselves as your local councillors appears to be having a positive impact. Whilst the existing site does not look like it will be retained, the services which were due to be lost may well be retained if the branch moves into McColls.

Proposals have been aired which would see McColls run the branch as a “Local Plus”. This means that almost all the services which would have been lost would now be retained – so half a success.

However the BIG issue which remains is capacity. We are still campaigning alongside the CAB for a Main branch model as we do not want to see queues for local residents. Given that it looks increasingly likely that Framwellgate Moor Post Office will move up the road to Nisa, losing some services, the pressure on capacity in the area will be exacerbated.

Clearly there are also concerns about what happens to the existing staff and some concerns about training in a newly located branch.

A planning application has been submitted for a disability ramp at McColls. Whist this may appear to be cart before horse, it takes 8-9 weeks to pass a planning application and if the move goes ahead, disability access is a requirement.

All of this reminds me of a silver lining: Under the last government thousands of post offices closed, under the current government branches are being protected either in their current location or an alternative. Whatever happens we will still have two post offices in the area.

We will continue to push to make sure they have the capacity and the services. Things are looking better than they were and when we know more we will of course update on here and in the community.


New Council Website Up and running



Over a number of years as your Lib Dem councillors we have pushed the council for a better website and particularly for more services to be offered online.

The new County Council website is far easier to use and it is hoped that as more people order services, report things and pay for things online, it will free up staff at the council to answer calls more quickly. It should also save the council a lot of money in the longer term as requests go to the right person and will ensure better monitoring of responses.

Please let me know if you find anything not working on the site so that we can feed this back to council officers and get it fixed.

Also, if you do not get a response to something as quickly as it says you will, or as quickly as you would expect let me know that too.




Hedgerow Planting Plans

We are currently looking at planting some hedgerows in various areas for a number of reasons. The areas we have looked at include Rotary Way in Pity Me and Finchale Road in Framwellgate Moor.

We would appreciate your comments on these proposals and any other areas you feel would benefit from hedging.

Areas being looked at

1. Rotary Way (Arnison Centre bypass), Pity Me – Two areas, one on the left as you travel from the A167 roundabout, the second on the right to fill in the gap near the Mc Donalds carpark

2. A small area near the Arnison underpass.

3. Extend the hedge running from Bek Road traffic lights up Finchale Road on the left hand side.

4. Possibly plant behind the metal fence farther up Finchale Road on the school side opposite Caterhouse entrance with a view to removing the old metal fencing.

5. We are also looking at whether hedging could be moved, improved or removed on the path behind Hudspeth, to make the area less likely to get overgrown

The reasons for the planting program include:

Helping to fill in gaps in existing hedging

Protecting areas from illegal camping and parking

Helping to cut noise and air pollution from traffic

Creating proper screening on the edge of the built up area

Reinstating areas which used to have hedges

Promoting wildlife and making the area look better


Framwellgate Moor Post Office – Consultation on Move

A proposal is being consulted on to move Framwellgate Moor Post Office into the Nisa at the other end of Front Street. This is from the Post Office nationally and is not from the Council. However as your local councillors we are keen to make sure that the views of residents are listened to. Also the proposals do have some knock on effects which could become council issues.

Where to comment

I have yet to be contacted by anyone with views either way on this issue and would appreciate any comments from residents. You can find out more about this proposal at by entering the branch code 17331399.

Newton Hall Post Office

My initial thoughts are that with the Newton Hall Post Office consultation not yet finalised, it is possible that we could lose services which are currently available at both these branches and be left with a seriously diminished service for the area.

The Pedestrian Crossing

Also, there is no pedestrian crossing at the Nisa end of Front Street, unlike near the existing post office. I have been asked in the past for a crossing farther up the front street, and cost and space have been an issue. However if the post office moves, then the case becomes even more overwhelming for a solution, which is why I have contacted council officers in relation to this particular issue in advance of public comments.

Service Losses

Some of the services which would be lost by the changes include parcel force worldwide, transcash, on demand travel insurance, premium bonds and payment by cheque. However, given that the Newton Hall consultation failed to full explain the losses of service, can we be sure that what we are being told this time is correct?

Will the capacity of the proposed newly located store be sufficient or, like the proposals in Newton Hall, will we find a huge queue, and will people be forced to go elsewhere including into town, particularly if Newton Hall is downgraded as well.

I have once again contacted senior post office management to ask to discuss yet another change for which we have only a few weeks to offer our concerns or support.

The consultation runs until 6th November, and the current proposed month of change is January/Feb 2015, so not too far off.

Household Waste Recycling opening hours

NEW winter opening times for County Durham’s household waste recycling centres will come into effect next week.

Revised opening hours for sites operated by Durham County Council will begin on October 1st and stay in force until the end of March.

The Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) at Potterhouse Lane in Pity Me will be open seven days a week from 9am until 3.30pm.

The centre will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Protecting the environment in our area – Your views

Over the last few years as your local Lib Dem councillors we have done a great deal to help protect the environment and help promote a sustainable future. This has included:

  • Funding for solar panels on the Parish pavilion.
  • Planting of trees and plants in various areas, and most recently a wildflower meadow between Framwellgate Moor and Newton Hall.
  • Fighting to improve bus services and promoting sustainable transport.
  • Securing funding for energy efficiency improvements to community buildings including Framwellgate Moor Community Centre, Durham Indoor Bowling Club.
  • Fighting to make sure the Council becomes more environmentally friendly and saves money through installing millions of pounds of energy saving measures across the County which are now saving hundreds of thousands of pounds each year in energy bills and cutting CO2.
  • Stood up for residents in trying to protect our Greenbelt from Labour’s building plans.
  • Funding to improve The Carrs nature reserve in Pity Me.
  • Secured £300,000 of flood prevention works and helped with other flood issues in the area.
  • Pushed to make sure that planning applications for housing and community buildings include the highest sustainable standards.
  • Provided details through our leaflets to residents about ways to cut your water usage and energy bills, and to promote energy efficiency schemes.
  • Challenged plans to charge for garden waste collections and promoted home composting.
  • Actively assisted in arranging and joining in litter picking to help tidy the area and reduce the impact of rubbish on wildlife.
  • Pushed to secure cycle and footpath improvements across the County to promote sustainable travel.

These are just the ones I can think of of the top of my head. We are always keen to hear about other proposals from residents about ways we can do our bit to protect and improve the environment, including measures which save money.

Please let us know about any ideas you think could help our area.

Dryburn Road Works Start

The repair works to Dryburn Road which we pushed for have started. The whole stretch is to be resurfaced, and there will be some traffic problems for the next few weeks whilst the work is done, but after it’s finished the patchwork quilt of filled in potholes will be gone. Funding for this has come from the Coalition government. We have been pushing the council to repair this road for quite some time. Great result.


Restricted parking in front of the Beech Road shops has now been implemented. We wanted to make sure that visitors to the shops had somewhere to park. Mamie, Amanda and I have used local funding to make these changes. By having three hour parking, it reduces the risk of people parking here and going off to Durham or the Hospital all day. Hopefully it will now mean the businesses here will be boosted and customers have somewhere to park.

We are monitoring it for the next six months to see the overall effect.


As well as the reserves issue, we again thrashed out concerns about sickness absence levels today.

Sickness absence is running at nearly 12 days a year per employee (that’s on average). Over the last twelve months the council has lost over 93,000 employee work days to sickness.

What is just as striking is that more than thirty percent of staff did not have an appraisal in the last twelve months. How on earth can an organisation run properly when nearly a third of its staff haven’t even had an annual meeting with their boss to discuss their past twelve months performance.

Labour-run Durham County Council is failing its staff. Your Lib Dem councillors have been going on about sickness absence and staff appraisals for years and years. (more…)

Challenging the Council on Reserves

At Corporate Issues committee today I challenged officers on reserves. (The Council have 50 pots of money). Some allocated to nothing, others apparently allocated for future needs). We were told that the Council is/wants to use £75m of reserves between 2011-2017.

So for example if reserves were £100m you would expect to have £25m left wouldn’t you?

That is what officers and the Labour Party want the public to think. The reality is though that they are saying they will use £75m but not telling us how much they are putting into reserves. They add money in and then take it back out but:

If you add £100m to reserves but only take out £75m then you have more left than before. You can’t then say in a public meeting that you have used a lot of reserves because quite clearly you have actually added to reserves. (more…)