Staggering Labour incompetence leaves roadworks £5m over budget

For a number of months I have been challenging the Council because internal figures have shown that they were £5m over budget on the flagship Durhamgate Scheme in Spennymoor. The redvelopment of the Thinford Roundabout and neighbouring roads off the A167 was already set to cost an eye watering £9m,  but this year, with £500,000 left to finish off the project, the entire reserve of the Regeneration budget has been soaked up by overspends leaving the project 932% over budget this year alone.

It really is time that the Labour Party were removed from power at County Hall before they waste any more of residents hard earned taxes.

Here is the article in today’s Northern Echo:

The council is paying out over £200k a year for the Chief Exec and £168,000 for directors. Why? And why yet again do we have millions wasted? They say if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. What happens if you pay someone 15 times the average wage?  If we keep electing Labour in this county, pretty soon we won’t even be able to afford a packet of nuts.



“I can’t do job in tatty clothes” says Labour Councillor who “Doesn’t have time to wash clothes”

I was astonished to read the following quote from the Labour councillor for Evenwood who is currently Vice Chair of the council, seeking to defend the clothing allowance she receives:

“It covers a multitude of things, not just clothes. Every chair and vice-chair in Durham County Council gets these allowances. We’re the front face of the county council so we’ve got to be at least clean and tidy and well-presented. We work weekends and we don’t always have the time to turn around and wash clothes.

Yes Councillor Charlton – and a hell of a lot of Durham residents work weekends, and work damn hard, but they don’t get £12860 over two years for clothes at the taxpayers expense. And they have to find time to wash their own clothes! What planet are these Labour councillors living on?

See more at:

As one of the residents who has signed our petition said:



A trebling in complaints to Durham County Council over the last few years – something I brought up months ago. It would seem that County Durham’s Labour MPs are now worried that the complete ineptitude of the Labour-run Council is affecting them.



Last night councillors received an email from senior management to say that problems with grass cutting and strimming were as a result of the exceptional weather. This is not the whole truth.

Two weeks ago Cllr Hopgood and I in a meeting with the Head of Service and managers received an apology because in the Durham City area the Council started grass cutting three weeks later than elsewhere.

We were then told that in Coxhoe grass had been cut SIX times, yet in Bearpark and Newton Hall it was only 3 times. Asked why, we were told the machinery had broken down. Why didn’t management bring machinery from other areas of the county to ensure a balanced service? They have now after our complaints.

We have evidence of staff taking longer breaks than they are allowed, of rude staff, in fact as I write this I have another complaint from Framwellgate Moor from a resident on the phone.

We have areas left unstrimmed, in some places several feet high, in one place trees growing out of the side of a council house, yet were told in the council budget that grass cutting services had not been cut in the recent budget documents.

All of this says to me a complete breakdown of communication and management at all levels and a complete failure by Durham’s Labour cabinet to get control of this huge Unitary Authority. We need political change in County Durham urgently. This is not the only department where there are problems.

And whilst budget cuts do cause problems, it does not help when the council persists in spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of our money on publicity rags, refuses to cut the cost of councillors, and seems to spend more time on press releases than dealing with day to day issues which matter to residents.

I recently asked how many press releases the council puts out here was the response:

July 2011 – 112

Aug 2011 – 75

Sept 2011 – 117

Oct 2011 – 56

Nov 2011 – 105

Dec 2011 – 82

Jan 2012 – 59

Feb 2012 – 96

Mar 2012 – 98

Apr 2012 – 77

May 2012 – 123

June 2012 – 88

TOTAL 1,088

And how many complaints have they received?

In the last fifteen months complaints to Durham County council have more than doubled:

509 – Last Quarter of 2010/11

578 – First Quarter of 2011/12

630 – Second Quarter of 2011/12

759 – Third Quarter of 2011/12

1138 – Fourth Quarter of 2011/12

It strikes me that because of the failures all over the place at DCC, Labour are fighting a media battle to put out as many press releases as possible to help cover up the problems. Staff across all departments have stories of things not being run properly. Council phone systems still have wrong phone numbers for contacting officers months after they have moved to new premises or changed their numbers.

Many staff  are frustrated by the minority of colleagues  taking advantage of poor or none existent monitoring of sickness absense which would see heads at all levels roll in private industry and many other councils across the country.

No one knows who is in County Hall at any particular moment because no one has to swipe into the building and record their presence – so no proper monitoring of who is and isn’t working, a health and safety nightmare in the event of a fire and a serious security risk.

Labour are losing any credibility they ever had in this county to run our local services.


Having kicked up a fuss about the disappearance of the link for the library consultation I can confirm that it has now been readded to the council homepage.

Please join in the consultation. there is no need to cut opening hours, but plenty of scope to cut waste and various other budgets to protect frontline services.

This is no longer just about libraries, it is about democracy and protecting frontline services,  so whether you use your local library or not, please join in and send a message to the council. They must protect services, root out waste, cut director numbers, cut councillor costs, cut publicity rags etc.



On the day that the Northern Echo reported on our campaigns to stop the slashing of Library opening hours, the Council Website removed the link to the library consultation on its front page – and replaced it would you believe with a report on how accessible the website is! You really could not make this up! They also added information on archeology and an article on country dancing. Now whilst all of these are clearly important to those interested in them, to remove any mention of the library strategy which is affecting nearly every community in the County on the day our petitions are launched strikes me as a bit too much of a coincidence……

To sign the Newton Hall library petition visit

To comment on the consultation visit:


I have been working with Newton Hall councillors Mamie Simmons and Amanda Hopgood on trying to stop the cuts in library opening hours at Newton Hall Library. Labour is consulting on slashing the opening hours from 43 to 20. Such a huge cut is unacceptable, especially when you consider that at the budget setting meting a few weeks ago we gave examples of where money could be saved to the tune of millions of pounds, some of which could have been used to protect frontline services like libraries.

Many people believe that these cuts have to take place because of reductions in government funding, but when you consider that we have proved that £100,000 could be saved from councillor costs, £500,000 from bringing together communications departments, £150,000 from scrapping the County News Council propaganda magazine, and that over £3m is sat there nt allocated to anything. Also, the council is paying out over £1.3m for directors – when other councils do with far fewer.

So all in all there is plenty of scope to find money to protect frontline services from Labour cuts.

We hope to have a petition up and running on the council website in a few days at and will be putting out petitions around the area. We have also had 3000 leaflets delivered telling people about the cuts and the petition.


So now the NHS computer system is to be scrapped because it doesn’t work after Labour spent £12bn on it – more than double the original planned figure – and some say it could be even higher.

Another clear reason for not letting Labour ever touch our economy or the NHS again. Down at County Hall, the Council has already overspent by around £2m on IT and I believe they aren’t even using the right approach here in Durham.

On top of this the Private Finance Initiatives they used to fund new hospitals are bankrupting NHS Trusts across the country – how much more is there to be told about 13 years of Labour profligacy?


The waste of money by the last Labour government was truly staggering. Labour MPs in the North East should hang their heads in shame for allowing nearly half a billion pounds to be spent on Fire Control Centres which remain empty.

And no apology for her party’s failure from Durham’s MP – there’s a surprise!

Northern Echo Report:

FLAGSHIP plans to replace fire control rooms with regional command centres ended in “complete failure”, costing the taxpayer nearly half-a-billion pounds, MPs claimed today.

In a damning report, the influential Public Accounts Committee said the “FiRe- Control” shake-up, launched by the Labour government in 2004, was one of the worst project failures it had seen in many years and was “flawed from the outset”.

The redundant North-East Fire Control Centre, in Belmont, Durham City, is costing the taxpayer about £1.1m a year. Because of various legal agreements, the final bill could reach £27m.

The centre has stood idle since plans to merge the fire services of County Durham, Teesside, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland were scrapped last December.

Proposals to axe North Yorkshire’s control room, in Northallerton, for a regional centre in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, were also dropped, along with the national project.

Fire chiefs are in urgent talks with Whitehall to find a future emergency service use for the Belmont centre, but no deal has yet been reached.

A County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said FiRe- Control’s failure was disappointing, but it was preparing a funding bid for a new control system and was in dialogue over the future of the Belmont centre, to see if it could be used for the benefit of local people.

Redcar’s Liberal Democrat MP, Ian Swales, a Public Accounts Committee member who asked the panel to investigate FiReControl, said the project had been a “monumental waste of money” and it was “ludicrous” the North- East centre had been built three times as big as needed.

But he said its best future use could be “something completely different”.

Peter Wilcox, of the Fire Brigades Union in the North- East, said the project had been a “debacle of unimaginable scale with escalating budgets and worthless contracts” and a use should be found for the Belmont centre, recouping some of the public money wasted.

Bob Neill, the Conservative Fire Minister, said taxpayers were paying for Labour’s inability to manage risks and control costs.

However, Roberta Blackman- Woods, Labour MP for Durham City, said there were important lessons to be learned by everybody and it was vital that the Government took on board the report’s recommendations when considering all future projects.

She called for a “constructive use” to be found for the Belmont centre, in consultation with the local community.

Nationally, today’s report suggested that only five of the nine regional centres would eventually be used by fire services.

MPs also said at least £469m had been wasted and eight of the centres remained empty, costing the taxpayer £4m a month to maintain.

They slammed the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for excluding “reluctant” fire services from helping plan the centres and said consultants made up half the management team, costing £69m by 2010.

The Government has earmarked £84.8m to meet the project’s original aim to improve efficiency, but MPs questioned this and called for a review of the nation’s emergency services to find the best uses for the redundant facilities.

They also said no one had been held responsible, despite an “extraordinary failure of leadership”.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, the committee’s chairman, said: “The department’s ambitious vision of abolishing 46 local fire and rescue control rooms around the country and replacing them with nine state-of-the-art regional control centres ended in complete failure.

“The taxpayer has lost nearly half-a-billion pounds and eight of the completed regional control centres remain as empty and costly white elephants.”

In July, a National Audit Office report branded the project a “comprehensive failure”.