Framwellgate Moor litter pick reinstated after Lib Dem intervention

We reported last week that we’ve had no litter picks from Friday afternoon to Monday on Framwellgate Moor Front Street for the last month and it’s really been noticeable.

The Labour-run council made these changes without any consultation or even telling us as councillors.

As soon as we found out we kicked into action and I’m very pleased to say that the afternoon litter pick on a Friday has been reinstated so bins will not be overflowing all weekend and litter will not be left flying around the place.

If we hadn’t intervened as your Lib Dem councillors Framwellgate Moor would have started to go back to as it was when we had Labour councillors. Those who lived around here 10 years ago will remember the horrendous state of the litter. It’s never possible to get it perfect but our actions on this and on the takeaways should continue to keep it tidier than would otherwise be the case.

If there are any areas with litter in Newton Hall, Framwellgate Moor, Brasside, Pity Me or Finchale Abbey Village please let us know so we can get it sorted quickly.

Brackenfield Road driveways well on their way – looking great – another Local Lib Dem success

Houses and flats along Brackenfield Road which are owned by Durham City Homes (Former Council houses) are currently getting new driveways and parking areas installed thanks to the work of your Lib Dem councillors.

The street has horrendous parking problems, to the extent that its almost impossible even to get a road sweeper or refuse wagon safely down it on many days. All this is now changing and should make life much easier for all residents on the street. It follows our success in getting similar schemes in Lilac Avenue, Hudspeth Crescent and The Avenue.

This should have been done when Labour were running council housing, but like so many things it didn’t. We continue to work with Durham City Homes (Durham Housing Group) to improve our area and hope for more successes in the future.

Finchale Training college to be knocked down – planning concessions secured by Lib Dems

Finchale Training College will be knocked down to make way for new housing.

We have secured various concessions to this after finding issues with the proposals.

  1. The Council repeatedly refused to agree to reduce the speed limit past the site. I had to intervene and speak with the Director of Regeneration at the Council over this, otherwise I would not have been minded to support the application. The speed limit is 60mph and there is a difficult bend. This speed limit should have been reduced years ago but the council refused. I’m happy to report they have not only agreed to go out to consultation before development starts but also that the developer will pay for the costs of implementing this. 1-0 Lib Dem councillors.
  2. Development sites require a contribution towards various improvements in the area. Developers always try to get all of this inside the site, leaving nothing to improve the local community. We have been successful in making sure that public art and open spaces funding can be spent in the wider electoral division as well as near the site, and that this money cannot be used to pay for other improvements the developer wants – they’ll have to use their own money. 2-0 Lib Dem councillors.
  3. Whilst most of the site is brownfield/already developed, it is surrounded by greenbelt and it was essential that proper conditions were placed on ensuring trees and landscaping on the site were retained and improved. Following our intervention this has been conditioned and residents will be consulted on the final landscaping plans. 3-0 Lib Dem councillors.

All in all a good day, with 20% affordable housing also included and funding for the charity safeguarded, as well as a cast iron agreement that the charity will have its new headquarters within County Durham!



Council cuts litter picking and bin emptying without any notification – We must not let this continue

The Council cut litter picking and bin emptying a few weeks ago on Fridays and Saturday mornings in Framwellgate Moor and other areas.

The results are clear to see already with overflowing bins and a lot more rubbish lying around. We fought bitterly to get an improved service in the area, particularly in Framwellgate Moor which has such enormous footfall, and we cannot allow the Council to go back to the bad old days.

The current situation means that from early on Friday before the lunchtime rush, until Monday morning no litter picking is taking place, no bins emptied. It’s completely unacceptable and was done without even consulting with Councillors.

After raising this last week with the Head of Service I have asked for urgent talks to get the service reinstated. I have already had numerous complaints.

What is even more galling is that just a few weeks back the Council to great fanfare announced a major “Spruce Up” of the area which we fully supported, getting a bigger area cleaned up than originally planned.

Some of the gulleys and channels in Framwellgate Moor are already blocked up again due to the cut backs and some are now wondering if the Spruce Up was an excuse to make things look good before secretly slashing the service.

Needless to say, along with the takeaway issue, we will not be letting this drop.

Council surveying all staff after Lib Dems challenged sickness absence levels – but still no compulsory survey

A few years ago as councillors on one of our committees we started a review of sickness absence/attendance management at the Council. Average number of days off for council staff is now 11.48 days a year a slight improvement from 12 days but still way off acceptable levels. I have pushed for serious action for a long time. Sadly I don’t see enough progress when I see the figures.

On some councils sickness levels are 5 days a year in line with the private sector. At DCC things are not good. Much of this I believe was down to not giving managers the necessary tools and backing, the fact that so many had not had the relevant training, and failed processes.

What was truly horrendous though as I have previously reported was that staff with mental health problems – stress, depression etc – all very serious were not being passed to occupational health for months, in one case someone wasn’t referred for a staggering 300 days!! It had to be gross mismanagement by the Labour Party to blame as we had banged on about changes and made suggestions for years.

The Council has just started a survey of staff to get more information on health and wellbeing. This is more extensive than previously thanks in part to the pressure I and other councillors put on.

However it is not compulsory which in my eyes means the results could be skewed. The survey is fully anonymous so I fail to understand why Labour councillors refused to allow this, especially given that identifying problems is of benefit to all staff, and reduced sickness absence makes for better services and shows there are happier, healthier staff.

After 8 years of banging on about sickness absence by opposition councillors, and especially the Lib Dems, and not seeing any real improvement – this year Labour has no more excuses. Sickness absence amongst council staff must come down more quickly. This can only take place by making sure that we properly invest in the necessary background assistance needed, including in occupational health, and by referring staff quickly when they have a particular problem. The fact that we have some of the worst figures in the Country suggests that Durham has a localised problem. A problem which in my view lies with the Labour councillors failing to get a grip.

Carriage lights return to Oatlands Way and cul de sacs after council apologies and Lib Dem action

Over a year ago the Council removed without any consultation the carriage style street lighting from large parts of the Rosemount estate.

Residents complained and we got on the case, repeatedly requesting action. Sure enough they accepted they’d made a mistake, and would rectify it. Months later the lights on the Rosemount street itself were replaced. Unfortunately the ones on the other streets  remained untouched and we had to kick up a fuss. And then kick up a fuss again, and then again,

Finally the Council apologised and agreed to get it sorted and thankfully the lights have now been replaced.

I will be off to check that all the ones which should have been done have been.

County Council can’t empty its inbox – incompetent and frustrating and plain daft

In September last year I complained that the council’s main email address had a full inbox – so no one could email issues. At the time I thought it was laughable that such an email would have a data limit for one of the biggest local authorities in the Country.

I made this clear to officers when on the 19th October it was again full and asked for action.

Today I find groundhog day is upon us.

To some this might not seem so important, but every single bounce back could be an important issue and some people may miss the bounce back or have to wait and telephone to report issues, clogging up phone lines for more important issues. It’s totally unprofessional for such a large public organisation to repeatedly over many months have this problem and fail to address it.

You could understand if an individual had this problem due to the fact that their inboxes are limited in size at the Council, but for the main front facing email address to be full or have a limit is unacceptable.

This time I’ve asked the Chief Exec to take action.