You may have read my post last week about our Labour-run council’s plan to cut school transport provision:


At Children’s Scrutiny today I challenged this. Pointing out:

– the same department seeking to make the cuts has just announced it has saved 10 times as much so far this year as the cuts required to school transport – £7.6m

– the same department has £9.4m in a cash limit reserve allocated to nothing.

– the council has over estimated inflation this year as 15 times its current rate.

– the council has over estimated the cost of its debt to the tune of millions of pounds.

– the council has placed £20m in a planned delivery reserve to stop cuts such as this.

– the council has £6m more in its insurance reserve than it needs

– the council has six communications departments. If they were merged it would save upto £1.5m a year

– the council has more directors than it needs and could save hundreds of thousands of pounds by just reducing by one.

– the council said it would cut mileage allowances for staff and councillros by 3p from 48p a mile to 45p a mile which would have saved £240,000 it has now stopped this.

In total the council has £80m to play with and loads of ways to find the money it needs so that it does not need to make this harsh cut.

The response from one Labour councillor was that if anyone had sensible ideas they would be listened to but when i sugested the committee could recommend any of these things, I was simply told it was a consultation and my views would be passed across. Some scrutiny that is. The committee could have collectively opposed this madness.

And one Labour county councillor actually said that we should manage these things better to make sure there wasn’t as much bad publicity. The only people creating bad publicity are the Labour-run Cabinet on Durham County Council for acting like a bunch of far-right, slash and burn Tories.

Abbey Leisure Centre price hikes thwarted and treadmills replaced

Attempts by the Council to hike some prices at Abbey Leisure Centre have been thwarted by your Lib Dem councillors.

After finding out that Table Tennis prices would rocket by almost 100%, we have secured an over 60’s concession to keep the price down.

A plan to hike soft play for infants by 66% have been scrapped completely after we challenged this with the Head of Service and Director.

And the two broken treadmills, one out of action for several months have been replaced/repaired after our intervention. Hopefully we will not see any more daft decisions on pricing or delays in repairs but please let us know if you do spot problems.

On a brighter note there is now a new tariff which also allows you to go swimming at Freeman’s Quay for just a pound a session if you sign up at Abbey!

Cleaning up in Framwellgate Moor

We have had three walkabouts on Framwellgate Moor Front St in the last week or so. Today I was out very early to discuss cleaning up the front street and terraced areas with one of our council officers.

The area is covered in weeds and I believe the council contractor has not been doing the job it should with weedkilling. The area is now being resprayed.

Next week the small cleaning machines should be out to clear up all the cig butts and other bits from the parking bays and pavements and in the coming weeks the side streets will be tackled too.

I have also asked that we look at replacing those bins without Cigarette ashtrays on the top of them or retrofitting. When new bigger bins were installed a year or so ago, they didn’t include ashtrays and now we have a horrendous problem with cig butts.

We have also reported various items of flytipping and rubbish and it has either already been cleaned up or shop owners have been asked to tidy up. Some of the takeaways really do need some harsh words!

A number of properties are also in an unacceptable state and we have notified various council departments about different issues of empty properties, burnt rubbish in gardens, flytipping and general untidiness.

We have asked that in some areas, the large number of bins are replaced with larger bins. I noticed on Victoria court that we have about 12 recycling bins which looks ridiculous, whereas there are four very large general waste bins which keep things far more tidy. There are similar issues on Tindale Avenue, and on South Terrace where we have partially addressed the problem.

More is planned… watch this space, but if in a few weeks time and going forward there is any flytipping, rubbish or other problems in this area please let us know. Only by us all being proactive can we clean up there area. Many residents don’t report things and the Council isn’t as proactive as we would like it to be. So if there is still rubbish around in a few weeks take a photo of any problems and email them to us.

Brasside flood alleviation plan moves a step closer

The ongoing work we have been doing for what seems like forever to protect Beech Close in Brasside from flooding moved a step closer last night at a public meeting for Beech Close Residents with council officers, your three councillors and representatives from the MOJ present.

After years of failings by so many agencies to address the issue we finally managed to get the Council to take this matter seriously over the last year or so, with a lot of work being done. Many years ago a meeting with the MP produced nothing and residents still vividly remember that Labour failure as was mentioned at last nights meeting.

The remaining hurdle to complete a long term solution is the lining of the main drain running through the estate, which would provide protection for up to 75 years. The cost is not so great, but more than half of the pipe is on Ministry of Justice land with the remainder under residents properties.

We have committed as Councillors to contribute towards the non-MoJ areas, to speed up the repair process from local budgets. Now a formal bid to the MoJ’s estates budget has been submitted by their regional estates officer, so we may be just a few months away from a final solution to this issue.

If this happens it will be fantastic news for those residents who have been flooded out as many as four times in the last 15 years. I am pleased to say, confidently, that without continuous Lib Dem councillor pressure this issue would never have been addressed.

The way in which residents were previously treated by the authorities was shameful. We were even told at one point we couldn’t bid for environmental agency funding when we could. Thankfully we are now closer than ever before to a final solution.

Thanks should be given to those Council officers who finally accepted Mamie, Amanda and I were not going away and got fully behind action.



Council cutting home to school transport for exam students, the disabled and those with no viable public transport

No I am not making this up. Here’s the link:

Consultation link: http://www.durham.gov.uk/article/6658/Home-to-schoolcollege-transport-consultation

The council has over £200million in reserves and says it wants to:

Remove the automatic entitlement to free home to school transport for:

  • pupils in years 10 and 11 who move house while in the middle of their exam years,
  • post-16 students who live in areas where there is no viable public transport system,
  • post-16 students who cannot travel independently due to a medical condition or disability.

Their justification is:

They say they need to find millions of pounds of savings and:

1. Removing these automatic entitlements will help us to target financial support to those households in greatest need.

2. The proposals include the option to set up a Hardship Fund to meet transport costs in exceptional circumstances where families need financial help.

A few of my concerns here are:

1. That whilst it is possible council officers will act in a proper manner and make sure those on the lowest income get assistance, that is by no means guaranteed as they will be under pressure to meet financial targets.

2. Who decides which families are in hardship and at what level. A parent could earn more than the threshold, but have lots of other bills to pay.

3. Why seek to disrupt a child in the middle of their exam period, just seems plain wrong.

4. Parents of children in rural areas may have higher costs already such as transport. This policy could disrupt parental work patterns and put at risk those living in more rural communities.

5. As for those with medical conditions being penalised – really what planet are this Labour-run Council on!

I wonder what Jeremy Corbyn would think of a Council paying a Chief Exec nearly £200k but not able to help a disabled child get to school so their parents can get to work.

I’m not even sure David Cameron would approve of this.

The Council has repeatedly refused Lib Dem calls to cut the number of directors earning £120,000-£200,000 a year.

They have delayed plans to reduce mileage allowances for councillors and staff from 48p a mile to 45p a mile which would save a third of the money.

The council has refused to scrap its publicity magazine or its SIX publicity departments which would save double the savings from these transport proposals.

Presumably our well paid execs and Labour councillors need as many means as possible of telling as many people as possible about which cuts to the vulnerable they are planning.

Which seems more important to them than school transport for a disabled child!

I for one do not support their proposals.

Consultation link:



Article 4 Direction – Framwellgate Moor area

The Council is consulting on implementing an order to restrict the percentage of houses on any particular street which can be converted to houses of multiple occupation (HMO). This does not include Framwellgate Moor or Pity Me, but does cover most of the wider Durham City area.

In the City and surrounding areas many streets have such high levels of student occupancy that it impacts upon the sustainability of the area. HMO’s can also be non-student houses with more people living there than the property can sustain. Under Council plans, conversion to an HMO  would require planning permission when the number of HMO houses on a street exceeds 10%.

We asked for Framwellgate Moor & Pity Me to be included in the boundaries proposed for the Order, but the Council has not done this. Parts of Framwellgate Moor have very high percentages of HMO properties. This can cause problems due to lack of space for bins, insufficient parking, over-development, empty properties and in some cases, rogue landlords leaving properties in a poor condition or allowing overcrowding.

For this reason we are asking that you respond to this consultation. We are putting forward a proposal for the whole area to be included in the Order. In case this is not approved we are also asking that at the very least the Terraces in Framwellgate Moor and Pity Me are included.

This would not halt all conversions to multi-occupancy homes. However it would allow the Council to restrict such changes via the planning system where it was felt the balance had gone too far.

We already have problems on some streets. Our biggest concern is that if the rest of the City is included in the restrictions, developers will seek to concentrate future HMO development in our area – with no ability to stop it. This will lead to an increase in the problems we outline above.

We ask that you support our concerns by taking part in this consultation. The Council didn’t provide a consultation event in Framwellgate Moor so we have arranged one at the Community Centre on Mon 5th October from 3pm-6pm.

Please attend the event and/or email your views to spatialpolicy@durham.gov.uk and copy one of us in. Or you can write to: Spatial Policy, Rm 4/24-35, DCC, County Hall, DH1 5UL.

More information can be found on the Council website here:


Lib Dem councillors attend Greenbelt protest in Durham City



Cllr David Freeman, Cllr Nigel Martin and I attended the County Plan protest in the Durham Market Place today. It was well attended with some good speeches.

I have arranged a meeting with the Head of Planning this coming week to get to the bottom of how the Council plans to proceed now that it has managed to get around the Inspector’s decision to reject the County Plan.

As I see it there are a number of ways the Council could deal with this:

1. Put out an alternative County Plan in a few months for “consultation” and then ignore every view which comes back – as it has done throughout the process.

2. Arrange proper consultation sessions before producing ANY proposals and then produce an alternative plan without taking account of residents proposals – less likely but wouldn’t surprise me.

3. Arrange proper consultation on the areas of the plan which the Inspector and residents disagreed with – before producing a proposal, including the changes residents want and publish the alternative plan – how it should be done but almost certainly will not happen!

Whatever happens you can be sure it will be Lib Dem councillors standing up for our World Heritage City against a Labour-run council which so far has completely and utterly ignored the views of the vast majority of residents from Durham City and the surrounding villages.

Safer access to the Arnison Centre – after Lib Dem intervention

I have always thought the Mercia side of the Arnison Centre was one of the daftest designed car parks around. Some months back we asked the owners if they could sort out the entrance where just about everyone caught their wheel on the edge of the kerb. I am pleased to confirm that some weeks back this work was completed and it is now that little bit safer to access the Centre, even if it is still a congested carpark.

Council pollution failures

As reported in the Echo today, Durham County Council has for many years now been failing to get to grips with pollution problems in Durham City:


Ever noticed when the council has a good news story a Labour politician comments. When its a bad new story its always an officer. That way you can always blame someone else! Total lack of political leadership.