Grass cutting issues

We have had some complaints about grass cutting in the area. As anyone with a lawn will know, we had some pretty fast growth in recent weeks and this caused problems for the Council, trying to keep on top of it.

That said, there have been areas missed which we have reported to the Council. If there is an area not currently being cut please let us know. We have reported the following areas: Canterbury Road shops, front of Bede Lodge Club, parts of Abbey Road, Rear of Finchale Road Brasside (Issue with parked cars).

We have also mentioned that some of the guys are working a bit too quickly, missing edges etc. Clearly the staff are working hard, but we also need to make sure we keep on top of the standard to.

Please do let us know about any local issues

A heirarchy of gullies

The Council has a heirarchy of gullies! Yes, there are some which it gets cleared out every three months, some less frequently and some only every 24 months – although I’m not convinced that some even get done that frequently

As your Lib Dem county councillors, whenever we see a blocked gully we report it – not strictly our job, but with the Council cutting this service back so much compared to years ago we see it as a necessity.

This is where your help comes in – please keep your eye out for blocked road gullies and report them to help@durham.gov.uk

This way we can make sure that incidents of flooding are few and far between.

New Pity Me Housing completed – Hurrah!!

The eight new affordable to rent houses in PIty Me were completed today and new tenants will start moving in tomorrow.

This is a fantastic achievement for us as local Lib Dem councillors, and for County Durham Housing Group. After eight long years of challenging the Council for new homes and them refusing we managed to get the new housing group to agree to use brownfield/garage site for family homes.

The houses are all being let to local people after we secured a local lettings policy. It’s really great that people from the area will be able to still live near family and friends in homes that are affordable to rent. Having been in the houses today I am delighted by the quality of them and hope all those who were lucky enough to secure one really enjoy living in their new homes.

Success – Lib Dem pressure secures extra £700,000 for highways repairs

A couple of weeks ago I submitted a motion for full council calling on Cabinet to invest more funding to repair roads, in particular because of the additional damage caused by  this winters poor weather but also because of years of under funding. We also called on government to put in more funding.

The Council, suddenly has found – just a few minutes before my motion was due to be debated, an additional £700,000 – great news – Lib Dem pressure pays off.

However we still feel far more is needed. Not least because we have a massive backlog of rod and path repairs of around £200 million!

We will continue to pile on the pressure which has over the years resulted in significant extra investment.

Framwellgate Moor Clinic set to shut

The clinic on Framwellgate Moor Front street is to close (not to be confused with Dunelm Medical Centre).

I have found out this just in the last few days, after the announcement over a year ago that it was under threat, which at the time was also uncovered by us, not through any official announcement.

Again we have found out by accident. The lease is not to be renewed and services will be shift out to other areas over the next three months.

This quite clearly goes against the NHS ethos of having services as close to patients as possible. It will also leave an empty property on the Front Street.

It also appears that there may not have been an attempt to renegotiate the lease on the property, so there is no chance that we will ever know if a better deal could have been obtained. Indeed we also do not know how much the repair clauses in the lease will hit the NHS to return the property to the state at the start of the lease.

All this suggests that there has not been full due diligence in considering whether or not  this is indeed a financially sound decision to make, to say nothing of the impact on service users.

I do wonder what attempts were made to look at adding services to the Clinic to help make it more sustainable. I am deeply concerned as to what is likely to come next with local health services as many are being tendered out and are likely to end up in the private sector with the many risks associated with such action.

Whilst what is going on cannot entirely be laid at the door of the government as this is local decision making  I am certain that the impact of under investment by the current government in the NHS and social care services will have contributed to the decisions being made.

I am waiting for a response from the NHS but expect we will see a response in the press from them before anything emailed back to me.

 

Pity Me Fire this evening

The fire in PIty Me this evening was in a skip on the building site for the new social housing at Woodbine Road, plenty of flames but thankfully, a quick call by residents to 999 and a fast response from the fire brigade got this under control quickly. It nearly spread to another skip and could have ended up setting fire to one of the new houses.

I have spoken with one of the senior officers at County Durham Housing Group who has called out this evening to view the site and will be visiting again in the morning – excellent response.

I’m also in discussion over a number of other site issues.

State of our country lanes – update

I chased up today on the litter situation on our country lanes, in particular Potterhouse Lane (past the tip), Rotary Way, along the back roads and down to Cocken.

They are in a really bad way. Some work will be done soon but some will have to be delayed as Cocken will apparently require a road closure for safety reasons.

I will keep chasing this. Sick and tired of takeaway rubbish on these roads.

Residents get incorrect Council Tax bills

Residents around Durham City are getting electronic council tax bills which are incorrect.

On Newton Hall and other parts of the City residents have received electronic bills and are being charged for the City of Durham Town Council precept by mistake.

We immediately raised this with officers and are hopeful that paper bills have not been sent out too.

Update: 4782 paper bills were printed and scrapped at a cost of £240. Thankfully they were not posted out. Over 1100 people got incorrect electronic bills. Needless to say we are asking that the proper checks are put in so it doesn’t happen again.

Gritting and snow update – Including Finchale Abbey Village

We have had a few residents get in touch about the state of the roads. The Council has been working round the clock to keep our main roads in a good condition and despite the horrendous conditions most main roads have been passable with care most of the time.

We have one outstanding issue. Finchale Abbey Village is still wanting for a grit delivery despite my original request on 12 December and repeat requests since. We have been given assurances that there will be some delivered tomorrow.

My attempt to get down there today was not fruitful and I turned back. This suggests to us that many residents will be struggling to get out of the village, and if the forecasts are right the village may well be cut off completely by morning. Not great considering its just a couple of miles from Durham City.

When the annual review of winter maintenance comes round there will be some earnest and frank discussions about this particular element of the winter maintenance program from us as your local councillors and these problems will definitely not happen again that’s for sure.

Other than this issue, the Council is doing a good job in difficult circumstances.

All staff are working round the clock and deserve praise for their efforts. It certainly isn’t easy driving a 40 ton truck of grit on ice with near snow blindness, so please bear with them if service levels are not quite to the standard you would normally expect.

We will also see significant disruption to bin collections for the next few days and into next week, so time to compact down those bins!

 

FIRST EVER OPPOSITION BUDGET MOTION PASSED AT DURHAM COUNCIL

Today for the first time since Durham’s new unitary authority was set up and perhaps the first time in Durham County Council’s 100 year history, Labour councillors backed an amendment to their budget.

This was put forward by me with the support of our Lib Dem group so I’m rather happy today. I proposed using extra funding the government gives for bringing empty homes back into use to employ extra staff to tackle the problem – a no brainier really – but in Durham, to get a motion passed at any time is nigh on impossible – at Budget setting its unheard of!

We will now have something like double the hours invested into tackling this issue. Although I will be checking and double checking that this actually happens.

At present there are over 6900 long term empty properties in County Durham. These leave areas run-down, causing problems for other homeowners and residents and are a waste of resources.

In my area alone there are many of these properties, including many in Framwellgate Moor. Whilst we have managed to get some back into use, many remain unaddressed.

Finally we will have the staff in place to deal with this.

97 councillors voted in favour of my motion, 4 voted against, including John Turnbull (Labour for Brandon, Langley Moor and Meadowfield) bizarre given how many empty properties there are in his area.

Three councillors abstained including Marion Wilson who covers Deerness (Bearpark, Esh Winning, Ushaw Moor, NEw Brancepeth). Another area with numerous empty properties.