Platinum Respect as we light up County Hall this evening

The Joint Administration at County Hall has tonight sent a message of respect and thanks to The Queen for her amazing 70 years and more representing our Country.

We are projecting pictures of The Queen along with the Platinum Jubilee emblem on to the front of County Hall.

We have also had the three broken flagpoles Labour never got fixed cut down from the top of the building as they were unsafe.

And we have installed three new flagpoles outside the entrance to County Hall so everyone can see them when they drive past.

We are securing a Devolution deal for County Durham

We have been working really hard to secure a devolution deal for County Durham and today we’ve made a huge step towards it.

A Government White Paper published today identifies County Durham as one of nine areas selected to take forward proposals for devolved powers.

We will now work with the Government, as well as businesses and residents, to establish how devolution would work for the area and to ensure our ambitions for levelling up are supported.

Devolution makes sense

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of the council, said: “We have worked extremely hard with government to set out why County Durham needs a devolution deal and how this will help us to invest in our local communities going forward. 

“It is fantastic news that County Durham has been selected as one of the nine areas to be taken forward for a deal. We have clearly set out a strong and compelling argument to get to this point and we look forward to further discussions with government on how a deal will work for us. 

“The last two years have been a challenge for everyone, but with more local control over economic regeneration, housing, infrastructure and resources, we can look to the future with confidence and optimism.

“Devolving powers and resources to a local level makes sense – as a large unitary council we are well-placed to maximise all of the resources available to us – and we look forward to working with our partners and stakeholders on how we can join up our services and resources as part of a devolution deal. 

“I can assure everyone that we will be working extremely hard to secure the best possible devolution deal for County Durham and we will set out next steps once we have had further discussions with government.”

0% percent Core Council tax rise

We have released our budget today which will be brought to Cabinet next week for approval and to Full Council in a few weeks.

The Core Council Tax will be frozen at 0%.

The Adult Care Precept will, in line with Government advice be increased by 3% with the money going to pay our carers a decent wage. The proof of a decent society is the way in which we look after our elderly residents and I am proud of the fact that we are making sure care workers get paid a better wage.

In addition we will be investing more into tackling Climate Change than all previous Labour budgets combined.

We will be investing more into repairing our roads than in any previous Labour budget.

And we will be investing in a whole raft of other areas to make sure that our services are protected and improved.

Your Lib Dem team, working hard within the Joint Administration for the benefit of all residents.

Bid for Countywide City of Culture submitted

I’m delighted that we are submitting our bid for a Countywide City of Culture for 2025.

DURHAM will attract 15 million visitors, bring thousands of new jobs and see significant support to the region’s levelling up agenda if it wins its bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025, which we have submitted today.

The Joint Administration running Durham County Council has outlined plans for the bid, giving a taste of what could be in store for residents and tourists should the county be successful. My colleague Lib Dem councillor Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development has been leading the project.

At the heart of the bid is a year-long programme of arts, culture, sport, science and economics including:

  • Spectacular opening and closing events
  • A 12-month celebration of Durham’s 1,300-year history of space science
  • An international celebration of the bicentenary of the railways
  • A travelling fair that asks ‘big’ questions about the local economy
  • A series of broadcast and digital programmes taking the county and its stories into front rooms and festivals across the whole of the UK and
  • Lumiere 2025 which will be bigger than ever before.

City of Culture status and the planned activities across the county would help to create a lasting legacy of jobs, new creative industries and a visitor economy that will continue to grow.

The council has today submitted its bid for the next stage of the competition with principal partner Durham University on behalf of Culture Durham – a partnership of organisations which are united by their belief in the power of culture to transform lives.

More Lib Dem successes at DCC.

Storm Warning

Please take extra care today. There are a number of trees already down from the storm and in other parts of the county there are power cuts. Certainly a day not to venture out yet!

A multi-agency meeting has been called to assess the ongoing situation in the County.

Bus station build back on track

The building of the new bus station in the City Centre is back on track. It was delayed because of issues with an adjacent building, but thankfully the station, which is set to be a massive improvement will soon see construction starting.

Council press release here:

www.durham.gov.uk/article/26862/Work-on-new-Durham-City-bus-station-back-on-track

A video update on the station project can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yV3VJfDwz9g

Investing in our communities

Yesterday at our cabinet meeting we started to address some of the failures left by the previous Labour run County Council.

Under Labour many important services have not been properly invested in nor properly managed. Lib Dem councillors working with colleagues in the joint administration are determined to turn our county around.

This starts with fixing some of our frontline services and tackling climate change.

People working in the care sector in County Durham have been woefully under paid by Labour. By increasing the wages of those helping our most vulnerable residents we can make sure that we reduce the risk of staff shortages but also give people a wage that is far better. We’ve already intervened months before the start of the next financial year to pay care workers a much better wage.

  • Under Labour most of our team working to tackle Climate Change were not even on permanent contracts. We are fixing that so that we can make a real difference making our County’s environment better. This will end up saving us money too.
  • Under Labour road sweepers were cut by more than a third. We don’t even know where they have been! So we are installing the hardware and software so we know exactly which streets have been swept and which have not. And we are going to increase the number of sweepers too.
  • Labour left our neighbourhood wardens teams without a proper management structure. We are fixing that and making sure they have the tools and the management that is needed to improve our communities.
  • In Pest Control Labour left us with delays of up to 10 weeks to investigate issues. We are putting in the staff to treat these issues, investigate more quickly and also be able to assist with a welfare and community scheme to tackle issues when residents simply can’t afford treatments.
  • In allotments, despite having hundreds of sites to manage, under Labour we had next to no staff to address issues at these sites. By putting in the monitoring and enforcement needed we can start to increase the number of allotments being used for the purpose they should be used and tackle nuisances. In our area we are also getting close to being able to start work on providing new allotments in Framwellgate Moor working closely with the Parish Council too.
  • So many of our older wheelie bins are starting to break, but Labour didn’t leave any money in the budget for replacements so we are putting in that investment too.

We are also dealing with some significant increases in costs. The Council is expecting to see a £3.1m increase in energy costs for running council services. Labour could have invested more in solar panels, insulating our buildings, increasing the number of electric council vehicles to keep down these costs. We are going to do this to make sure that our council’s energy bills can be brought under control. We should be charging council vehicles with solar energy produced by the council, heating buildings with green energy produced onsite.

This week at Abbey Leisure Centre 90kw of Solar Panels were installed, along with Heat pumps which will run off the solar power, heating the building, LED lighting is being installed to cut electric bills and we will be looking at doing this on many more buildings. By cutting our energy bills we will have more money to protect frontline services.

This and much more investment will be announced over the coming weeks as we start to turn around our county.

All credit to our refuse teams!!

I spent some time helping collect recycling earlier this week. A real insight in to just what an amazing job the team does. Once you’ve got your head around which button does what, the hard work starts.

The wheelie bins seemed relatively straighforward after a while but the glass was a nightmare to empty, bending down picking up the boxes really takes its toll. If I’d done a full day I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been moving the following morning!

Since the Covid pandemic started the volume of waste has increased dramatically across the County, which has put pressure on our refuse teams but has also significantly increased disposal costs.

A huge thank you to the teams out there on the ground and everyone supporting them.

Urgent Public Health Message – Avian Flu in Brasside

We now have confirmation from the Director of Public Health for County Durham that there is a confirmed outbreak of Avian Flu at Brasside ponds in a number of wild birds.

Across the whole Country we are seeing increasing reports of dead birds from this disease.

As a result of the confirmed cases, our neighbourhood wardens have visited the area, offering advice and guidance to walkers. Posters have also been put on display around the pond.

We are encouraging members of the public not to feed the birds, or to go near dead or dying birds, to avoid interaction with the wildfowl and to wash their hands often, especially after contact with any animal.

Although members of the public may feel concerned, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and that Avian Influenza is primarily a disease of birds.

We are working closely with UKHSA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to monitor the situation.

Further advice and information can also be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu#public