Watersure and Water Meters – Help for vulnerable people & savings for everyone

Have a read of this blog entry if you want to save money on your water bills or know someone on a low income who could do with help. Water meters, and a scheme called Watersure can help different people, and there is a lot of advice out there for everyone on how to cut costs.


Have you heard of Watersure? Have a read below, and if you or someone you know may be eligible, contact Northumbrian Water for a form or download one at: https://www.nwl.co.uk/_assets/documents/Watersure_form_NW_2014_web.pdf

Water Meters:

If you are not currently on a water meter, you may save hundreds of pounds a year by having one fitted. Northumbrian Water can help you decide if you would save. Call them on 0345 733 5566 or try their online calculator: https://www.nwl.co.uk/your-home/your-account/usage-calculator.aspx

Already on a meter? There is plenty of advice here on how to cut your bills.

Are you with Durham City Homes?

If you are with Durham City Homes you can still transfer to a meter, but will need permission. I helped someone in a DCH property move to a water meter and they are now saving around £200 a year!!

Water Sure detail:

The WaterSure scheme is available for certain customers with a water meter. It allows them to have their bills capped. This is to make sure that these customers don’t cut back on how much water they use because they are worried about how they will pay their bill.

To qualify for help under the WaterSure scheme, you or someone living with you, needs be entitled to receive one of the following:

  • Universal Credit
  • housing benefit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (except families in receipt of the family element only)
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

In addition, you need to either:

  • be responsible for three or more children under the age of 19 and in full-time education living in the property, or
  • have (or someone living in the property must have) a medical condition which requires significant additional use of water. Examples of medical conditions include weeping skin diseases (such as psoriasis), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

If you qualify for WaterSure, you will pay no more than the average household bill for your company, even if you use more than the average amount of water.

You will not qualify for WaterSure if you use a garden sprinkler system or have a swimming pool.

If you think you are eligible for WaterSure, use the link above to the form.


A quick reminder. If your total household income is less than £16000 a year you may be eligible for a £140 discount off your electricity bill this winter. Call your energy company and ask them if you are eligible for the WARM HOMES DISCOUNT. This was introduced by the Lib Dems in government to help those on a low income with their energy costs.

Severe Weather Warning

The met office has issued a serve weather warning for tonight/tomorrow. You can find more information at:


If you notice any blocked road or pavement drains in the next day or two please let us know so we can get them reported through the Council system. Alternatively email hal@durham.gov.uk and copy me in to the email

State pension set to rise by 2.5 per cent next year

Pensioners will benefit from a 2.5 per cent increase in their state pension thanks to the Liberal Democrat Triple Lock guarantee.

Figures out today (14 October) show that inflation is below target meaning that the basic state pension will be boosted by 2.5 per cent next year.

The Triple Lock guarantee means that pensions will increase with inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent – whichever is highest.


Commenting on the inflation figures, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:

“This below target inflation number is good news for everyone, but will help pensioners in particular as the Liberal Democrat flagship ‘Triple Lock’ policy will kick in to give an above inflation pension increase.

“The Triple Lock delivers a pension rise of whichever is the greater of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

“This means that next year the basic state pension will rise by 2.5% or £2.85 a week.  With Liberal Democrats in Government the basic state pension has risen by over £950.

“This shows that pensioners are at the heart of our Liberal Democrat vision of a stronger economy and a fairer society.

“They’ve done their bit for society and paid their dues over a lifetime. Our Triple Lock policy ensures our country does right by them.

“This is in stark contrast to life under the Conservatives who broke the link between pensions and earnings in the Thatcher years, and life under Labour when pensioners were insulted with rises as low as 75p.”


I have been trying to get updates from various places on the plans for Newton Hall Post Office.

The first thing to say is that the consultation process is still running behind the scenes. The national CAB / Consumer Futures who analyse the consultation data have confirmed to me that following our representations they are pushing for “Main” Branch status. They will thrash out their views on the 22nd with PO management at a national level.

The pressure from residents and ourselves as your local councillors appears to be having a positive impact. Whilst the existing site does not look like it will be retained, the services which were due to be lost may well be retained if the branch moves into McColls.

Proposals have been aired which would see McColls run the branch as a “Local Plus”. This means that almost all the services which would have been lost would now be retained – so half a success.

However the BIG issue which remains is capacity. We are still campaigning alongside the CAB for a Main branch model as we do not want to see queues for local residents. Given that it looks increasingly likely that Framwellgate Moor Post Office will move up the road to Nisa, losing some services, the pressure on capacity in the area will be exacerbated.

Clearly there are also concerns about what happens to the existing staff and some concerns about training in a newly located branch.

A planning application has been submitted for a disability ramp at McColls. Whist this may appear to be cart before horse, it takes 8-9 weeks to pass a planning application and if the move goes ahead, disability access is a requirement.

All of this reminds me of a silver lining: Under the last government thousands of post offices closed, under the current government branches are being protected either in their current location or an alternative. Whatever happens we will still have two post offices in the area.

We will continue to push to make sure they have the capacity and the services. Things are looking better than they were and when we know more we will of course update on here and in the community.


New Council Website Up and running



Over a number of years as your Lib Dem councillors we have pushed the council for a better website and particularly for more services to be offered online.

The new County Council website is far easier to use and it is hoped that as more people order services, report things and pay for things online, it will free up staff at the council to answer calls more quickly. It should also save the council a lot of money in the longer term as requests go to the right person and will ensure better monitoring of responses.

Please let me know if you find anything not working on the site so that we can feed this back to council officers and get it fixed.

Also, if you do not get a response to something as quickly as it says you will, or as quickly as you would expect let me know that too.





Household Waste Recycling opening hours

NEW winter opening times for County Durham’s household waste recycling centres will come into effect next week.

Revised opening hours for sites operated by Durham County Council will begin on October 1st and stay in force until the end of March.

The Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) at Potterhouse Lane in Pity Me will be open seven days a week from 9am until 3.30pm.

The centre will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.


As well as the reserves issue, we again thrashed out concerns about sickness absence levels today.

Sickness absence is running at nearly 12 days a year per employee (that’s on average). Over the last twelve months the council has lost over 93,000 employee work days to sickness.

What is just as striking is that more than thirty percent of staff did not have an appraisal in the last twelve months. How on earth can an organisation run properly when nearly a third of its staff haven’t even had an annual meeting with their boss to discuss their past twelve months performance.

Labour-run Durham County Council is failing its staff. Your Lib Dem councillors have been going on about sickness absence and staff appraisals for years and years. (more…)

Challenging the Council on Reserves

At Corporate Issues committee today I challenged officers on reserves. (The Council have 50 pots of money). Some allocated to nothing, others apparently allocated for future needs). We were told that the Council is/wants to use £75m of reserves between 2011-2017.

So for example if reserves were £100m you would expect to have £25m left wouldn’t you?

That is what officers and the Labour Party want the public to think. The reality is though that they are saying they will use £75m but not telling us how much they are putting into reserves. They add money in and then take it back out but:

If you add £100m to reserves but only take out £75m then you have more left than before. You can’t then say in a public meeting that you have used a lot of reserves because quite clearly you have actually added to reserves. (more…)