County Plan – Important update – Consultation Dates

Durham County Council’s cabinet passed the County Plan for consultation on Wednesday. The plan looks at what the County needs in terms of housing, employment and infrastructure until 2035.

We have three consultation events arranged in our area – originally one until we complained.

They are on the following dates:

Framwellgate Moor Community Centre – 27th June from 3.30pm to 6.30pm

Abbey Leisure Centre – 5th July from 4pm to 7pm

All Saints Church Newton Hall – 19th July from 4pm to 7pm

There will also be an event at the Town Hall tbc.

 

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

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.

 

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.

 

Tackling anti social behaviour


We are currently working with the police to deal with some antisocial behaviour issues in Framwellgate Moor.

If anyone spots anything across our area which they feel is inappropriate such as flytipping, excessive noise, littering, dog fouling, overflowing bins, properties with a lot of rubbish lying around etc please do let us know or contact the police on their 101 number if it’s something more serious such as a drug related issue or crime.

Cotherstone, Lindisfarne, Featherstone still without gritting

Our complaint about the removal of the gritting route and the way in which it was done have been disregarded by the Council as has our formal complaint. We now have a meeting with the Director and Head of Service set up for tomorrow. We will update residents after this meeting.

If anyone knows of any accidents which have happened since the gritting route was scrapped please let us know. We are aware of two accidents one involving two car and the other three cars. We have also been told of a near miss.

We urge all residents on these streets to write to the Council and complain about their actions and demand the route be reinstated.