Severe Weather Warning

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

www.metoffice.gov.uk

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.

key_Pensions.jpg

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.”

Newton Hall Post Office NEW INFORMATION – HALF WAY TO SUCCESS

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

durhamwebsite

 

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.

www.durham.gov.uk

 

 

 

Hedgerow Planting Plans

We are currently looking at planting some hedgerows in various areas for a number of reasons. The areas we have looked at include Rotary Way in Pity Me and Finchale Road in Framwellgate Moor.

We would appreciate your comments on these proposals and any other areas you feel would benefit from hedging.

Areas being looked at

1. Rotary Way (Arnison Centre bypass), Pity Me – Two areas, one on the left as you travel from the A167 roundabout, the second on the right to fill in the gap near the Mc Donalds carpark

2. A small area near the Arnison underpass.

3. Extend the hedge running from Bek Road traffic lights up Finchale Road on the left hand side.

4. Possibly plant behind the metal fence farther up Finchale Road on the school side opposite Caterhouse entrance with a view to removing the old metal fencing.

5. We are also looking at whether hedging could be moved, improved or removed on the path behind Hudspeth, to make the area less likely to get overgrown

The reasons for the planting program include:

Helping to fill in gaps in existing hedging

Protecting areas from illegal camping and parking

Helping to cut noise and air pollution from traffic

Creating proper screening on the edge of the built up area

Reinstating areas which used to have hedges

Promoting wildlife and making the area look better

 

CRACKING DOWN ON IRRESPONSIBLE DOG OWNERS

Your local councillors have started a campaign to crack down on dog fouling . We have started the campaign in the Pity Me area with wardens out patrolling, but it is local residents who can help us the most.

The Carrs Nature Reserve, the path from Pity Me to New college and various estate roads will be targetted. But if there is anywhere in Brasside, Framwellgate Moor, Newton Hall or Pity Me where you spot a problem let us know.

Wardens will give £80 on the spot fines. It taken to court, this fine could rise to £1000.

If you have details of when someone is allowing their dog to foul and not cleaning it up, please contact the council on 03000 261 000. The more details you can provide, the more chance we have to stop this.The name of the offender, their address, when they walk the dog, the type of dog and any other relevant information will greatly increase our chances of stamping out the fouling so residents aren’t standing in it.

Dog waste is dangerous. It can cause blindness and other serious illnesses. Please help us to crack down on it.

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.

COUNCIL SICKNESS ABSENCE AND LACK OF APPRAISALS SHOCKING

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…)

County Plan update

Full Council 17th September 2014

Today, a report goes to full council to approve the addition of 86 comments into the County Plan submission which were “overlooked” previously. As most people know, most public comments have been ignored throughout this process, but the report makes for interesting reading as it is clear that if you are a developer, your comments are taken very seriously. So the Developers Charter that is the County Plan marches on.

Interesting reading for those who have been following the County Plan. The report says at one point that any requests for greenbelt land to be erased are being passed to the examiner. We can only hope that those views against destroying the countryside are also equally considered.

http://democracy.durham.gov.uk/documents/s44008/County%20Durham%20Plan%20Feedback%20Supplement.pdf