Your labour-run council is going ahead with taking a million pounds out of the local economy and charging households £20 to take away your garden waste.

Our press release of last week which was not published in the papers:

Durham County Council, with £165m in reserves is pressing ahead with a charge for garden waste collections. The Council will start sending out letters to residents this Friday.
The Council, which despite increasing its reserves, says it is cash strapped, wants to charge residents £20 for the service. The garden waste collection service currently provides 16 free fortnightly collections for more than 150,000 households between April and November. Introducing a charge means that the service would be substantially funded by those using the service and according to the council would save it £933,000. Residents in some areas not currently receiving the service will be able to apply, but a small number of households across the County will lose the right to get the service even if they want to pay for it.
Lib Dem Councillor Mark Wilkes (Framwellgate and Newton Hall) branded the charge a Garden Tax which will hit the lowest paid the hardest saying “Labour is simply not considering the repercussions of this proposal. In some poorer areas and on some Council housing estates this is going to cause real problems.”
“People are paying more in this county for council tax than in most parts of the country. Labour doubled council tax when in government. The Coalition has frozen council tax for five years, giving the Council the money to cover for inflation. Labour refused this money from the government this year and now intends to fleece Durham residents. This will hit low and middle income families and many will simply not pay it.
Councillor Wilkes believes the savings are an illusion as many residents will start to use their general rubbish bin for garden waste. This will massively increasdisposal charges. He says that Labour Head of Scrutiny Councillor Joe Armstrong said in a meeting last year that residents could do just this. Councillors are also concerned that there will be a significant increase in fly tipping adding further costs to the council budget.
Last year when the proposal was announced, Lib Dem councillors previously suggested scrapping the position of Chief Exec as a means of helping to fund the service.
Cllr Wilkes said of this “The council is paying out over a quarter of a million pounds to employ one person, why not cut this so people don’t have to stop cutting their hedges. At the very least, with so much money in reserves the Council could delay implementation of this policy for another year to look for alternatives.


Cracking reopening at Indoor Bowling centre

I attended the reopening of the Indoor Bowling Centre in Pity Me on Saturday.

Amanda (Councillor Hopgood)  bowled the first balls, and didn’t do to badly for a beginner. We have used local neighbourhood funding to help the centre lower the ceilings, to cut energy bills and improve lighting. The transformation will save thousands of pounds a year in energy bills and help make the centre more sustainable. In addition the centre has replaced the near 20 year old bowling carpet, making it one of the best facilities in the Country.

The club has over 700 members, has a room which can be hired out, has frequent social events and a bar. You don’t have to be a bowler to join, so why not pop down and see what is going on.

You might not think it but indoor bowling is actually very good exercise as Amanda can testify.

The club is round the back of Abbey Leisure Centre.


Leisure Centre Boost

Your Lib Dem councillors continue to work to improve Abbey Leisure Centre. Just a few short years ago Labour tried to close the centre. The hard work of local councillors and users stopped this. Since then we have seen a massive improvement in the centre with great new facilities. We have now secured even more
funding for the main entrance area to be refurbished, and are working on plans to get sauna and shower facilities upgraded too. Pop along to the centre and find out about all the exciting things going including for under 16’s.

Major Road Patching Works in Pity Me

For quite some time we have been working to get improvements to roads in certain areas. We have now managed to get some major patching works done in Pity Me, after extensive requests. Bishops Way and The Orchard were done a few months back. In the last week Hudspeth Crescent, The Avenue and parts of Woodbine Road have been repaired after I intervened when it became apparent the work was not down to be done any time soon.

Labour Council’s broken promise on Bowling Clubs

When I was the councillor for Witton Gilbert, up until the boundary changes last year, I spent a great deal of time helping the bowling club.

Just two years ago the council announced that it would invest £350,000 in bowling club infrastructure and that this would be spent in 2012 and 2013. They didn’t spend ONE PENNY of this and facilities have continued to deteriorate across the county as a result. Last week the Echo ran an article on it:

The moral – don’t trust Labour run councils.

A167 footpath

Thanks go to the neighbourhood services team for getting the footpath around the A167 Pity Me to Framwellgate Moor cut back to its original width. The grass had grown over much of it and it was down to 50cm in places, now the whole stretch has been cut back, something I had been asking for for many years.


Work is ongoing at Aykley Heads to remove vegetation and replace grass with slate and more manageable plants, to improve visibility.

The Durham Moor roundabout has been completed and looks great. I have asked for the roundabouts at the Arnison Centre area to be looked at as well as part of a sponsorship scheme, which would cut the cost of grass cutting and provide a nice display. If anyone has any objections to this please let me know. It would certainly tidy them up, save money and still provide a decent display.