ARNISON CENTRE SUCCESS – GATES

After pushing for gates to be installed between the Mercia Centre and Arnison Centre to ensure the new KFC doesn’t result in a return to boy racers, I can confirm that they have now been installed. Thanks to local residents for assisting with this and the management company for taking our concerns on board. I still have concerns about opening times but this is a step in the right direction.

INTEREST RATE CUTS CRIPPLING SAVERS

We all know that the economy is in a dire state but if interest rates are to be cut again it is high time that savers were given some help, cutting tax on savings would be a start. Every time interest rates are cut it reduces the amount of money savers have to spend, further hitting the economy. Mortgate and loan rates are not falling, in fact are rising in many cases. Could further cuts be counter productive, hitting our currency and driving prices up? Comments appreciated

BRASSIDE ROAD SAFETY ISSUE SUCCESS – BUT NOT FINISHED

Residents in Brasside and particularly at Finchale Abbey Village have safer driving conditions after we pushed for new road markings to be put in place – now carried out. Thanks to the police, highways officers and local residents for their support.

The corner down to Finchale Abbey was being parked on causing serious safety concerns. a good stretch of this road now has a white line which is being observed by motorists. Parking problems still persist because of overflow from the prison and we are still waiting for the travel plan from the prison.

More awkward parking along Finchale Avenue is causing further concerns and highways officers are looking into this problem. We will continue to push for the travel plan which I asked to be beefed up at a plannig committee metting last year to be finalised and implemented and want to see better bus schedules and more car sharing. Comments appreciated.

ECONOMIC DOWNTURN MEETING

Many councillors attended a seminar which was billed as what we are doing as council in the economic downturn. Whilst officers have clearly worked hard on what would be described as medium to long term goals, I was very vocal in stating that we need action now – immediately. I proposed the following for consideration:

Extension of CAB outreach to all villages across the county and additional funding for CAB to assist during the downturn. Rev and I have invested more of your money into outreach services which are now funded until August, with two meetings each week available across our division. We will be displaying new dates shortly and letting residents know through newspapers and leaflets.

Asked for letters to be sent with forms to every small business in County Durham which can benefit from the Small Business Rates Reduction which is currently not taken up by as many as 60% of small businesses and would keep hundreds of thousands of pounds in County Durham. This is Lib Dem policy which our local party fronted by Carol Woods your L:ib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate has been pushing for many weeks.

A fast track program for releasing council owned land for allotments freeing up local communities to apply for national funding to assist in  financing set up costs and giving residents the chance to cut their food bills and create more community spirit and cohesion. We asked residents in Bearpark if they wanted an allotment last year and increased the number interested from a dozen or so to over 60.  There is currently a waiting list of over 15 years. We want to work with the Parish Council in Bearpark and the County Council to get land which we know is available working for local people – at the end of the day Council land is residents land and politics should not be part of this.

I raised the issue of High Speed Internet across the county stating that we must make this a priority and look at cost effective solutions to wireless internet in our more rural areas.

I also recommended the council funds outreach internet services to allow for example residents to access internet tariffs for fuel bills.

I asked for all resdients to be written to make sure they receive the correct benefits and  are given details of where to go for assistance including through CAB.

I asked for support for credit unions in our area and hope to provide more information for residents.

I recommended that the council investigates renting empty properties of house builders to reduce the council housing waiting lists.

I asked that the £6000 taken out of the apprenticeships schemes in the recent budget to be reinstated and increased.

And most importantly I asked to see every week, and month what the council is doing to tackle the downturn, rather than just concentrating on medium to long term plans.

At full council last week the Lib Dems pushed for pressure to be put on central government to stop the disgraceful, compulsory  6.5% increases in social housing rents, and as a result the leader of the council has raised these issues with cabinet ministers – cross party action.

This is just the start, but this needs implementing NOW. Comments appreciated. Again i say – we will work with anyone to solve the current economic problems, but where this doesn’t happen we will challenge them politically to the n’th degree.

MORE RESURFACING SUCCESS

Cllr Crooks and I have today informed residents on Lund Av, St Aidans Av, and Gray Av in Framwellgate Moor that carriageway resurfacing will take place later this year. This comes off the back of hard work by highways officers in surveying works we asked to be looked at last year.

It has been many years since these roads were resurfaced and the state is clearly terrible, we are confident that the promises we made on improving our roads are being met and will have further announcements in the coming weeks.

Our policy of getting on with it will continue. At a time when people are paying more and more for council tax we should all expect the best for our area. We feel we are achieving this and look forward to informing residents of further improvements and investments in our area after many years of failure.

As a party we are proud of the fact that we managed to secure no cuts in the highways budget working cross party. This is how it should be done, especially in the current climate. Whilst other parties may wish to be negative, we take no truck with this. We will work with anyone who wants to work with us for the community.

LOAN SHARK ASSISTANCE

A range of new measures have been announced to help people affected by loan sharks. A new, confidential, national hotline replaces regional telephone numbers and provides a single point of contact.

Where to get information

An estimated 165,000 households in the UK use an illegal money lender each year

If you need to get information about reporting a loan shark or managing your money you can:

  • Call the national hotline on 0300 555 2222
  • text ‘loan (space) shark (space) and your message’ to 60003
  • visit the new Stop Loan Sharks website using the link below

Stop Loan Sharks

The first Stop Loan Sharks pilot schemes were launched in September 2004 and then rolled out to every region of England, Wales and Scotland in 2007.

Since then, more than 60 people have been prosecuted with a further 90 prosecutions underway.

Consumer Affairs Minister, Gareth Thomas, said: “Loan sharks fleece hard-earned cash from their victims causing great distress and anguish.

“Calling this hotline gives victims the chance to talk in confidence. They get advice and support and the information provided helps the team to take action to stop illegal money lending.

“The teams are having huge success in bringing these criminals to justice and are saving consumers significant amounts of money.”

NEWTON DRIVE DROPPED KERBS AND PAVEMENT REPAIRS

Cllr Crooks and I have now received confirmation that work is to be carried out – funded through our highways budget – for four dropped kerbs and some pavement resurfacing around the entrances to the Doctors surgery and primary school on Newton Drive. this has been in desperate need for many years and we are pleased that this priority is being actioned.

This will make it safer for elderly residents, children and parents to access both sites and will also help to tidy up the area and reduce the chance of accidents.

ROAD RESURFACING IN WITTON GILBERT

I confirmed at the parish council meeting last night that as part of the requests I made for surveys of roads in the division, Chester Gardens and Hillside roads are to be resurfaced. this continues our commitment to improve the roads and footpaths in our area as part of our promises last year and shows that we are working well with council officers to make sure the worst affected areas are prioritised.

MY RESPONSE TO FULL COUNCIL TODAY ON THE BUDGET

The Labour decision today to increase council tax by 3.94% in Durham and 4.75% in Easington is a broken promise on last years bid. The new authority as the leader said today still intends to make £21m of savings but they have still gone ahead with these increases.

Even worse than this is that they received support from many of the Conservatives and most of the Independents, though credit to Watts Stelling of the Derwentside independents for supporting our proposals.

We did not propose to touch general reserves as can be seen in the post below which details our proposal, but instead, like the Labour party recommended to use other reserves which they call “Earmarked” reserves but for which they could not give details of the use.

At a time when the economy is in dire straits, to take millions of pounds out of Durham residents’ pockets will further damage the economy both here and across the North East. They are not planning on spending the extra money raised – it is simply going to sit in the bank earning next to no interest.

Inefficiencies at county hall are rife. At a housing meeting this week, with the temperature in the room in the 80’s,  Labour members put the air conditioning on. It’s February. I can honestly say that I believe they have no feelings for the people of our county and look forward to an election to get rid of them both nationally and here in County Durham.

This is indeed a sad day for County Durham.

OUR MOTION TO FULL COUNCIL FOR A ZERO COUNCIL TAX RISE

Amendment to be moved by Councillor Martin and seconded by Councillor Southwell

Delete all but the final sentence of paragraph 16 [Revenue Budget 2009/10] of the Report of Cabinet and replace it with

“For the year ended 31st March 2010;

a)      The Budget requirement for the County Council be £411,380,426

b)      The County Council agrees a basic council tax at Band D of £1201.84

(The average decrease in the level of the council tax for the year ended 31st March 2010 is 1.7% ranging from a nil change to a reduction of 5.5%)”

 

And make any necessary consequential changes to the detailed calculations that follow in later paragraphs

Notes: The reduction in the Budget Requirement is £8,774,384 which is to be funded from a selection of appropriate so-called earmarked reserves (Insurance Reserve, Regeneration & Communities Reserve, Special Projects Reserve and Cabinet Reserve)

The Insurance Reserve (£9.8M) is required but not at the current level which is substantially more than necessary.

The Regeneration & Communities Reserve (£2M) and, Special Projects Reserve (£3M) have been in place for several years and there are no clear plans for their use.

The Cabinet Reserve (£6.3M) is what remains from the Newcastle Airport dividend. Not all of this is required although about £2M must be retained for a specified purpose.

The following table shows the effect of our proposals in the various districts

 

£

%    

Chester-le-Street

-3.69

-0.3

Derwentside

-69.50

-5.5

Durham City

-9.14

-0.8

Easington

0.00

0.0

Sedgefield

-12.54

-1.0

Teesdale

-23.70

-1.9

Wear Valley

-24.32

-2.0

 

As with the Labour proposal, reserves will be replenished from planned future savings, albeit over a longer period.

None of this touches the general reserve which is more than adequate to cover for contingencies although the Labour budget also includes £1.6m for contingencies.