AN IMPORTANT WEEK FOR COUNTY DURHAM

Thought it would be useful to let residents know the kind of official meetings we do each week. Some weeks we have less meetings other weeks more. I also try attend Parish council meetings for the three parish councils which cover the division as well as residents meetings. There are governors meetings for two schools in the area, which I attend as a Local Authority governor as well as meetings of the Lib Dem groups at City and County Hall and some sub-committees of these groups.

This week is particularly important as we will be putting forward our alternative proposals for the budget for the new unitary council. I find it hard to believe that the Labour Party feel it is sensible increase the council tax by as much as they are. The increase for residents over the year is quite staggering at such a difficult time. For residents in Easington, in a band D property this will be a rise of £57.06 – over £1 a week, in Durham City a rise of £47.92 for a band D property,  Chester-le-Street £53.37…..

When you consider that all residents were expecting a reduction in council tax as a result of the reorganisation, this cannot be seen as anything other than excessive. It is completely unacceptable and we will be pressing this case at Friday’s budget setting meeting.

This coming week I am due to attend the following council meetings:

Tue – County – Corporate Parenting Panel – which includes scrutinising and monitoring outcomes for Looked after Children across County Durham.

Tue – County-  Local Government Review Seminar – looking at various aspects of the creation of the new council.

Tue – City Council – Full Council meeting – with questions from members of the public and councillors and reports on the work of the council.

Wed – County – Overview of Housing in New Authority.

Wed – City Council – Full Scrutiny meeting – considering decisions of cabinet and finalising reports of scrutiny committees.

Thur – County – Special Overview & Scrutiny Committee – Scrutinising decisions of cabinet and new council.

Fri – Full County Council – To decide the budget for the next financial year.

Sat – County – Presentation on Domestic Abuse Awareness.

European Election – 4th June 2009

The European Elections will take place on the 4th June 2009. This year the number of Members of the European Parliament will fall by 49 to 736.

In the North East we will elect 3 MEPs. The voting system is different to UK elections. Each party puts forward a list of candidates. the party with the most votes receives the first position, their vote is then halved and the party with the most votes at this point receives the second post and so on.

At the last election Fiona Hall was elected as the Lib Dem at the top of the list for our party and she is seeking re-election. her website is: www.fionahall.org.uk

If you would like to register to vote, or register for a postal vote for this election you can download forms here:

 http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/

SALT BIN CHAOS

The County Council recevied requests for over 700 salt bins across the County over the last few months.

We requested three – on Lund Avenue, Woodbine Road and Oak Lea. The Council has an assessment process which looks at a long list of criteria and scores each request. To qualify a road must hit 150 points.

Lund Avenue received 80 points, Woodbine Road 60 points and Oak Lea 30 points. I will be taking the reports to Framwellgate Moor and Witton Gilbert Parish Councils and have been back in touch with the Highways Dept as I am not happy with the assessments – in particular OakLea.

Whilst I appreciate that the Council cannot provide unlimited salt bins, what really annoys me is the fact that they will not allow councillors  to pay for new ones to be installed out of their local budgets unless the local parish council agrees to fund the filling. I will be reporting this to the parish councils but do not feel this is a satisfactory conclusion given the number of roads which are not currently gritted and the fact that no pavements are gritted.

So that everyone can see how the process works I will be uploading the three reports showing the criteria and the points scored once I have confirmed that the scoring is correct.

DERIC BUS LAUNCH

The Mayor of Durham Grenville Holland attended the official launch of the new Deric Youth Bus yesterday. I spoke with Chairman and local fellow councillor Terry Moderate and had a look round the new bus which I have to say is fantastic – hats off to everyone who has been working on this.

The funding Cllr Crooks and I provided for the service at Witton Gilbert was very well spent and we backed this up with further funding now that the Youth Club has been set up. Having spoken to Terry about future funding I am sure that both Rev and I will be looking to invest more of the councillors initiative fund money into this great facility.

CHILD POVERTY FAILURES

Click here to be taken to the End Child Poverty website.

Having attended a Lib Dem conference on poverty last month, I am not surprised that the government is failing to acheive the targets set for reducing child poverty. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that government targets will simply never be hit unless there is serious and immediate action.

The current recession is likely to still further exacerbate this problem and it is now imperative that the goverment listens to the independent foundation and the views of other parties to takle this problem immediately.

The current tax credit system allows a couple earning over 70k a year to claim child benefits. We should be targetting the money we have to those who need it most – its the only way to solve this problem.

If Gordon Brown doesn’t sort this out soon it will be a damning indictment on over a decade of Labour government – a generation of children brought up under Labour in poverty. I can’t see the Conservatives making a serious attempt to address this problem, so again it is left to the Lib Dems to put the pressure on.

IMPROVED BUS SERVICES THROUGH WITTON GILBERT

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Back at the start of the year I contacted the press after finding out about cuts to services which the County Council had hardly been consulted on at all. (Article in Durham times below from 2nd January). I then spoke with the Portfolio Member and officers to ask for the Council to do everything they could to protect services through Witton Gilbert and the surrounding areas.

Local residents contacted me and those in other areas campaigned hard to keep the services.

I applaud the County Council for taking this matter so seriously and it is great that Arriva has now agreed to run new services through Witton Gilbert:

The new services are the 754 Durham via Arnison Centre, Nettlesworth, Sacriston, Witton Gilbert to Langley Park, operating in addition to the hourly service 14 that also runs on this route. The 726 operates from Langley Park via Witton Gilbert, Sacriston, Nettlesworth to Chester le Street, also operating every hour.(Outside of peak periods)

I will be reporting back when the full timetable is available. The services should start on the 30th March.

NORTHERN ECHO REPORT:

Bus firm urged to reconsider cuts

11:50am Friday 2nd January 2009


A COUNCILLOR is urging a bus company to reconsider cuts it is planning to make on routes serving city suburbs and outlying villages.

Gateshead-based Go North East will make the changes on Sunday, January 25. But Mark Wilkes, Liberal Democrat councillor for Durham City and Durham County councils, says the cuts will cause hardship for some people.

The planned cuts will affect Langley Park, Sacriston, Framwellgate Moor and Witton Gilbert.

Service 13 (Langley Park- Sacriston-Framwellgate Moor- Durham) and Service 14 (Langley Park-Sacriston-Nettlesworth- Arnison Centre-Framwellgate Moor Durham), which currently run twice an hour, will run hourly only during the day.

The company says peak time services will run more frequently.

Evening and Sunday services will be unchanged. But the 25A (Langley Park-Sacriston-Plawsworth- Chester-le-Street-Picktree Village- Gateshead-Newcastle) will no longer run south of Chester-le- Street to Langley Park.

The 25 (Langley Park-Sacriston- Edmondsley-Waldridge Park- Chester-le-Street-Barley Mow- Gateshead-Newcastle) will continue to run hourly via Edmondsley, with additional buses at peak times.

On Service 71 (Chester-le-Street- Great Lumley Fencehouses-Houghton- le-Spring-Sunderland) some evening and Sunday services will be withdrawn between Chester-le- Street and Houghton-le-Spring.

The firm says Service 78, which runs between Consett, Stanley, Chester-le-Street and Sunderland, will provide a good alternative for customers travelling between Chester-le-Street, Great Lumley and Woodstone Village.

Service levels for the remainder of the route are being considered by the county council and Nexus, the Tyne and Wear Transport Executive.

A spokeswoman for Go North- East said the changes were being made because of low passenger numbers on the routes affected.

Coun Wilkes said: “Daytime services on the 14 and 13 services are to be cut to hourly and will make it even more difficult for residents to travel into Durham. In other parts of North Durham whole services are being axed, with the 71 Chester-le-Street to Sunderland service being scrapped, and the 25a and 28 services cut back.

“At a time when we are supposed to be promoting the use of public transport, these proposals will really hit the most vulnerable in our county. I urge Go North East to reconsider.”

VINCE CABLE – THE ONLY ONE TALKING SENSE?

It is clear the the Conservatives and Labour haven’t got a clue on the economy. The reassuring, sensible approach being taken by Vince Cable – Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor is a major relief. His interview with Andrew Marrs on Sunday was a breath of fresh air, and the decision to limit bonuses to the absolute minimum for bankers comes after he made that very point.

The interview can be read or watched here

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/andrew_marr_show/7891175.stm

BRASSIDE TRAFFIC PROBLEMS

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Over the last few months there have been serious problems with parking in Brasside, particularly on the road running to Finchale Abbey. The number of vehicles parking along this road is now becoming dangerous, with no passing points for motorists and cars repeatedly parking round the edge of a junction which has poor visibility.

The County Council  Portfolio Member for the Environment and the Head of the department are now fully aware of the issues and I have spoken with the officers in charge of liaising with the prison on the traffic plan which I was successful in getting added to the planning application as requirement before occupation of the new block at Frankland Prison.

I have also spoken with the Highways Department to ask for the consideration of double yellow lines along this stretch of road for safety reasons, and have repeatedly asked for the extension of the no parking markings around the junction.

It is clear that there is insufficient parking at the prison, and I am waiting to see the updated travel plan proposals and the answer from Highways.