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.