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.


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.


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.


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










Durham City












Wear Valley




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.


Do not order a compost bin from the recyclenow website, as advertised in the leaflet which has just been distributed by the County Council.

On 5th Feb Cabinet agreed to reduce the price of these bins via subsidy to £8. The website and phone number advertised currently charge £17 for a bin.

the leaflet should not have been distributed before changing these prices and I have spoken with the Portfolio Member about this. Additonally it appears that the national company WRAP which provides funding streams for Compost Bins and promoting such things is pulling funding for Local Authorities with little notice.

As soon as I know any more and the price has been changed I will post the info here.

Fortunately the vast majority of household are getting garden waste collections in our area after discussions I held earlier this year with officers. Maps can be found here of the areas to be covered:


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:

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


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.