State of our country lanes – update

I chased up today on the litter situation on our country lanes, in particular Potterhouse Lane (past the tip), Rotary Way, along the back roads and down to Cocken.

They are in a really bad way. Some work will be done soon but some will have to be delayed as Cocken will apparently require a road closure for safety reasons.

I will keep chasing this. Sick and tired of takeaway rubbish on these roads.

App to check if older or vulnerable people are OK at home

From DCC:

A new service has been launched to offer a little extra peace of mind to the relatives of older and vulnerable people in County Durham.

3rings is a mobile phone and PC app which lets people know when their relative is using an electrical appliance such as a kettle, television or washing machine.

The idea is to reassure people that their relative is up and well.

The app is being offered by Durham County Council through its Care Connect service.

Linda Ogilvie, Care Connect manager, said: “he app is a really simple, affordable way of offering people that little extra reassurance if their relative is older or vulnerable.

It will send live updates to your phone or PC to let you know when your relative is settling down to watch the TV, putting the kettle on for a cuppa or heating something in the microwave.

So if your dad usually uses the kettle between 7am and 9am, the app will send an alert letting you know whether or not this has happened, meaning you can rest assured that your loved one is up, active and well.

Residents get incorrect Council Tax bills

Residents around Durham City are getting electronic council tax bills which are incorrect.

On Newton Hall and other parts of the City residents have received electronic bills and are being charged for the City of Durham Town Council precept by mistake.

We immediately raised this with officers and are hopeful that paper bills have not been sent out too.

Update: 4782 paper bills were printed and scrapped at a cost of £240. Thankfully they were not posted out. Over 1100 people got incorrect electronic bills. Needless to say we are asking that the proper checks are put in so it doesn’t happen again.

Weather continues to cause major issues – If your bin hasn’t been emptied it won’t be

We got the update below around 16.15 today. Clearly there are major problems across the region, and we can only hope that all council and emergency teams are able to operate sufficiently to protect lives. More locally, bin collections are now cancelled for this week, any missed bins will be collected in two weeks.

Latest update from council:

With the forecasts not showing any significant signs of improvement and due to the number of properties affected, we will be unable to carry out catch up collections for those properties we have missed this week. Residents are therefore being advised to take their missed bin back in and it will be emptied in a fortnights time by our crews – who will also take any additional materials which have accumulated in that time. We anticipate resuming collections on Monday so are asking residents to put their bins out in line with the alternate weekly service. If anyone is unsure they can check on “My Durham”.

As a result of last night’s heavy snow showers countywide, and drifting snow from the strong winds the number of road closures have increased. The list below is the latest information available.

A689 Closed at Cowshill
B6295 Closed at Cowshill
C21 Closed at Rookhope
B6278 Closed at Crawleyside Stanhope and at Edmundbyers
C16 Closed at Crawleyside Stanhope and at Horseleyhope Castleside
B6278 Closed at Stanhope and Egglestone
B6277 Closed at Middleton
B6276 Closed at Middleton
C27 Closed at St John’s Chapel & Landon Beck
C28 Closed at Westgate & Newbiggin
C77 Closed Rookhope & Ireshopeburn
C78 Closed Rookhope & Westgate
C18A Closed at Crook & Stanley
C11 Closed between Quaking Houses and Burnhope

The advice to motorists remains only to drive where necessary.

Durham Police have been pro-actively engaging with any homeless persons to offer to arrange safe accommodation via ourselves. We have also been working closely with the homeless charity Changing Lives to provide support for anyone in need. The information I provided yesterday has been widely circulated to all of our partners.

Care Connect, have again cancelled all non-urgent installations and are just dealing with emergencies. Our care staff continue to prioritise essential visits.

Customer Access points are open and are able to see anyone who calls in, similarly the contact centres are running normally.

As we advised yesterday members of the public are advised to phone ahead to ensure that services such as libraries and leisure centres are operating.

Household waste and recycling centres in Middleton-in-Teesdale and Horden are closed with others opening later than normal.

Our business centres have remained open for our tenants so they can continue their work.

The number of school closures is similar to yesterday.

We have been responding to requests from some care homes for the provision of 4 x 4 transport to help staff get into work and our Countryside Rangers have been able to support this request. A similar request has also come in from the University hospital in Durham to check if we could help if needed later today.

We are not aware of any issues with any of the utilities although Northumberland Water have said they may need some help clearing the A689 so they can get to a water treatment plant at Irishopburn to carry out some critical work to maintain the water supply from this plant.

For updates on all council services, please visit awb:// or check the council’s Facebook and Twitter sites at and

Gritting and snow update – Including Finchale Abbey Village

We have had a few residents get in touch about the state of the roads. The Council has been working round the clock to keep our main roads in a good condition and despite the horrendous conditions most main roads have been passable with care most of the time.

We have one outstanding issue. Finchale Abbey Village is still wanting for a grit delivery despite my original request on 12 December and repeat requests since. We have been given assurances that there will be some delivered tomorrow.

My attempt to get down there today was not fruitful and I turned back. This suggests to us that many residents will be struggling to get out of the village, and if the forecasts are right the village may well be cut off completely by morning. Not great considering its just a couple of miles from Durham City.

When the annual review of winter maintenance comes round there will be some earnest and frank discussions about this particular element of the winter maintenance program from us as your local councillors and these problems will definitely not happen again that’s for sure.

Other than this issue, the Council is doing a good job in difficult circumstances.

All staff are working round the clock and deserve praise for their efforts. It certainly isn’t easy driving a 40 ton truck of grit on ice with near snow blindness, so please bear with them if service levels are not quite to the standard you would normally expect.

We will also see significant disruption to bin collections for the next few days and into next week, so time to compact down those bins!


School Closures, gritting, snow and your neighbours

Many of our schools have had to close today due to the worst ending weather conditions.

The Council’s gritting teams have been working round the clock for the past few days – all credit to them for keeping our main roads passable. Hopefully the current snow wont grind things to a halt, but please do be careful if you have to drive and only drive today if absolutely essential.

With snow forecast to continue today and much already on the ground many elderly people are stranded in their homes so please check on your neighbours.


Cold weather and winter info

With cold weather here again, below are some links which are useful. If you still have issues you can’t get fixed or find info on by all means contact one of us. Please do check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours in the coming days to see if they need any help.

Homelessness issues:

Cold weather advice and help:

info on weather conditions and gritting etc


Today for the first time since Durham’s new unitary authority was set up and perhaps the first time in Durham County Council’s 100 year history, Labour councillors backed an amendment to their budget.

This was put forward by me with the support of our Lib Dem group so I’m rather happy today. I proposed using extra funding the government gives for bringing empty homes back into use to employ extra staff to tackle the problem – a no brainier really – but in Durham, to get a motion passed at any time is nigh on impossible – at Budget setting its unheard of!

We will now have something like double the hours invested into tackling this issue. Although I will be checking and double checking that this actually happens.

At present there are over 6900 long term empty properties in County Durham. These leave areas run-down, causing problems for other homeowners and residents and are a waste of resources.

In my area alone there are many of these properties, including many in Framwellgate Moor. Whilst we have managed to get some back into use, many remain unaddressed.

Finally we will have the staff in place to deal with this.

97 councillors voted in favour of my motion, 4 voted against, including John Turnbull (Labour for Brandon, Langley Moor and Meadowfield) bizarre given how many empty properties there are in his area.

Three councillors abstained including Marion Wilson who covers Deerness (Bearpark, Esh Winning, Ushaw Moor, NEw Brancepeth). Another area with numerous empty properties.


Major flytipping, litter, rubbish, overflowing bins issues reported in a Framwellgate Moor

I have today during a drive and walk around reported dozens of issues around Framwellgate Moor front street and the Terraces.

Numerous overflowing bins, many of them recycling bins which are not due emptying until March 1st.

Numerous flytipping incidents including black bags, fridge and freezers, sofas and other rubbish.

A lot of wind blown litter.

I have raised concerns with the Head of Setvice and Clean and green managers about the clear failure of clean up in the area caused by removal of or lack of proper litter picking and street bin emptying on Friday afternoon now there is no weekend service.

Senior officers will be out on site this week to assess what needs doing.

Please help improve the area by: Reporting overflowing bins including wheelie bins, reporting any bin anywhere with no lid and letting us know of any flytipping or rubbish incidents anywhere across Framwellgate Moor, Pity Me, Newton Hall and Brasside.

I also arranged for the area behind Front St Pity Me to be litter picked and reported several more flytipping incidents there. We need to keep on top of this and need residents help to do it so please do report all issues.

Tackling anti social behaviour

We are currently working with the police to deal with some antisocial behaviour issues in Framwellgate Moor.

If anyone spots anything across our area which they feel is inappropriate such as flytipping, excessive noise, littering, dog fouling, overflowing bins, properties with a lot of rubbish lying around etc please do let us know or contact the police on their 101 number if it’s something more serious such as a drug related issue or crime.