Next Thursday we are standing for re-election as your Lib Dem County Councillors. Please vote for Mark Wilkes, Mamie Simmons and Amanda Hopgood on Thursday 4th May.

We are getting a great response on the doorstep, with many residents also contacting us by email to confirm they are supporting us.

We also hope to get elected to the Parish Council along with our Lib Dem colleagues Nigel Martin, Grenville Holland, Colin Hillary and Clive Beddoes.

Weeds, leaves and rubbish cleared from Pity Me Front St

Last years leaves along with this years weeds have now been completely cleared from Pity Me Front street after we intervened. Residents were sent letters asking them to move cars away from the  pavement edge. The Council’s clean and green team have done a really good job of a difficult area which is always blocked by parked cars.

If there are any other areas where there are still rotting leaves on pavements or other similar issues please let us know so we can get them cleaned up quickly.

200 Council Managers still haven’t completed COMPULSORY staff sickness training 12 MONTHS after being told to

A few years ago we managed to get the Council to agree to a major program of changes to tackle sickness absence and attendance management issues at the Council.

The good news is that sickness absence is falling, although it is still way too high at over 10 days per employee a year.

The bad news, no the appalling news, is that over 200 managers still have not completed the compulsory training they are required to: 12 months after being told to do it. This training makes sure that they understand when to refer someone for example to occupational health and how to deal with a sick employee in a proper manner. Previously some employees were not referred for months when there were clear issues – one employee wasn’t referred to occupational health for 300 days!!

The Council is continuing to let down employees by not making sure that all managers are properly trained. Surely 12 months is long enough for a manager to have done the compulsory training. Personally, apart from holidays and their own sickness, a month should have been long enough to book a few hours of time in to do the course on the council’s computer system. It’s not a huge ask to put the computer on and do it after all.

I am absolutely certain that not a single manager will have seen any serious repercussions from failing to carry out the training.Offiers at today’s meeting could;t answer what the repercussions were for someone failing to do the training. Compulsory means compulsory. Any manager not having done the training is letting down their staff and this County. The Labour cabinet members responsible should get off their gold plated chairs and have a right go at senior management, much as I did today at our Scrutiny meeting.

PRESS RELEASE: Council profits from cycle scheme at expense of local cycle shops

Labour-run Durham County Council is under pressure to help local bike
shops. Lib Dem campaigners have discovered that local firms have been
priced out of a cycle scheme in favour of a national firm.

Many big employers are involved in a salary sacrifice scheme which
allows employees to pay for a bike through national insurance rebates.
Durham County Council offers this scheme to its staff.

Two years ago local bike firms in County Durham were accessing the
council’s scheme. However a new contract with a national chain was
introduced. Whilst the local firms could still get involved, they
could only do so if they sold different bikes than the national chain
and had to pay a huge 15% commission.

Lib Dem councillor Mark Wilkes has found out that most of this
commission is pocketed by the Labour-run County Council. He commented
“Local firms have been priced out of the market by what is in effect a
back hander. This was not a requirement of the original tender. The
Council should immediately remove the 12% they are taking from this
scheme so that it is worthwhile for local firms to get involved.

A council spokesperson said of the commission “The income contributes
to the council’s costs for managing and promoting the scheme.”

The scheme has so far helped 205 employees take up the cycle program.
Almost all of those taking up the scheme in the last two years have
gone through the national company.

Salary sacrifice schemes like this one can be great at promoting
sustainable travel. The bike scheme helps to cut pollution and improve
health by getting people out of the car and onto bicycles.

However Lib Dem campaigners state that this should not be at the
expense of local firms who are in effect priced out of being involved.

Cllr Wilkes points out “By taking this commission the Council is
removing any chance that local firms can make money. Indeed we have
been told that to be involved actually costs them money as their
margins and costs are swept away by the council taking a cut.”

What makes campaigners even more angry is that the back hander was
kept secret until a local firm mentioned they were having to pay a
commission to the national provider.

Cllr Wilkes added “I imagine that not one of our local firms actually
knew the money was going back to Durham County Council!”

The Labour-run local authority has extended the national contract for
a further 2 years, but Lib Dem campaigners are calling on the Council
to amend the terms and remove the 12% cut they take so that local
firms can afford to get involved.

Residents wrongly told they can vote in parish election, polling cards and postal votes issued

Residents of  Barrington Close have been included in the Parish Council election despite not being in the Parish.

When I was checking through the electoral roll for non parished parts of our area it suddenly dawned on me the Barrington Close wasn’t there.

I called the head of electoral services who ran a check only to discover the Council had registered the street over five years ago as part  of  Framwellgate Moor Parish area.

The Council must now issue new polling cards and notify residents, including those with postal votes that they can’t vote in the Parish election.

Had I not seen this the whole election might have needed to be run again. Thankfully I’m told these residents haven’t been billed for parish council tax, but I will still be checking to make sure.