Important: Covid Message for County Durham and lockdown announcement

Covid case rates in County Durham are changing rapidly. One week we may see a significant fall, the next a sudden surge. What is absolutely clear is that everyone in our county needs to follow the rules and if possible go further.

Our sympathies go out to everyone struggling through these difficult times. If you need help and haven’t been able to find it online or in the community, please get in touch with us and we will do all we can to find you assistance.

The North East is now in full lockdown and details of what can and can’t be done can be seen here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus

There is a Dashboard where you can see the current rates for your part of the County. The areas are broken down based on Middle Super Output Areas. These are geographical areas based on a population of around 7000, and are not based on electoral divisions or specific towns or villages. The rates shown are around a week out of date.

The Dashboard also shows other data including the number of deaths in the County and specifically deaths in Care Homes.

https://www.durhaminsight.info/covid-19/

Petition for a 2030 Carbon Neutral Durham County Council

Last year Labour councillors voted on masse against a 2030 carbon neutral target for our County Council, setting 2050 instead.

The Liberal Democrat Official Opposition on Durham County Council submitted a motion to set 2030 as the target. This is the date that scientists say we must be carbon neutral by, to stop runaway climate change.

Your Lib Dem county councillors will continue to fight to meet this target so that our children, grand-children and future generations can live safely. By meeting our targets we will not only help to protect our environment but also be able to save money by using and developing new technology, securing grants and cutting energy costs.

Please sign our 2030 Carbon Petition at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/KYVR9PY

Lib Dem vote surging across County Durham – Join us

Across County Durham, Liberal Democrats are winning elections with some remarkable swings.

In the once Hard-Labour town of Shildon our candidate Garry Huntington swept to victory with almost 1257 votes compared to just 682 for the local Labour candidate in last years By-Election.

In February 2020, our County Council candidate for North Aycliffe and Middridge, Michael Stead won a stunning by-election victory in the Woodham ward with nearly 80% of the vote, leaving Independent and Labour miles behind. The Tories didn’t even have a candidate.

This was one of the last elections before lockdown.

Across the County we are determined to win more seats. Come and join us and help us change our county for the better.

libdems.org.uk/join-local

Michael fights for a more efficient council

At one of the Town Council’s budget meetings, Cllr Stead tried to explain how it would be possible to make savings without cutting services.

The Labour Chairman cut him short, mid-sentence. Behaviour like this from Labour councillors is one of the reasons Labour only got 10% of the vote in the Town Council by-election. Residents are increasingly angry at Labour’s arrogance.

Cllr Stead comments, “All residents want are well run, efficient local councils.

“Even the very basic things are not being done to save money. The town council has, for example, a £20,000 water bill. There are options to bring this bill down – such as getting quotes from different companies which the council has been able to do for several years – just like the rest of us do with electricity and gas.”

Cllr Stead continues, “Even the ‘plush, bound’ diaries they give councillors cost more money than they need to – assuming you think we should have them at all!

“The council spent £141 on diaries for councillors instead of just ordering paper inserts!”

Cllr Stead has asked for an existing committee to be re-purposed to look at every line of the budget and decide if things need to be done and if they do need doing can they be done in a better way to save money.

Michael comments, “We need to make sure council tax doesn’t have to go up until there’s no other choice.

“Everywhere you look there are possible savings. We could cut the number of councillors down from 30. We should review the operation of all our facilities.

“Everything needs reviewing. This is the only way to save money and protect services.”

Lib Dem Councillors secure £60,000 for Pity Me nature reserve improvements

Lib Dem councillors have been working hard to get improvement works commenced at the Carrs Nature Reserve, to give residents somewhere safe to go for a walk in the midst of Covid and beyond.

Councillor Mark Wilkes, who has led the project comments, “In just a few short months we have managed to raise £60,000 from numerous different sources including: All three of our neighbourhood budgets, the AAP budget, Parish Paths fund, Parish Council, Northumbrian Water, Local Transport Plan, money we recovered from a maintenance reserve which had disappeared in the County Council’s budgets and s106 money which Story Homes agreed to bring forward so we could start work early.”

Work will involve clearing out overgrown areas to re-create large ponds which have dried out, putting in viewing areas with disabled suitable seating, and most importantly perhaps in light of Covid, creating and resurfacing a kilometre of pathway around the outside of the site. We will also be getting some dropped kerbs installed near NWL HQ and amending the access gates so that they are disabled accessible.

The whole project is to take a few months to complete. Work has just started on the ponds and we are chasing all the time to make sure that timescales do not slip to get the path works done.

GATC Tax Freeze but County set for hike and unfairness

Lib Dem pressure secures council tax freeze on GATC

It seems that Cllr Michael Stead’s continued pressure for more than a year over the level of our council tax is paying off.

For over a year Michael has been campaigning for fairer council tax and a more efficient council.

Now it looks like Great Aycliffe Town Council is set to freeze council tax this year.

This will be the first time for many years that the Town Council hasn’t hiked the amount of money it takes from Newton Aycliffe taxpayers.

Cllr Stead comments, “I will support a freeze in the Town Council’s tax take from residents as it’s what I promised when I was elected. I’m happy my pressure is paying off.”

LABOUR AND TORIES DOUBLE TAXATION SHAME

Labour Town and County Councillors have however all refused to back action to address Double Taxation.

Cllr Stead explains, “Labour councillors voted against Lib Dem proposals to review the unfair system. Our local Conservative Councillors didn’t attend the County Council meeting. We need local councillors who stand up for us.”

It now looks like the County Council is going to be given permission from the Conservative Government to hike their part of the Council Tax bill by 5%.

TORIES UNDER-FUND, LABOUR HIKE TAX ON COUNTY COUNCIL

Cllr Stead says, “A 5% council tax hike could mean council tax rises of £100 for many local residents.

“At a time when people are struggling this is a kick in the teeth, not only from Labour but from the Tories too. The Government has failed to give councils the money they promised they would to deal with Covid.

“In addition, the Tories are making it easier for councils to increase council tax so they can blame local government when they are as much to blame this year.”

Local Lib Dems secure review of massive Durham County Council leases

Durham County Council have agreed to review their multi million pound headleases. These agreements could have long reaching consequences with taxpayers taking on the risk and the economic downturn COVID is causing.

The headlease of particular concern is £120 million agreement at Milburngate, Durham. This includes 5,000 square metres speculative office building, alongside 153 built-to-rent apartments. Where the Council will pay for the buildings over the next 30 years. But it is Durham County Council’s responsibility to run the facility, and find organisations to rent the space.

Taking on the risk of venture means that the taxpayer foots the bill if it goes wrong. These decisions are being made behind closed doors, with the public being barred from knowing the details.

The Council have agreed for a full review to take place – following a motion submitted by Lib Dem Cllr Owen Temple (Consett North), with a report going to cabinet in the new year. This is something that needs to be carefully watched with Croydon going bankrupt for not managing such agreements effectively.

Loo-dicrous Labour council policy scrapped

Durham County Council have asked leisure centre staff to give access to toilets after Lib Dem intervention.

Michael got Labour-run council’s policy changed after elderly resident was refused access to council toilets.

A 78 year-old local resident with “waterworks” problems needed the toilet whilst out shopping. He popped in to the Labour-run council’s leisure facility and was refused toilet access.

Local councillor Michael Stead says, “When this resident contacted me I was shocked at this loo-dicrous decision. Years ago the Council got rid of our public toilets and pointed people to the leisure centre.

“To refuse someone elderly, with a health condition, permission to use the loo in an emergency was simply unacceptable.“

Michael contacted his Lib Dem county councillor colleagues, and after they intervened the Council’s Covid policy was scrapped.

Lib Dem Michael says, “I don’t think anyone can under-estimate just how uncomfortable it can be for anyone who suddenly gets caught short.

“I’m pleased the council has listened and applied some common sense.”

The elderly resident who was turned away was helped by a local shop manager on the high street who, following Covid rules allowed the resident to use their toilet.

Cllr Stead adds, “Sometimes it does feel a bit like the world has gone mad. All credit to the hero who helped out, using common sense and compassion.”

Fighting for Fairer Council tax in South Durham

In areas like Shildon, Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor, Liberal Democrat campaigners are leading the fight for fairer council tax. In many of these areas town councils provide the services provided in other parts of the County but residents are paying significantly more council tax for this.

Cllr Garry Huntington, who was elected on a massive swing from Labour in a by-election in Shildon comments, “It is completely unfair for Shildon residents to pay twice, once for services in Shildon and again for services elsewhere in the County. The playing field is not balanced.”

Cllr Michael Stead, who stood for election in Newton Aycliffe’s Woodham Ward last February on a campaign to secure changes comments, “Residents across Newton Aycliffe deserve better. Its simply not fair for Woodham residents to pay hundreds of pounds more than residents elsewhere in the County and still have to pay the same to the County Council.

Cllr Stead was elected with nearly 80% of the vote in the Woodham by-election in a Labour ward.

Labour-run Town Council printing 1000’s of pages for meetings

Labour-run Great Aycliffe Town council wasting money and damaging environment printing huge amounts of paperwork for meetings

Councillor Michael Stead asked for his council papers to be emailed to him to save on waste. Your Labour-run council continues to print and post out papers.

Every time there is a council meeting the Town Council posts out paperwork to councillors, wasting thousands of pounds each year on paper, printing and postage, when for most councillors a simple email would work.

Cllr Stead comments, “Perhaps there are a few councillors with computer issues, but when a councillor asks for papers to be emailed, surely the Council should do this.”

Michael adds, “What this shows is that Labour just don’t care about wasting taxpayers’ money.”

Cllr Stead has made numerous suggestions to cut waste so services can be protected and council tax kept down.

However rather than support his views they cut him off in the middle of speaking at a budget meeting.

Cllr Stead concludes, “It seems Labour councillors are only interested in Council control, not in saving money to protect services or keep money in residents’ pockets.”

Shincliffe Village Play Park – Renovations complete

Durham South Lib Dem County Councillor David Stoker backed the community project to completely renovate Shincliffe Village Play Park.

The team, led by Peter Ferries, supported by Stephen and Julie Goodhart, and Paul Baker, raised the full amount needed, including a substantial contribution from Cllr David Stoker’s local neighbourhood budgets.

David said “I am delighted that both Shincliffe and High Shincliffe now have modern, exiting and safe parks.  These parks are encouraging children to be out in the fresh air, which is obviously good for both physical and mental health, particularly in these times when so many activities are restricted”

The park has been transformed with all new equipment, and to the high standard that was achieved with the play park at High Shincliffe. Local residents’ donations, charities and David’s neighbourhood budget all contributed to the scheme.