Friday, 31 October 2014

Durham County Council To Maintain Support For Vulnerable Council Tax Payers

Durham County Council has announced that residents in County Durham who receive support to help them pay their council tax will continue to be protected for a further year.

The Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme was introduced in April 2013 following the abolition of the national council tax benefit system.

The scheme was introduced to help those affected by the changes and Durham County Council are one of only two authorities in the North East to maintain support at the same level as it was before councils were asked to introduce their own schemes. Durham has managed this in the face of huge central government grant cuts which have affected most services and placed in doubt non-statutory services.

At a meeting on October 29, councillors agreed to extend the same level of support to cover 2015/16, meaning around 34,000 working age households - 10,000 of which are people in low-paid employment - will not face increased council tax bills.

Councillor Alan Napier, deputy leader and Cabinet member for finance at Durham County Council, said:

"We believe that the continued support given to these vulnerable households is essential as they cope with the impacts of the Government's welfare reform agenda.

"This decision means that those people who are struggling will not face the added burden of additional council tax payments."

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Derwent Valley News Winter Edition

Here is the latest edition of the Derwent Valley News Winter Edition. Click on the image below and you will hopefully see it increase to a size where you will be able to read it.

Also take the time to check out the Derwent Valley Life website at http://derwentvalleylife.org.uk/

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Durham County Council Wins National Award for County Reuse Scheme

Durham County Council has won a national award for it's County Reuse Scheme.

The County Durham Reuse forum received the prestigious Best Partnership Award from the LARAC (Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee), the national local authority watchdog on recycling standards.

The forum, which is a partnership Durham County Council are involved in, has six reuse schemes across the county and in 2012/13 some 24,000 households received a wide variety of items ranging from sofas and beds to tables and chairs. They also provided 189 full or part-time jobs with help from 210 volunteers and 84 work training placements.

Terry Collins, Corporate Director for Neighbourhood Services, said:

"This award is testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved and recognises the very positive feedback we have received from the public and the fact we have been be able to help so many people."

Steve Mitton, of the County Durham Furniture Help Scheme, said:

"This award demonstrates the value of the County Durham Reuse Forum and we fully appreciated the support that Durham County Council and our partners give us in supporting our local community."

The reuse schemes within County Durham Reuse forum are:

  • Kings Church Furniture Reuse
  • County Durham Furniture Help Scheme (CDFHS)
  • East Durham Partnership
  • Woodhouse Close Church Furniture Project
  • Consett YMCA
  • Haswell Mencap Furniture Enterprise

To learn more about the Reuse Scheme, please visit http://www.durham.gov.uk/reuse

Sunday, 26 October 2014

26th October 2014 Politics Podcast with Malcolm Clarke, Liam Carr and special guest host Fraser Tinsley

Here is our latest politics podcast (a day early this week!) It is hosted by North West Durham Labour activist Malcolm Clarke and the Labour Party Candidate for the Hexham Constituency for the May 2015 General Election, Liam Carr.

This week we are joined by Willington Mayor and North West Durham Chair Fraser Tinsley in an extended episode of our podcast. We discuss the end of Afghan operations for UK troops, issues surrounding the EU following comments by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, the right of recall for MPs and other local issues, including the by-election won by Liam's mother, Joanne Carr in Dipton & Burnopfield.

Please press play to listen to the podcast or subscribe via our talkshoe page by clicking this link.

Our political podcast is available on iTunes where you can subscribe FREE by visiting their iTunes store. Click here to subscribe to our Politics Podcast on iTunes. There is no better way of ensuring you do not miss a show as any new shows as they will automatically be downloaded to your computer each time you open the iTunes application.

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to listen in and we hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Joanne Carr Elected To Durham County Council


Congratulations to Joanne Carr, the newest Councillor on Durham County Council. Following an incredibly close result, Joanne, who missed out on election in May 2013 by less than 20 votes, finally joined Durham County Council as the second Councillor for the Burnopfield & Dipton division , winning the by-election by just 1 vote!

It was always going to be a close contest, given the historical political makeup of the area, but I don't think anyone expected it to go right down to the final vote. I was not at the count, but I am told that it appeared we had lost, then that it was very close and then in the recount there was one ballot paper that had voted for two candidates, which had previously been counted for the Independent candidate. This was rightly adjudicated as spoiled and the result was declared.


Just as I left after leafleting I took a photo of this guy, who was watching with some interest as voters visited the Dipton Community Centre to cast their ballot.


So congratulations to Joanne Carr and I am sure that she will be a great representative for her local area at County Hall. She joins Ivan Jewell, who works incredibly hard and between them they will do great.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Changes to Blue Badge Renewals

Readers should take note of some important changes to the way Blue Badge parking permits are renewed in County Durham, which will come into force at the beginning of next month.

From Saturday, 1 November, badge-holders will no longer automatically receive an application form for a new badge when their existing one expires.

People will continue to receive a text, email or letter reminding them that their badge is due to expire but they will no longer be automatically sent an application form. This means that you must remind your elderly relatives to take action to get an application submitted to renew their badge as it will not automatically renew.

To avoid any problems, click here to access the Disabled Blue Badge page on the Durham County Council website and make sure your application gets put in for your new badge, if you need it. Individual Blue Badge permits cost £10. Please note that it can take up to six weeks to process a Blue Badge application and all the information you need to apply is accessible via the above link.

Scrap Broadband Councillor Allowance

For the benefit of clarity, I do think that our local councillors deserve decent remuneration and I do not think they should be hammered just because they are "politicians". They are paid way less than the lowest pay grade and are expected to put in many hours of work and make all the very tough decisions, so this is not an attack on their pay. It is, however, a note of frustration about the allowances.

I made a cursory glance over the expenses sheet and I noticed councillors can claim £7 per month (or £84 per year and as a fund, up to £10,584) for "Broadband Allowance" which is defined as "contribution of £7 per month paid to Councillor's who are using their own home broadband facilities for DCC (Durham County Council) matters".

I can categorically say I would not claim this allowance, nor would I ever claim for Food on a matter of principle. I don't care what others say this suggests I am saying about them, I'm saying nothing against anyone, they can claim whatever they are allowed to claim and I don't judge them. I just personally wouldn't claim it. Why? Because I eat anyway. Simple. The same goes for Broadband, I get a hell of a lot out of using the Internet at home on my blogs, YouTube, Facetime to my family around the country and checking my E-Mails. I would not get rid of Broadband if I ever left elected office and if I happen to check a county council email on my home computer, I don't see why this should entitle me to more money.

I would already be getting at least £12,000 to be a Councillor and that's pretty good and more than covers a cost of what is almost an essential service we use anyway at home. What's next? Being able to get your shopping and utility bills covered if you ate whilst reading a DCC email or writing a letter? The only time this would be acceptable would be if a Councillor had no Internet to begin with, I'd be fine with that. Interestingly, I noted two Councillors I know very well got a Broadband line put into their home having not had any Internet previously and they have claimed £0! Well done to them.

The system should not allow claims of this nature. It plays right into the hands of the anti-political mob who will note this also and see it as a backhand way of getting extra expenses. By the way, feel free to hold me to this in the future if I am fortunate enough to ever be elected. You won't need to remind me.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

19th October Political Podcast with Malcolm and Liam

Here is our latest politics podcast (a day early this week!) It is hosted by North West Durham Labour activist Malcolm Clarke and the Labour Party Candidate for the Hexham Constituency for the May 2015 General Election, Liam Carr.

This week we discuss the comments about disabled earners and their wage from Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform, Liam's visit to a major employer in Hexham and other local updates.

Please press play to listen to the podcast or subscribe via our talkshoe page by clicking this link.

Our political podcast is available on iTunes where you can subscribe FREE by visiting their iTunes store. Click here to subscribe to our Politics Podcast on iTunes. There is no better way of ensuring you do not miss a show as any new shows as they will automatically be downloaded to your computer each time you open the iTunes application.

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to listen in and we hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Saturday Afternoon at Willington AFC

I usually watch my team Consett FC play in the Northern League Division 1 at Belle View Stadium, where as you may know I sell programmes and raffle tickets before the match to help raise funds for the club. This week and for a sequence of weeks, Consett have been playing away from home. I have promised Willington Town Mayor Fraser Tinsley some time ago that I would visit a Willington AFC match, I took the opportunity today to go along and check it out. Today's match was Willington hosting Team Northumbria in a Division 2 contest.

I love the Northern League. If Premiership Football seems like a different world to you (and it is), you should check out a league where players are hard-working and play for a love of the game and modest earnings. Some players make £100+ per week but the norm is about £20 - £40 per match. You also feel so much more a part of the grassroots football culture.

I am told that Willington AFC are the only club in the Northern League that has covered stands on all four sides of the pitch in the Northern League. The Greater Willington Town Council have invested money from the community into the club and I think it is money well-spent as the community unites around the team in many towns. There has a real community feel and spirit around the place. Their pitch was in good condition, probably due in part to the kind weather conditions but also due to volunteers looking after it. This allowed a great game of Football to take place.

Coming into the ground there is some grass space surrounding the pitch which makes the whole area seem spacious. They had a lovely snack bar and there is a traditional club house that has probably been there for many years. This is not a criticism, I loved it! The players came in after the match and everyone gathered to watch the results of the bigger games on T.V. There was a bit of a laugh when Sunderland were found to have lost 8-0 and happiness/surprise to see that Newcastle had won 1-0!

In the match itself it was a tight affair and towards the end of the game, with the score tied at 2-2, the referee missed an attacking player from Team Northumbria handling the ball whilst on the ground in the Willington box and as the players appealed to the referee, Team Northumbria scored from that attack. It was too late to push for a third equaliser and the match finished 3-2 to Team Northumbria. Willington will feel very hard done by, I think they deserved a point and the referee unfortunately make a mistake that they will feel cost them the game. It certainly cost them a point.

I really enjoyed visiting Willington AFC today and would recommend you check it out too. I will visit again when The Steelmen play away from home and look forward to going back, perhaps in midweek when there is a game.

Visit Willington AFC on Twitter via this link (@WillingtonAFC) and visit their website by going to http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/willingtonafc/

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Parking to be Free After Three in December

Durham County Council has offered an early Christmas gift to residents and businesses in the county with free parking after 3.00pm at all council car parks throughout December.

They have arranged this to help support high street businesses and make affording Christmas that little bit easier. The offer applies to all council-owned car parks in the county as well as on-street parking in Durham City.

In a further boost for businesses, there 'll also be free parking after 10.00am on Saturday 6 December as part of a number of council projects in support of Small Business Saturday. The nationally recognised day aims to help small businesses by encouraging people to 'think big, shop small' and support local traders.

Councillor Neil Foster, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said:

"We've been working with local businesses throughout the summer to look at ways of encouraging more people into our town centres. By offering 'free after three' parking throughout December we hope to provide a welcome boost to local businesses as well as help to cut the cost of Christmas for residents across the county.

"As the lifeblood of our towns and villages, it's vital that we all support our local high street businesses so we're delighted to show our ongoing commitment to Small Business Saturday by also offering free parking on 6 December."