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Agenda item

Leader's Report

Minutes:

The Leader referred Members to the Celebrating Durham message walls, which were on display in the Durham Room.  The message walls were created at four locations over half term week at the end of May and beginning of June and now formed one huge artwork.  Over 1,500 people submitted their comments for the wall and it was those messages that formed the basis of the well-known County Durham locations which made up the artwork.  It was a very special artwork that would tour suitable locations both locally and further afield.   Last week it was sited at Locomotion in Shildon where the Science Museum Group held its first ‘meet the museum’ evening to give residents the opportunity to view development plans for the museum.

 

Another famous Durham artwork, the Zurburan paintings had been on tour, recently exhibited in New York and Dallas and due to move on to Jerusalem. Meanwhile closer to home Kynren would start its summer run on 30 June.

 

The Leader was delighted to report that Seaham Marina won the Health and Wellbeing category at the national Royal Town Planning Institute awards in London in late May.  This was national recognition for the Marina and the work Durham County Council had delivered alongside the Seaham community for delivering health and wellbeing benefits for the many people visiting the marina.  It was estimated that there were now in excess of 225,000 visitors per annum which was a growing trend and a tremendous effort by everyone involved.

 

The Leader referred to some of the Council’s environmental initiatives to clean up the county, which he reported earlier in the year, and was pleased to report on some real successes.  It was a record breaking year for the big spring clean with over 4,000 people involved in 272 litter picks right across County Durham.

 

Northumbria in Bloom was thriving across the County, with the County’s towns and villages leading the way regionally in the competition.  Judges had recently visited Durham City, shown displays such as the RAF100 carpet bed recently launched with 234 (City Of Durham) Squadron Air Training Corps and pupils from Gilesgate Primary School, ahead of the weekend’s RAF Centenary Service, Review and March Past.

 

Operation Spruce Up, which aimed to improve the appearance of key areas within towns and villages, continued to be very well received as it moved around the County, most recently in Gilesgate and later in the month in Shildon.

 

The Council was well underway with the Green Move Outwith Durham University, where last year 2,650 bags of reusable items from pots and pans to books and electrical equipment were collected, to avoid them being disposed of.

 

Following agreement to release an additional £950,000 of capital funding, work on the replacement Stainton Grove Household Waste Recycling Centrestarted on 23 April.  It was expected to take 27 weeks so would be open to residents and businesses around the Barnard Castle area by the end of 2018.  This would be the first facility to incorporate a trade waste recycling area as well as a furniture reuse retail shop.

 

The Leader reported that the next stage of the County Durham Plan, the Preferred Options stage, was approved by Cabinet ahead of a six week consultation which would start on the 22 June.  All Members were invited to a Members briefing session and there would also be weekly member drop in sessions from the 29 June as well as a range of consultation events across the county.

 

Following last week’s Cabinet meeting in Crook, Cabinet Members saw the impressive refurbishment of the council building, which was now home to almost 500 employees having been completely remodelled into a modern workplace.  It was an important part of the Council’s present and future plans that a greater proportion of our workforce was based outside of Durham City and the work at Crook formed a key early part of the Transformation Programme.

 

The Leader informed the Council that there were currently approximately 800 Looked After Children in Durham.  Over 80% of these children lived with foster carers and the rest lived in residential care; with family members or in residential schools.  The council was the corporate parent for these children and had statutory duties to ensure that it acted in their best interests, supported them to achieve good outcomes and ensured that it had sufficient carers and placements available for them to receive the highest standards of care.  In short the council was charged with being the best corporate parent it could be for these children.

 

As the numbers of Looked After Children had grown nationally, regionally and locally there had been an increased pressure to ensure that the Council had enough carers for the children.  There had been targeted recruitment campaigns in Durham for foster carers and adopters over recent months with a specific focus on targeting carers for older children, children with special needs and for children who were part of larger sibling groups as these were the carers for whom there was the greatest need.  These had been successful in recruiting more than 28 new sets of carers this year alone but the Council continued to need more as carers retired and more children needed their support.

 

The Corporate Parenting Panel, chaired by Councillor Peter Brookes, had been actively involved in working with officers to develop new strategies to support recruitment activity and they had developed a short film which was designed to explain the role of foster carers, debunk some of the more popular myths that existed around who could foster, and explain what was required of potential carers who went through the recruitment process.  It was the ambition of the Corporate Parenting Panel that the film would be seen by as many people as possible within County Durham and that it would be seen by people who historically may not have been targeted through more traditional recruitment campaigns.  The Council believed that it could encourage more local people to see themselves as potential foster carers and take on this challenge.

 

The film provided the contact details within the fostering service for anyone who was interested or who had further questions.  The biggest impact that the Council could have on improving the lives of Looked After Children was to ensure that there were sufficient high quality carers to care for them and the Council was confident that it could encourage many more people to come forward and do this valuable and highly rewarding work.

 

The Council viewed the film which had been produced.

 

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