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Agenda item

Leader's Report

Minutes:

The Leader informed Council that the Council was prepared for winter, with new replacement gritters and 42,000 tonnes of salt to keep County Durham’s roads moving.  As in previous years, the Council was supporting the NHS winter wellness messaging and the flu vaccination campaign with staff being offered free vaccination if they came into contact with vulnerable adults and children as part of their jobs.

 

World Mental Health Day took place on 10 October and that Council and partners signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge at the County Durham Partnership’s annual event held on the same day.  The pledge demonstrated the Council’s commitment to introducing positive changes to how it thought and acted about mental health in the workplace.

 

The Partnership event attracted 200 participants from community groups across the County and featured key speakers who highlighted innovative approaches to supporting people with mental health needs and the importance of promoting mental health awareness.  Delegates received an update on successful projects and were encouraged to share ideas on how to empower communities to become more resilient.  Discussions were also held on themes including children and young people, men’s wellbeing and tackling stigma and discrimination.

 

The Council had also signed the ‘Dying to Work’ pledge with trade union representatives before the Cabinet meeting on 17 October 2018, as part of the TUC campaign for greater employment security for terminally ill workers.  Signatories included representatives from the Regional TUC, GMB, Unison and Unite.

 

The Council had again provided free healthy snacks for children during the half term holiday.  Aimed at tackling holiday hunger and child poverty, the programme ran from all of the Council’s leisure centres with swimming pools.

 

Durham Book festival, which took place in October, attracted several thousand visitors to a wide variety of events, of which the leader had attended a number, and 3,000 people engaged with the Big Read.

 

Planning was underway for next year’s tenth anniversary Lumiere and a sponsorship launch event would take place in November when the Heron installation would be lit up at its permanent location in the River Wear as a third Lumiere legacy piece permanently on display in Durham.

 

As part of the Council’s Inward Investment campaign the Council’s marketing programme, Celebrate Durham, continued with poster and digital display campaigns featuring Lumiere, including at Newcastle International Airport and along the East Coast Main Line at King’s Cross, Leeds, York and Edinburgh Waverley stations.

 

The Leader referred to the Armistice centenary which took place in a few days’ time and marked 100 years since the First World War Armistice on 11 November 1918.  A number of events were taking place.

The Council was working with the Northern Echo to produce a commemorative edition to be published on Sunday 11 November.  ‘Hope’, a sound and light installation, would be in Millennium Place, Durham to coincide with the centenary from 9 to 15 November.  Alongside ‘Hope’ a special performance of the Durham Hymns would take place in the Cathedral on Sunday 11 November.

 

The musical play, ‘The Muddy Choir’ would be performed at the Gala Theatre on 1 November while the BBC were shortly to undertake some filming in Witton park to feature the story of the Fighting Bradfords in one of their centenary pieces.

 

In addition a host of community commemorations were taking place across County Durham.  An information section had been set up on the Council’s website and would be live from 1 November.

 

Referring to funding, a Cambridge University study had named County Durham among the worst areas in the country affected by austerity.  According to the findings of this independent study the county had seen spending levels slashed by approximately one third between 2010 and 2017.

 

This week’s Chancellor’s Budget had seen some additional resources in some areas, although details in terms of how much would be allocated to County Durham was awaited.  However, claims that austerity was over appeared to be wide of the mark.  Since 2010 the Council had needed to cut its budget by more than £220 million anticipated that reductions in the revenue support grant would continue in the forthcoming 2019/20 financial year.  Thereafter the situation remained uncertain, partly as a consequence of the government’s Fair Funding review which had yet to report and which could seek to redistribute funding to wealthier areas in the south.

 

In face of this uncertainty the Council, alongside all north east councils, was proactively campaigning for genuinely fairer funding on the basis of need.  The Council was also warning about the potential impact of a change in the way Public Health grant was allocated, which could see County Durham as the worst affected local authority in the country, losing almost £20 million, while areas in the south, without anything like the health needs, could gain by almost as much.  The Council had started to lobby to save the public health budget and would ask everyone to join in this.

 

Councillor Gunn, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People’s Services had written to the governing bodies of all schools and academies in the County to share the Council’s concerns about the financial pressures they were currently facing as a result of the government’s lack of investment, which would not be ended by the purchase of a couple of whiteboards, a suggested use for the very small additional sums given to schools in the Budget.

 

 

 

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