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Agenda item

Leader's Report


The Council noted a report of the Leader of the Council as follows:


·         A six-week consultation on the design for the new Durham History Centre had commenced. Views were being sought on the proposed design and layout of the building, themes for exhibitions and digital access to collections. Drop-in sessions would be held at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, Durham Register Office and Clayport Library. The item would be covered at all meetings of Area Action Partnerships throughout June and July.


·         A second stage of consultation would soon be underway on a new vision of the County Durham Partnership which would set out the ambitions for the County into the next decade and beyond. The last phase of consultation would build on comments made in the previous consultation.


·         The first presentation from one of the Councils 14 Area Action Partnerships (AAPs) would be provided later as part of the council agenda and replaced the questions from AAP’s. It was hoped that the series of presentations would provide a full picture of the workings of each AAP and an insight into the work often not appreciated outside of each local area. It would also help to spread best practice across County Durham. The system of public questions remained unchanged and would follow the AAP presentation.


·         The County had recently experienced a spell of unseasonable rain. Flooding had also affected certain parts of the County. Councillor Henig thanked all staff involved for their hard work during the challenging conditions.


·         The weather had forced the cancellation of Durham Regatta and the opening day of the first Seaham Food Festival. The second day of the food festival went ahead amidst glorious sunshine and attracted 15,000 visitors to the seafront. Very positive feedback had been received from food producers and visitors. Local traders had also benefitted from the festival which provided an economic boost. It was hoped that the event would encourage visitors to return to Seaham and provide ongoing benefits for the area and help with the continued regeneration of the town. Councillor Henig thanked everyone involved in the participation and organisation of the event. The Durham Women’s Gala at Wharton Park went ahead as planned and the Leader congratulated all those involved in the event.


·         It was hoped that better weather would grace the region with three fixtures being played at Chester-le-Street with County Durham welcoming New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the West Indies to the County. A supporting fan zone activity would be held in the Market Place, Durham City from 28-30th June as well as ‘Chesterfest’ which was being held at Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street this coming weekend. The event had been organised by the Durham Cricket Foundation supported by Chester-le-Street and District AAP and the local community in Chester-le-Street.


·         An evening of live music with German food and drink had been held the previous week to celebrate 50 years of friendship between County Durham and its twin town of Tubingen. This would also be celebrated in Tubingen at the beginning of July.


·         Other up-and-coming events included the Durham Miners Gala on 13 July, the Annual Brass Festival from 12-21 July.


·         A new running festival would take place in Durham City at the end of the July incorporating the annual Durham City run and would include a new family activity headed up by three-time London Marathon Winner Paula Radcliffe. An exhibition to celebrate the work of Norman Cornish would open at the Gala Theatre at the end of July as part of centenary celebrations.


·         Visitors and photographers could once again make the most of the historic backdrop of Durham City, as the Cathedral Tower had been unwrapped and reopened to visitors. Kynren would open for another spectacular season at the end of the month at Auckland Castle. Durham Book Festival, the 10th Anniversary of Lumiere and the completion of the Auckland Project multimillion-pound development of Auckland Castle.


·         The Council had recently celebrated carers week with special events held to recognise the valuable role that carers played. Durham County Carers support worked on two projects and ran short films with young carers which premiered during the week at Bishop Auckland Town Hall and highlighted their experiences.


·         The Council had continued to lobby the government to reconsider its proposed changes on the allocation of public health funding, which if implemented, would result in a reduction of £18m to County Durham, the largest reduction in the country. The Leader had written an article for the Journal newspaper following a debate on the issue in the House of Commons raised by Kevan Jones MP. Tyne Tees had also covered the debate along with local interviews. The Council would continue to raise the issue at every opportunity.


·         1000 applications had been received for 66 apprenticeships across the Council in a range of occupations. The apprentices would start in September. The recruitment drive had coincided with the launch of an apprenticeship strategy which supported the development of a skills base in the Council and across the County.


·         Dedicated volunteers were recognised at a range of activities and events for their hard work as part of volunteer’s week at the beginning of June.


·         The Employment Training and Education success of 21 young people from across the County had been recognised at the ‘Durham Works’ achievement awards. Six prizes were handed out to young people who had received help from the Durham works youth employment programme as well as the partners and employers who had supported them over the past 12 months


·         The refurbished Peterlee Leisure Centre opened in May which saw the refurbishment of changing rooms, a new reception space and creation of a brand new library facility.


·         Local residents were helping to shape the future of Horden in the latest consultation on the Horden masterplan. The plan outlined a number of options for housing and the environment in the area and was based on feedback from residents given at an earlier consultation held in 2018. The first consultation exercise attracted over 300 people from the local community. The Leader of the Council thanked everyone for their input. The Council had been proactively working on solutions for housing related issues in the area for a number of years and had implemented a number of successful schemes, including an accreditation scheme for private landlords, the provision of grants and loans to help fund the renovation of private properties. A multi-agency clean-up operation had focussed on environmental issues. The Council were also working with partners on a number of issues which would see potential commercial investment, housing renewal and the development of community projects. Work had started on a new railway station which would link the area to the local and national railway network and support wider regeneration, a long-held ambition in the east of the County.


·         In the west of the County, Highways England had commenced consultation to dual the A66. The Council were supporting the proposals given that 18 miles of the 50 mile route passed through County Durham. The proposals also included improvements to the road junction A67, Bowes.


·         Teams were currently sprucing up flower beds and cutting grass. The flower bed at Gilesgate roundabout was unveiled earlier in the month and celebrated 150 years of mining heritage. Entries were open for the 2019 Environment Awards. A display of the history of the awards was located in the Durham Room.


·         The Council had been successful in securing funding to help rough sleepers access accommodation. The government money was being used to provide an assessment centre providing rough sleepers with somewhere safe to stay until suitable housing was identified. This was to be split between two hubs in Durham and Gateshead.


·         The Council had been shortlisted as a finalist in the Health and Integration category of the 2019 MJ Achievement Awards for its approach to young offenders, or young people at risk of offending. The Council was also commended in the awards for its approach to digital and online services and achieving better outcomes by the Area Action Partnerships.


·         Finally, the Leader of the Council informed the Council of some Senior Management changes concerning the appointment of a new Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services and the appointment of a Head of Corporate Property and Land. The Council were also in the process of recruiting a Deputy Monitoring Officer.


Councillor L Maddison referred to the apprenticeship programme where 1000 people had applied for positions, with only a small number able to take up positions and asked if the Council were directing the unsuccessful applications to other services.


The Leader informed the Council that it was promising that so many people had applied. The Council had tried to increase the number of apprenticeships within the programme each year and hoped that opportunities would be available elsewhere in the public and private sector.


The Chief Executive explained that the number of applications refelcted how well thought the Council’s apprenticeship programme was given the amount of applications. The Council had already held a meeting to discuss where they could assist with employment along with their partners. It was very pleasing to note that so many people were finding employment through the programme, not only to train young people but to get them into the workforce.


Councillor K Thompson thanked the Leader of the Council for the very positive report. Councillor Thompson expressed concern that there had been no mention of Spennymoor Town Centre in the Leaders report, which was falling apart, particularly Festival Walk. When was something going to happen with Festival Walk.


Councillor C Marshall informed Councillor Thompson that he was working very closely with the local members and shared the frustration of Councillor Thompson regarding the Festival Walk site. The Council were working very hard to get the development over the line. Other developments in the area such as improved housing, were due to come online over the following months. Festival Walk was a complex site with many legal issues outside of the Council’s control, however, Councillor Marshall was hopeful of a conclusion within the next month or so.


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Durham County Council
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