The Council noted a report from the Leader of the Council as follows:
· February had brought some severe weather across the country and the Leader thanked all those who had helped keep residents safe and the county moving by keeping roads clear of snow, debris and water.
· The Council had received a Ministerial visit from Baroness Diana Barran, Minister for Civil Society and DCMS Lords Minister where she heard about the Council’s important work on social value procurement in the county and how the Council was leading the way nationally in this area.
· Referring to consultations the Council was currently recruiting young people aged 11 to 17 years to sit on a Youth Council for County Durham which would offer a platform to share opinions on a range of topics. Run by young people, for young people, the Council would meet monthly and would set its own agenda based on the issues that young people felt most strongly about. Each of the County’s secondary schools and sixth form colleges would choose two representatives to sit on the Council through a democratic election.
· The Council was also consulting on proposals for the introduction of a Selective Licensing Scheme which would help raise the standards of privately rented properties throughout the County. An increase in well managed and maintained housing through the scheme was hoped to result in fewer empty properties, improve the health and wellbeing of tenants and reduce anti-social behaviour while providing support and training to landlords. The consultation was open until 27 April 2020.
· The Council had been successful in two applications to the government to help tackle homelessness which would support the development of a local lettings agency and pay for both emergency accommodation and the continuation of workers who would help those with a housing need. The funding came from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative for 2020-21. The Council had also been awarded £269,000 towards its ongoing work to establish a lettings agency for County Durham. The Council had also been awarded nearly £1.5 million following an application it led on behalf of eleven North East councils. This would pay for the continuation of Somewhere Safe to Stay across the region. These were sites at which up to seven days emergency accommodation was provided for those who were not eligible for temporary.
· As part of the Forestry Commission’s Urban Tree Challenge the Council had secured almost £500,000 to plant thousands of trees in towns and villages to create greener and healthier urban areas. Over the next two years large trees would be planted in areas such as Chester le Street, Ouston, Stanley and Meadowfield, as well as other areas, and smaller trees planted to create copses to link existing woodland.
· The Council’s Digital Projects Team had won a Modern Service Delivery Award for leading the way in transforming how customers interact with the Council through significant improvements made to the website and online services. This had also helped to generate savings in excess of £700,000.
· Volunteer Brian Harris had been recognised for his commitment to Stanley Indoor Bowls Club with a Chairman’s Medal. Brian had volunteered at the Club since 1987 and became Club President in 2006. Brian was presented with his award by the Chairman at the end of the International Bowls Tournament. The Leader congratulated both Brian and the Stanley Indoor Bowls Club on hosting another successful international tournament.
· The Council had appointed a new Head of Leisure, Culture and Sport. Alison Clark, currently a Director at Arts Council England, would join the Council in May.
· The Council had also recruited Corporate Directors for Regeneration Economy and Growth and for Neighbourhoods and Climate Change. The Chief Officer Appointments Committee had appointed Alan Patrickson as Corporate Director of Neighbourhoods and Climate Change and Amy Harhoff as Corporate Director of Regeneration, Economy and Growth. Alan commenced employment with the Council in 2012 and currently occupied the post of Head of Digital and Customer Services having previously employed as the Council’s Waste Project Director. Amy was currently employed as Director of Regeneration and Growth at Sandwell Metropolitan Council having previously worked for Transport for Greater Manchester, Transport for the North, Sheffield City Region and Doncaster Metropolitan Council. The Leader extended his congratulations to both appointees and thanked the all-party Chief Officer Appointments Committee for their work during the appointments process.
Councillor Shuttleworth informed Council that Abiodun Macdonald Williams had recently been admitted as a Freeman of Durham City and considered that this should have been included in the Leader’s update report.