Durham County Council to invest millions in frontline services

Feb 16, 2022 | Local News

Plans to invest millions of pounds in frontline services, including highways, streets, parks and nature reserves, are to be discussed by councillors along with proposals to reduce carbon emissions.

Members of Durham County Council will next week hear about the authority’s 2022/23 budget proposals and Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) forecasts. It follows news of the Local Government settlement figures in December.

A report, which has already been discussed by the authority’s Cabinet, details various investments to improve green spaces, country parks and help achieve the council’s target to reduce its carbon emissions.

Cllr Mark Wilkes, the council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “We’re pleased to be able to announce significant investment in our frontline services, which will help to improve the lives of our residents and visitors as well as the environment in County Durham.

“Funding will also further address issues such as pest control, upgrading our allotment sites and improving visitor attractions such as Hardwick Park. Just as importantly, we are investing in our efforts to tackle climate change as we work towards eliminating carbon emissions from our operations.”

The MTFP will see almost £16 million spent on highway maintenance, with £8.8million being spent on the county’s unclassified roads network. A total of £4 million is to be spent on improving the Morrison Busty Depot. Work will include energy efficiency measures and improved access.

A total of £500,000 has been allocated for the decarbonisation of fleet vehicles and for heating energy efficiency measures in council buildings. Funding of £1 million will be provided to the council’s Climate Change Business and Community Loan Fund, to help businesses and communities become more energy efficient.

Repair work to Burnigill Bank in Meadowfield has been allocated £2.5million, while an investment of £360,000 will enable improvements across the county’s allotment sites, reducing the current waiting list for plots.

Sustainable drainage works will be carried out at cemeteries to avoid flooding at a cost of £1.2million, and rural footpaths are to be upgraded following a £900,000 investment. Funding of £130,000 will be provided for two new street sweepers, with all of the fleet provided with the latest tracking technology to help ensure work is targeted at the areas where it is most needed.

Cllr John Shuttleworth, Cabinet member for rural communities and highways, said: “We are committed to improving connectivity and accessibility for residents in rural communities, preventing them from becoming isolated in the process.

“Our investment plan will further tackle flooding issues, ensuring the county’s roads and streets are in better condition as well as enhancing our green spaces and parks, delivering environmental and community benefits too.”

A total of £300,000 has been allocated to supporting the cleaning of vennels in Durham City, improvements to riverbank footpaths, and for the cleansing of underpasses.

Investment of £1.3 million is also proposed at Hardwick Park to enhance the visitor experience by improving the park’s visitor centre layout, education hub and developing innovative play infrastructure. Riverside Park will also receive £30,000 and Pow Hill County Park £169,000 for access and parking improvements.

A total of £100,000 will go towards replacing and repairing bins, while £1.3million is to be spent on improving the county’s public rights of way, nature reserves, and on woodland protection. An allocation of £1million has been made for street lighting column replacement.

As part of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy, two officers will target nature reserves and local wildlife sites, engaging stakeholders and volunteers through a £105,000 investment. An investment of £140,000 will help extra staffing in pest control reduce the backlog of investigations and allow speedier treatments. The service will be also reviewed during the year ahead to develop a welfare assistance scheme.

A countywide recycling contamination campaign will be carried out with education schemes and stickers on bins to help remind households what can be recycled and what can’t.

Two new neighbourhood warden posts are to be created to significantly improve the running and management of the service, while £45,000 will be spent on a woodland protection officer who will deliver new and ongoing tree and woodland initiatives linked to the new North East Community Forest. And £390,000 is to be spent on making jobs within the Low Carbon Team permanent, whilst also boosting partnerships to tackle climate change.