Grants Available to Support Independent Living

Grants Available to Support Independent Living

County Durham residents with disabilities are being reminded to take advantage of home improvement grants of up to £30,000.

Durham County Council’s Home Improvement Agency helps disabled and vulnerable residents access grants to adapt their homes to meet their needs.

Disabled Facilities Grants can help to fund improvements that will enhance disabled people’s quality of life, enabling them to live in their own homes for longer.

Typical adaptations include:

  • ramps
  • level access showers
  • stairlifts
  • external lifts
  • through floor lifts
  • internal alterations
  • external alterations
  • extensions (for ground floor living)

Owner-occupiers, private rental tenants and housing association tenants are all eligible.

Kevin Shaw, the council’s Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: “During the coronavirus outbreak many older and more vulnerable people have had to spend a lot more time in their homes. For many, this could continue for some time and we would like to make residents aware of the assistance available to help them make the adaptations they need to ensure their homes are safe and comfortable.

“Our Home Improvement Agency staff will help clients through the entire process, from identifying their individual needs and the adaptions that could help, all the way through to the completion of the work. I would encourage anyone who thinks they or someone they know might benefit from this support to get in touch”

As well as the grants, home improvement loans are available to anyone who owns their own home. Repayment, equity and interest free loans are on offer and can fund works including roof renewal and repairs, window and door renewal, damp proofing, electrical and heating improvements and structural work.

There is also a project management service for anyone planning adaptions in their own homes. For a small fee, a housing surveyor can design to an individual’s brief, tender, appoint contractors and project manage the work through to completion. This can be anything from small scale internal work to larger extensions, along with adaptations for disabled clients who do not qualify for grant assistance.

The Home Improvement Agency also provides advice and guidance to help people who are older and/or disabled find out about adaptions that could benefit them.

For more information about who is eligible and how to apply, visit www.durham.gov.uk/article/3373/Disabled-Facilities-Grant or

contact ddhia@durham.gov.uk or the council’s Social Care Direct team on 03000 267 979 or scd@durham.gov.uk

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Press Release

On Monday 20th July, the Town Clerk received a complaint from a member of the public, alleging that a Town Councillor was using Town Council resources in an inappropriate manner.

This was not an anonymous complaint, but the complainant did ask that their details were kept confidential, as per their right under data protection legislation. They were fearful of reprisals on social media and in person if their details were to be released.

Following the complaint, all Councillors were contacted and asked to contact the Town Clerk if they were concerned that any work they are undertaking is out-with the Council responsibilities, in order to receive appropriate advice on these activities from officers of the Council.

Comments on social media have since linked this to a litter pick on the Merrington Lane estate, initiated by Cllr McAloon.

In relation to this, the Town Council has supplied Cllr McAloon with litter pickers and waste bags on numerous occasions for his litter picks.

Our much-valued grounds team, who are responsible for our excellent Jubilee Park and other green sites around the town, pick up and dispose of the rubbish collected by Cllr McAloon and his team of volunteers.

Where these are carried out on Town Council land there is no hesitation in removing the waste.

However, where litter is picked from land which is not owned by the Town Council, the Town Council has no right to remove items from the land.

The Town Council are not an enforcement authority; this is the responsibly of Durham County Council. Therefore, Town Council grounds staff are neither insured nor covered by risk assessment for such work outside of sites owned by the Town Council.

With the nature of litter and fly-tipping, there are many risks including those to health from hazardous waste, including asbestosis, pierce injuries, and contracting virus.

If a member of staff or the public are injured due to Town Council staff working outwith their duties, then the Town Council could be prosecuted and fined. This would clearly have an impact upon public monies.

It is important to negate falsehoods which have been suggested on social media, and clarify that:

  • The Town Clerk has not complained about these litter picks, she has received a complaint from a member of the public.
  • The Council, and the Clerk have been continuously supportive of the litter picks.

Officers of the Town Council also reported the management company of the estate to Durham County Council at request and on behalf of Councillor McAloon and provided him with draft wording so that he could make a complaint as well, to add more weight to the issue.

Last week the Town Council spent over £300 on litter pickers for Cllr McAloon to continue his litter picks.

We are committed to supporting Cllr McAloon in his activities to improve our town, and this extends to the work of all of our members.

In relation to litter picks in general, the Town Council has provided bags and loaned litter pickers to other community groups, and will continue to support these activities in our community.

Councillor Ian Geldard

Chairman of Policy and Resources, Spennymoor Town Council

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Coronavirus Outbreak Plan Approved For County Durham

Coronavirus Outbreak Plan Approved For County Durham

A council’s Health and Wellbeing Board has outlined and approved a coronavirus outbreak control plan for County Durham.

As part of measures to control the spread of coronavirus, all local authorities are required by government to produce a COVID-19 Local Outbreak Control Plan in order to protect the health of local residents in the event of any further transmission of the virus as lockdown is eased.

Representatives from a range of local health bodies and wider partners have now met as part of County Durham’s Health and Wellbeing Board to discuss the county’s outbreak control plan.

Members of the board include Durham County Council’s cabinet members for adult and health services, safer communities, and children and young people’s services, as well as representatives from the region’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), North East NHS Foundation Trusts, County Durham’s Office for Police, Crime and Victims Commissioner (PCVC) and County Durham and Darlington Fire Service.

The Health and Wellbeing Board is a member-led, local engagement board that is working to coordinate and manage prevention of the further spread of coronavirus, support local communities to understand issues related to the virus, provide a forum for the public to ask questions about the virus and outline how recovery is planned at a local level.

The COVID-19 Local Outbreak Control Plan’s key objectives include the provision of clear prevention measures to the public, the rapid detection of any outbreaks, controlling onward transmission of the virus, providing support to people who need to self-isolate, and developing and applying intelligence on the virus to anticipate and control local outbreaks.

On 22 May, the government announced £300m additional funding for local authorities to develop and action their plans in their area, as part of the launch of the wider NHS Test and Trace Service.

As part of this, Durham County Council is due to receive £4.498m. This funding will enable the council and its partners to develop and implement its tailored local coronavirus outbreak control plans through, for example, funding the recruitment of additional staff where required.

A proposal to create a dedicated local outbreak control team has been put forward which will consist of experts from public health, community protection, communications, intelligence, the Civil Contingencies Unit, and human resources. The funding will cover capacity, contingency, community engagement and support to any local outbreaks.

A range of key settings have been identified where a local outbreak control team may be necessary, such as community spaces, workplaces, care homes, educational settings and prisons. The team would have a lead officer and key staff to work collectively on an outbreak if called.

As part of the COVID-19 Local Outbreak Control Plan, standard health protection operating procedures are being applied which have been developed by Public Health England’s Health Protection Team and adjusted locally. Advice cards are also being developed and possible scenarios are being tested for each identified setting to enable planning for potential further outbreaks.

Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for adult and health services and chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “While infection rates in the county are low at the moment, the virus is still present and, therefore, there is still a chance of a further local outbreak. To anticipate this, we have developed our local outbreak plan with partners so that it can be implemented with a rapid response.

“This plan has been a collaboration between us and leading public bodies in the region to ensure the health of our residents is protected during the pandemic, which is our highest priority. I am pleased that the plan has been approved and we can start to implement the outlined measures across the county.

“Meanwhile, it is still vital that members of the public continue to follow the guidance set out by the government and the public health advice, such as washing hands regularly, remaining two metres apart and self-isolating if anyone in your household develops symptoms of the virus. This is a collective effort to ensure we can all protect ourselves and others from coronavirus.”

For more information about the council’s local outbreak control plan, visit www.durham.gov.uk/covid19controlplan

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Gyms Set To Reopen And Fitness Classes To Return At County Durham Leisure Centres

Gyms Set To Reopen And Fitness Classes To Return At County Durham Leisure Centres

People in County Durham will be able to resume their fitness regimes later this month as council-run services begin to reopen.

Durham County Council will begin a phased reopening of its indoor leisure facilities from Monday, 27 July, in line with the easing of lockdown restrictions across the country and in accordance with social distancing measures.

Initially, only gyms and fitness classes will return, with further services being reinstated when it is possible to ensure they are provided safely and in a way that fully complies with government guidance.

All sessions will need to be booked in advance.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We are delighted at the prospect of being able to welcome people back to our leisure centres.

“The current public health and social distancing measures, coupled with the challenge of reopening our centres after a lengthy closure, makes it difficult to reinstate all services straight away. However, I’m sure people will be pleased to see our gyms reopen and our fitness classes return, and we will be working to reopen other services as soon as we are able.

“We appreciate that some people may feel apprehensive about returning to leisure centres at the moment, but we are working incredibly hard to ensure they provide a safe environment for everyone, including visitors and staff, and that we minimise the risk of the spread of coronavirus.

“As well as taking steps to ensure people are able to social distance in all areas of the centre, we are introducing a strict cleaning regime and will have extra staff on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly.”

Gym facilities and fitness classes will open in phases over the course of the week, beginning on Monday, 27 July with Newton Aycliffe, Freeman’s Quay, the Louisa Centre in Stanley, Spennymoor and Abbey Leisure Centre, Durham.

This will be followed by Woodhouse Close, Consett and Meadowfield on Wednesday, 29 July.

Gyms at Chester-le-Street, Teesdale and Shildon leisure centres will also open on Wednesday, 29 July, with fitness classes restarting on Friday, 31 July.

All centres will then return to seven day opening, but with only gym and fitness classes available. It is hoped that swimming pools will be able to reopen during the coming weeks.

Safety measures at all sites will include the repositioning of gym equipment to accommodate social distancing, limited numbers and movement during classes and additional hand sanitiser stations. Signage has also been installed to help people move around the centres in a safe way.

All sessions will need to be booked in advance for the foreseeable future, either online or over the phone. Bookings will be taken from Thursday, 23 July onwards.

For more information, visit www.durham.gov.uk/leisure.

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THE BOB ABLEY ART GALLERY AT SPENNYMOOR TOWN HALL IS OPEN AGAIN FROM MONDAY 20th JULY.

THE BOB ABLEY ART GALLERY AT SPENNYMOOR TOWN HALL IS OPEN AGAIN FROM MONDAY 20th JULY.

WE ARE  OPEN AND, WITH AN EXTENTION TO THE GALLERY, JUST WAITING FOR YOU TO VISIT…

Spennymoor Town Council are delighted to announce the Bob Abley Art Gallery in the Town Hall will re-open 9am – 4pm Monday to Sunday from Monday 20th July 2020.

Visitors will be able to enjoy the hugely popular Norman Cornish Collection of work for sale as well as his permanent collection of work and his original studio on display.

The Bob Abley Art Gallery has been extended during lockdown, and the new extension includes some original work, which has never been on view to the public, by artists such as Peter Burns, Sam Wood, Eric Thompson and Tom McGuinness, as well as many more top regional artists.

The health and well-being of our visitors, staff and volunteers is our number one priority and in line with the latest Government guidance on COVID-19 changes have had to be made in how the Bob Abley Gallery operates so that visitors will feel confident and safe and have a relaxing and enjoyable visit.

No Booking is required; however, we will be managing visitor numbers to enable social distancing to take place.

We also have numerous hand sanitisation stations around the Gallery with lots of reminders to respect social distancing.

Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to visit our website or contact us on 01388 815276.

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Sharing A Love Of BRASS With County Durham’s Children

Sharing A Love Of BRASS With County Durham’s Children

School children and families across County Durham can learn all about brass music this week as BRASS Online 2020 gets underway.

Daily tutorials and workshops will be taking place every day next week to mark the return of BRASS, the international music festival which is organised by Durham County Council.

At midday, Durham Music Service will be delivering a series of short brass tutorial videos, offering quick lessons in different brass instruments each day, ahead of a brass ensemble to finish on Friday 17 July.

Some of the firm favourites from the BRASS festival will then be sharing their love of brass music in interactive online workshops, starting at 1pm.

Featuring Mr Wilson’s Second Liners, Spanish amigos Artistas Del Gremio, Mouv ‘n’ Brass from France and the UK’s own Backchat Brass, there’ll be a different workshop every day over the last week of term.

All 265 schools in the county have been invited to take part in the tutorials and workshops, with families at home being able to join in this year too.

Schools have welcomed the return of BRASS Online and the virtual workshops and tutorials.

Matthew Grehan-Bradley, Head of Music at St Leonard’s Catholic School in Durham, said: “We thoroughly enjoyed our workshop with Artistas del Gremio two years ago, and I will certainly circulate details of this year’s online festival. I’m really glad the council was able to salvage something of the festival and I wish organisers the very best of luck with it all.”

Jocelyn McMullen, Head of Music at Hermitage Academy in Chester-le-Street, said: “I have many fond memories of Backchat Brass performing for hundreds of our students in previous years. I will be contacting our students and parents about these opportunities. Thank you so much Durham County Council for forwarding the details.”

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for young people across County Durham to learn some new skills and hopefully be inspired by the fantastic brass bands to get more involved with music themselves. The workshops are easily accessed on the BRASS website so whether they’re taking part in school or at home, they’ll hopefully have fun while they learn something.”

Cllr Joy Allen, Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said “Although we can’t welcome bands to the county this year, I’m so pleased that no one will be missing out on BRASS. As well as the festival moving online, our workshops will ensure that children and families can enjoy our favourite bands from all over the world from the comfort of their home or school. Hopefully, by the time we do welcome these bold bands back to the county in the future, we’ll have even more young people taking part in music and playing their own brass instruments.”

The tutorial videos are suitable for players of all ages near the beginning of their playing journey, with quick lessons in the following instruments taking place at 12pm each day:

  • Monday 13 July: The trumpet
  • Tuesday 14 July: The trombone
  • Wednesday 15 July: The French horn
  • Thursday 16 July: The baritone horn
  • Friday 17 July: A brass ensemble featuring all of the above.

All workshops will take place at 1pm. The programme for the week includes:

  • Monday 13 July: Mr Wilson’s Second Liners will deliver an entertaining workshop for young people and introduce a range of brass instruments
  • Tuesday 14 July: Artistas Del Gremio, a Spanish street band known for their lively performances, will demonstrate harmony, chords, consonance and dissonance.
  • Wednesday 15 July: Italian street band Bandakadabra will demonstrate the difference between Swing playing and Straight playing in brass music.
  • Thursday 16 July: In their fourth year at the festival, Back Chat Brass will show how dynamics work in brass music and the power of loud versus soft.
  • Friday 17 July: The popular French ‘dancing brass band’ Mouv ‘n’ Brass will demonstrate all aspects of rhythm and beat styles in different musical genres.

Full details of each tutorial and workshop from Monday 13 – Friday 17 July, and the full programme of events for BRASS Online, can be found on the BRASS website: https://www.brassfestival.co.uk/brass-whats-on/

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New Service Supports Those With Employment Challenges In County Durham

New Service Supports Those With Employment Challenges In County Durham

A new service supporting regional employers and helping those whose jobs have been affected as a result of coronavirus has been launched in County Durham.

County Durham Jobs Fuse is a joint service, created by Durham County Council, the National Careers Service and the Department for Work and Pensions.

It aims to connect employers who have urgent vacancies with people in County Durham who are available to start work.

As part of the County Durham Jobs Fuse package, the National Careers Service will provide support to those in the region who have lost their jobs or whose jobs have been affected by coronavirus.

People can contact the National Careers Service helpline for free, impartial, and expert careers advice as well as practical guidance such as CV writing and access to training.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We understand that many people are concerned about the impact of coronavirus and we want to do everything we can to support those who have been adversely affected, which is why we’re pleased to have helped launch County Durham Jobs Fuse.

“This will provide much needed support to employers and help people across the county get back into work at this challenging time.”

Leanne Misaljevich, area manager for the National Careers Service in North East and Cumbria said: “We face hugely uncertain times and in response to this we are delighted to be working with DWP and Durham County Council to form the County Durham Jobs Fuse.

“The National Careers Service is uniquely positioned to be able to provide free, impartial careers and employment advice and guidance to residents and employers in the County Durham area, all delivered by our team of professional careers advisers.”

Paul Robson, partnership manager for Department for Work and Pensions, added: “We are very pleased to see how County Durham partners have worked together to support the work of our Jobcentre Plus colleagues who are incredibly busy and working hard to ensure that everyone gets the support they need at this challenging time.”

Individuals can seek support by calling the National Careers Service freephone number

0800 100 900 or visit the website www.nationalcareers.service.gov.uk.

Employers can get in touch via 0808 1963 596 or email the dedicated inbox JobsFuse@educationdevelopmenttrust.com

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Guidance Issued As Hospitality Businesses Prepare To Open In County Durham

Guidance Issued As Hospitality Businesses Prepare To Open In County Durham

A North East council has offered guidance to businesses and residents as lockdown restrictions begin to ease this week.

From Saturday 4 July, the government has announced that businesses and venues in the hospitality sector, such as restaurants, pubs, hair salons, and cinemas, will be allowed to reopen to the public if they have appropriate social distancing measures in place.

While the next phase of reopening will be a welcome boost to the county’s economy, Durham County Council is reminding businesses and residents about the importance of following safe practices as visitors continue to return to town centres.

The council has developed a toolkit for businesses to help them reopen safely which is available online. This toolkit includes guidance on which businesses are allowed to reopen under the new announcement, advice on what safety measures should be put in place to protect staff and customers, as well as template risk assessments for businesses planning to reopen.

Visitors to the county’s town centres are also being reminded to continue to follow the government’s guidance on staying safe outside of the home.

From 4 July, people will be able to meet in groups of up to two households, either indoors or outdoors, but should still be socially distanced. Groups must be of no more than six people.

People also should not interact socially with anyone outside of a group they are attending a place with, for example if in a restaurant, hair salon or pub, even if the other person is someone they know.

Visitors to town centres are being asked to continue acting responsibly, be considerate to others, and to follow the guidance on what they should and should not do during the pandemic.

The council is working closely with its partners, such as the police and NHS, to ensure that those visiting town centres can do so confidently and safely.

Neighbourhood wardens will be deployed in town centres in the county and will be carrying out patrols to reassure the public and responding to any low level anti-social disturbances to support the police.

Additional staff from the council’s clean and green team will be supporting existing street cleaning staff over the weekend to assist with potential clean up.

As more businesses reopen in town centres, the council is also considering how outside areas are used and how it can assist the public and businesses to maintain social distancing while ensuring access is still available.

Following the announcement, the government issued guidance and a new process for local authorities to consider pavement licences for outdoor seating, with the consultation period reduced from 28 days to 5 working days, although a separate licence will be required for the sale of alcohol.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “This next stage of reopening town centres is an important step to the recovery of our town centre economy which has been significantly impacted by the outbreak of the virus. With more businesses looking to reopen from this weekend, more people will be encouraged to visit our town centres and shop locally, bringing money back into the county’s economy.

“However, as more people return to our town centres it is equally important that we all continue to be responsible and considerate to others, and follow the guidance set out by government at all times. This is to ensure we can all shop and visit our town centres safely, confidently, and without risk of further spread of the virus.”

Steve White, Acting Durham Police Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, said: “Whilst things will look and be a little bit different it is really good to see businesses reopening as we move to the next stage.  We appreciate that people want to have a good time, but as they do so we encourage them to act responsibly and with consideration to others.  We are asking people to follow the key advice of know your limits, plan your day and consider how you will get home safely.”

For more information about visiting the county’s town centres, advice for businesses, and  the business reopening toolkit, go to www.durham.gov.uk/reopeningtowncentres

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Employability scheme to expand thanks to new partners

Employability Scheme To Expand Thanks To New Partners

As Employability Day approaches, a scheme that helps people to learn new skills and breakdown barriers has welcomed two new partners on board.

L!NKCD was launched in July 2019 and brings together community-minded organisations and training providers to support people in County Durham who face multiple obstacles to gaining employment. Part funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), the scheme is led by Durham County Council’s Employability Durham service and is delivered in partnership with the local authority’s housing solutions team, Karbon Homes, Livin Housing Ltd and Changing Lives.

More than 150 people are currently receiving assistance through the scheme and, after recruiting two more delivery partners, it is hoped this number will continue to grow.

Northern Learning Trust and Bernicia Homes will join the project next month and are recruiting new members of staff to act as mentors, providing employability support to their tenants in County Durham.

The announcement has been made ahead of Employability Day (Friday 26 June), a nationwide campaign to celebrate and promote employment support led by the Employment Related Services Association.

Aimed at fostering a sense of optimism and aspiration for the future, L!NKCD has a heavier focus on the exploration of ideas, training and volunteering than many other employability schemes. It is open to unemployed County Durham residents aged 18 and over and can be especially beneficial for those who do not feel ready for paid employment but are keen to explore the options available to them. One-to-one guidance is offered to identify and address barriers and promote wellbeing, while links are also made with other local organisations that can provide additional support.

Mentoring sessions are usually offered in community venues, but the team has adapted the way they work to ensure they continue to operate during the pandemic. This includes offering support via phone, email, video conferencing technology and social media.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We are delighted Northern Learning Trust and Bernicia Homes are joining us as partners on the L!NKCD scheme. With their experience, we will be able to help even more people in County Durham to overcome barriers, enter the workplace and improve their quality of life. If you think you or someone you know could benefit from the scheme, I would urge you to get in touch and find out more about the support on offer.”

Jeannie MacMillan, director of housing services at Bernicia Homes, said: “Bernicia and Northern Learning Trust have a long and successful history of working together to improve skills and education and provide employability support in local communities. We’re delighted to be invited to join the L!NKCD project and to have the opportunity to extend what we can offer into Durham.”

Gillian Smith, chief executive officer of Northern Learning Trust, said: “We are really looking forward to working with our friends at Bernicia and Employability Durham as part of the L!NKCD project. We are committed to providing inspirational learning opportunities that are tailored to suit each individual’s needs. We all face different challenges when it comes to learning and what makes the L!NKCD project so special is that it recognises this and focuses on overcoming barriers and building people’s self-esteem, as well as teaching new skills.”

L!NKCD is part funded by ESF as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.

For more information about the project, visit www.durham.gov.uk/employability or contact the Employability Durham team on employability@durham.gov.uk or search for Employability Durham on Facebook.

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Dame Vera Lynn

Dame Vera Lynn

Dame Vera Lynn dead: Forces' sweetheart and We'll Meet Again ...

Spennymoor Town Council will be flying the flag at half mast today in honour of Dame Vera Lynn who has sadly passed away today at the age of 103.

Dame Vera Lynn was best known for performing for the troops during WW2 and was a national icon and the nation’s sweetheart. Her best know song We’ll Meet Again is known and loved by all.

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Skills Service Continues To Reach Hundreds Of Families

Skills Service Continues To Reach Hundreds Of Families

 A County Durham learning service has adapted during the coronavirus outbreak to continue to reach hundreds of adults and children.

The home delivery of learning packages means that, to date, 274 adults and 414 children have continued to engage with East Durham Trust, which delivers community learning on behalf of Durham County Council’s Adult Learning Skills Service.

As well as helping families and individuals develop new skills and enjoy learning together, the packages also include a meal.

The sessions target vulnerable families and are usually delivered throughout the school holidays, when school meals have previously not been available.

The coronavirus outbreak put a hold on classroom activities and communal meals. However, with more vulnerable families needing extra help, new ways of providing services and reaching the community have been introduced

Home deliveries have seen families receive arts and crafts learning packs with accompanying resources and information, such as rainbow mosaic making and bunting in celebration of VE day. To ensure learners can do activities without the help of tutors, special instructions have been provided, and activities matched to their needs.

Debbie Watson was referred to the project by a Durham County Council One Point family worker. A single parent of two children, aged 11 and 13, she received an activity pack that the whole family could get involved with.

Debbie said: “We enjoyed participating in the learning activity as a family and it provided a good opportunity to do something positive together during this period of uncertainty.

“Once lockdown is over, and some type of normality resumes, I would like to learn some more new skills including sign language. I also would like to take part in a walk leader course and volunteer in the local community.”

As well as activity packs, the service has been providing a meal of pie, peas and potatoes, along with cake for dessert. A total of 688 meals have been delivered so far.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children’s and young people’s services, said: “We are so pleased that families and individuals can continue to grow in skills and in confidence despite the unfortunate circumstances the pandemic has presented us with. Whilst face to face interaction cannot be replaced, the home deliveries are helping us all stay connected and keep learning.”

To find out more about Adult Learning Skills Services, visit: www.durham.gov.uk/adultlearning

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County Durham Businesses Supported by Grants Scheme

Business owners across County Durham have spoken of their relief at further financial support being provided during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

 

Durham County Council extended the business rates grants scheme earlier this month, encouraging companies that were not previously able to access support to apply.

 

The council has been allocated just under £5 million of additional funding to fill some of the gaps in the original grants scheme, which has seen 8,651 businesses receive over £96.5 million of support.

 

To date, just over £1 million of that extra funding has been awarded to 135 businesses which were previously not eligible for the grants scheme.

 

Business owners who have received support so far have praised the council for providing the grants so quickly once the extension was announced, and for keeping in contact with them so effectively.

 

Keith Gill, who owns The Old Post Office bed and breakfast in Lanchester, said: “My wife and I cannot thank the council enough for their communications throughout what has been such an anxious time for us. I suspect that there are many hundreds, or possibly thousands, of small businesses like us, which have been helped by the business support grants and we are all so thankful not to have been forgotten.

 

“We don’t know when business will return to normal but we now have a financial fund that will help to support us until next spring, when I hope we will be in a more promising situation. For that, we’re incredibly grateful.”

 

The additional funding prioritises small and micro businesses in shared offices or flexible workspaces, regular market traders who don’t have their own business rates assessments, bed and breakfast operators who pay council tax instead of business rates and charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates reliefs which would otherwise have been eligible for small business rates relief or rural rate relief.

 

In addition to the above which follows the government guidance, the council’s policy also focuses on supporting private nurseries, small manufacturing businesses with small retail outlets within the property that sell to the public, and businesses involved in the supply chain to the retail, hospitality and leisure industry – all of which weren’t eligible for support under the previous scheme.

 

Businesses must be able to demonstrate ongoing fixed property costs and be able to evidence significant loss of income in order to access the support.

 

Guidelines around which businesses are eligible for the grant have been set by the government and the funding is limited but the council is determined to allocate this to eligible businesses as quickly as possible.

 

One of the key eligibility criteria is that a business must have been occupying a qualifying business premises at 11 March.

Businesses can find out more about the financial support available to them, and apply, by visiting http://www.durham.gov.uk/covid19business, emailing businessrates@durham.gov.uk or calling 03000 268 997.

Cllr Carl Marshall, the council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We’re pleased that we are now able to support a wider range of businesses who’ve faced increasing anxiety as a result of the pandemic, and it is great to see that support being welcomed.

 

“We would encourage any company in County Durham which hasn’t already applied for a grant to find out whether they are eligible – all of the details can be found on our website, which has been updated to reflect our local discretionary grants scheme.

 

“However, we do also acknowledge that the £5 million of funding is not enough to meet the needs of all the businesses that were ineligible for support under the original scheme and we continue to lobby for more funding to help our local businesses. I understand there will be businesses left disappointed because we have been unable to help them based on the government guidelines. But we want to do everything we can to support all of the county’s businesses and we would encourage any owners which are struggling to make contact with us.”

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Carers Week Is Here!

Carers Week Is Here!

Spennymoor Town hall will be lit up Green this week in support of Carers week. Read below for further information from Carers UK……..

Carers Week runs from Monday 08 until Sunday 14 June 2020 and this year Carers UK is joining forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness, plus organisations and individuals across the UK, coming together with the aim of Making Caring Visible.

Throughout the week we’ll be hosting daily Care for a Cuppas where we’ll be fixing ourselves a hot drink and taking some time to come together with carers for a virtual chat, sharing how we’re doing and being there for one another. Places are limited so click here for more details on how to join us.

We’ll be publishing blogs from a range of guests throughout the week, plus author Penny Wincer sharing videos of her experiences of caring. Check back here for links to the latest content throughout the week.

And make sure you follow both us and Carers Week on social media for news on the many other things our team will be up to during the week.

Research released for Carers Week shows:

  • 4.5 million additional people caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends since the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Unpaid carers and those not caring just as worried about stress and responsibility of providing care
  • UK public demands better deal for unpaid carers
  • Carers Week charities call on Government to recognise unpaid carers’ efforts and rebuild country’s care and support services
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Remote Committees To Consider Planning Applications

Remote Committees To Consider Planning Applications

Planning committees will restart next week to determine some of County Durham’s more significant applications.

It’ll be the first planning committee held since 18 March, after social distancing measures were introduced to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Meetings still can’t resume in person but applications will be determined remotely in a bid to boost the county’s economy moving forward.

The virtual meetings will decide the outcome of major developments and applications.

Meanwhile, an increased range of delegated powers have been given to planning officers to clear a backlog of applications brought about by the pandemic.

In order to ensure those decisions are fair, they will be made in consultation with local councillors, with final decisions taken at director level.

Last year, the council determined 3,375 applications, with almost 97 per cent decided by officers.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “There is no doubt that the coronavirus has caused major disruption to businesses and communities across the county and we hope that ensuring the planning process is fully operational gives a much-needed boost to developers going forward.

“The planning system unlocks investment and development by enabling businesses to grow, new housing to develop and increasing jobs and productivity, which will help with our vision of creating more and better jobs across County Durham. In the interest of a speedy economic recovery, it is important that these decisions are made in a fair and timely manner, which they will be under these new plans, whilst still allowing for residents across the county to get involved in the process.”

The first remote planning committee will meet 16 June.

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In Memory

Deepest Condolences to the Family

 

Shirley Ann Fleetham was an active labour supporter up until 2 years ago and a former Town Councillor with 20 years service, who became deputy Town Mayor in 1994 and then Town Mayor in 1995. Her husband Jack was very proud to be her consort and support. She loved Spennymoor, the town and it’s people, only wanting what was best for all. She met lots of people in this time, including colleagues who became life long friends.

 

Shirley and Jack were lucky enough that in October 1995 HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip came to visit the area, to Thorns Lighting, whereupon both Shirley and Jack were presented to the Royal Couple.  This was a very proud moment indeed for both Shirley, Jack and the family.

 

A close friend of Shirley’s recently described Shirley as a very loving, kind friend, one that she will never forget, her lovely smile and Heart of Gold were memories she will forever hold. I think this sums up my mother Shirley whom I am very proud of. She will be dearly missed by all who knew her and were lucky enough to meet her.

 

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Shielding Residents Urged To Take Extra Care

Shielding Residents Urged To Take Extra Care

County Durham residents who were asked to stay isolated in order to shield themselves from coronavirus are being urged to take extra care as restrictions begin to ease.

It follows updated government advice stating that although people who are shielding remain vulnerable, they can now leave their home, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing and continue to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene.

Durham County Council, alongside its partners in the NHS, is urging those who are extremely vulnerable to continue staying at home as much as possible and keep visits outside to a minimum.

Those residents should minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart and stay alert when leaving home by washing hands regularly. In addition, they are being advised not to attend any gatherings, including weddings or religious services, and strictly avoid contact with anyone who is displaying symptoms of the virus.

Those who do choose to spend time outdoors should go out with members of their own household. For those who live alone, time can be spent with one person from another house, though ideally that should be with the same person each time.

The shielded will still be able to access their supermarket priority slots and they’re advised to keep using those and avoid going shopping.

The government has advised that all those shielding should continue to do so until 30 June and say they will regularly monitor this position.

While these measures could be making life difficult for those who are vulnerable to access essential supplies and engage in social contact, the council is also reassuring residents that their community hub, County Durham Together, is still there to provide help and support.

Between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, the hub can support with essential food supplies, welfare and general advice.

It also offers a chat service to combat the loneliness that can often be felt when self-isolating or shielding, as well as a reading service as part of the council’s online library service Borrowbox.

Information on how to register for priority supermarket slots or how to help shop for a vulnerable family member or friend can be accessed via the hub too, as well as on the council’s website.

People are advised to accept help from friends, family and neighbours where possible, but anyone in need of extra support can find a list of local groups on the council’s website www.durhamlocate.org.uk or fill in our Coronavirus help form at www.durham.gov.uk/covid19help

Alternatively, help can be accessed by emailing help@durham.gov.uk or calling 03000 260 260.

Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, Cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “We know that these restrictions have been difficult for people who are shielding and I’m sure they welcome the news that those restrictions are now starting to ease. However, we would strongly urge those who are extremely vulnerable to continue to take extra care to protect themselves.

“The North East has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infections and it’s important that we all do what we can to stop the transmission of this virus. That’s why we would encourage those who have been shielding to continue to stay at home where possible, accept help from family and friends, and only go out once a day if they do feel they need to go out.”

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service is reassuring residents it is available to provide important safety advice and will carry out fire safety visits to high-risk homes and businesses. These will be prioritised and risk-assessed – all other prevention advice is available over the phone from its community safety team by calling 07930839422 (Monday – Thursday 8.30am – 5pm, Friday 8.30 – 4.30pm) or by visiting https://www.ddfire.gov.uk/free-safe-and-wellbeing-visit

Northumbrian Water also offers a range of free Priority Services and help to customers who need support. To sign up for that, or for more information, visit its website at www.nwl.co.uk/priority. Its customer service team can also be contacted on 0345 717 1100.

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Council Launches Its New Discretionary Rate Relief Scheme

Council Launches Its New Discretionary Rate Relief Scheme

Businesses in County Durham are being invited to seek financial support following the extension of grants schemes.

Durham County Council is extending the business rates grants schemes it has been administering on behalf of the government during the coronavirus pandemic, and is encouraging companies that were not previously able to access support to apply.

The extended scheme seeks to fill some of the gaps in the original grants schemes through which over 8,500 businesses have received in excess of £95 million of support in line with national eligibility criteria, with an estimated 360 grants totalling £4million still to be paid.

The council has been allocated just under £5million of additional funding and asked to develop a local policy which prioritises:

  • Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces;
  • Regular market traders who do not have their own business rates assessment;
  • Bed and breakfast operators who pay council tax instead of business rates;
  • Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief which would otherwise have been eligible for small business rates relief or rural rate relief.

The council’s policy reflects this government guidance. In addition, the council’s policy focuses on providing support to the following areas:

  • Private nurseries that were not eligible for support under the previous scheme;
  • Small manufacturing businesses with small retail outlets within the property that sell to the public, but which were not eligible under the previous scheme;
  • Businesses involved in the supply chain to the retail hospitality and leisure industry (wholesalers) but which were ineligible for support under the previous scheme as they did not retail to the public;
  • Businesses must be able to demonstrate ongoing fixed property costs and be able to evidence significant loss of income. Businesses which have already received a grant from the council and those accessing other government support are ineligible.

Cllr Carl Marshall, the council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We are really pleased to have paid out more than £95m in grants so far to help more than 8,500 county businesses through these unprecedented times. We are not resting on our laurels though and are determined to ensure every business that is eligible accesses this support and ensure the remaining 360 businesses we have identified as being eligible come forward and apply for their grants.

“We welcome the extension to these schemes, however, the £5million of funding provided is simply not enough. It is insufficient to meet the needs of all the businesses that were ineligible for support under the original scheme. I fear there will be many more businesses disappointed than what we can support.

“The national guidance we have received is clear on which businesses we should target and eligibility criteria we need to apply. Our local policy has been developed in line with these national guidelines, but we have been able to fill some of the gaps in the original retail, hospitality and leisure grants scheme.

“We would encourage any companies in County Durham which have not applied for a grant to find out whether they are eligible – there is plenty of information on our website, which has been updated to reflect the council’s new local discretionary grants scheme.

“We are determined that no eligible business is left without this support and now we have finalised the details of our extended scheme we are open for applications. We will do everything we can to get this funding flowing as quickly as we responded to the initial scheme.”

The grants are designed to help micro and small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Guidelines around which businesses are eligible for the grant have been set by the government.

One of the key eligibility criteria is that a business must have been occupying a qualifying business premises that was listed in the council’s rating list at 11 March.

Businesses can find out more about the financial support available to them, and apply, by visiting http://www.durham.gov.uk/covid19business

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Headliner Announced For Online Theatre Festival

Headliner Announced For Online Theatre Festival

 North East comedian Carl Hutchinson will headline a series of virtual theatre performances in County Durham.

On Stage: Online, organised by Durham County Council’s Gala Theatre and Durham University, was announced last month and will feature a host of theatre companies and performing arts groups from around the county.

Sixteen acts will be taking part in the festival from Thursday 11 to Sunday 14 June, with Carl creating three sets that will headline on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8.30pm.

The Geordie comic has been described as ‘one of the hardest working comedians of 2018’, and his debut Edinburgh Fringe Festival solo show made the top 10 shows of the Amused Moose Laughter Awards 2012.

The majority of the artists, companies and productions chosen for On Stage: Online have links to the region, and the festival will see theatre shorts and longer productions streamed live each day on the Gala Theatre’s YouTube channel, alongside scheduled pre-recorded content.

Robin Byers, manager for the Gala Theatre, said: “We’re delighted that Carl will be headlining the festival and we can’t wait to see his show. Carl would have been performing at the Gala Theatre in April, supporting fellow North East comedian Chris Ramsay, but unfortunately that was cancelled because of the pandemic so it will be great to welcome him online.”

To view the full festival programme, visit the Gala Theatre and Cinema website at: http://www.galadurham.co.uk/whats-on/onstage-online/

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Outdoor Markets Across County Durham To Reopen Next Week

Outdoor Markets Across County Durham To Reopen Next Week

Outdoor markets in County Durham will reopen from next week, following the latest announcement from central Government.

In line with the announcement, which outlined that outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June, Durham County Council has confirmed that the county’s markets will reopen from the beginning of the month.

It is hoped that reopening the markets will positively benefit the county by getting people back to work while supporting the economy. This will be boosted further when other non-essential retail outlets begin reopening from 15 June.

To coincide with this, Durham Bus Station will also reopen to public on Monday 1 June and a large number of bus services across the county will begin returning to their normal timetables.

The outdoor markets will open as follows:

  • Crook will be the first to reopen on Tuesday 2 June.
  • Consett market will be open on Thursday 4 June, Friday 5 June and Saturday 6 June.
  • Bishop Auckland market will be open on Thursday 4 June and Saturday 6 June.
  • Chester-le-Street market will open on Friday 5 June and Saturday 6 June.
  • Barnard Castle market will reopen on Wednesday 10 June.
  • Seaham market will reopen on Friday 5 June.
  • Spennymoor market will reopen on Saturday 6 June.
  • Stanley market will be open on Thursday 4 and Saturday 6 June.
  • The outdoor market in Durham City will recommence from Saturday 13 June.

Market operators have been advised on comprehensive risk assessments which have been put place and include coronavirus-linked risks such as social distancing to ensure the safe operation of the markets for both customers and traders.

The markets and retail spaces will be closely monitored by the council and any necessary changes or additions will be made in order to ensure safety guidelines are followed.

Durham Bus Station, which has been closed since 30 March, will reopen on Monday and comes as operators in the region begin to increase the number of services.

During the period of closure, bus services have been using existing and temporary stops on North Road.

The reopening of Durham Bus Station will aid social distancing for passengers and pedestrians who are currently using North Road while the number of services and passengers begin to increase.

As many people are choosing to walk and cycle, the number of people using public transport is expected to remain low. However, the increase in bus numbers and the reopening of the bus station will allow those who need to use public transport to be able to maintain social distancing.

Passengers travelling to and from Durham Bus Station are reminded to follow social distancing guidance when at the station.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “The reopening of the county’s outdoor markets, and the reopening of other non-essential retail to closely follow, is a welcome return for our high streets that will positively impact the county’s economy while ensuring that people’s jobs are secure and they can begin returning to work.

“By reopening Durham Bus Station, we can also ensure that safe social distancing can be followed as the county’s bus services prepare to return to their normal timetables as much as possible.

“However, the health and safety of the public while using the outdoor markets, bus services and retail areas is our highest priority, and we have arranged the introduction of appropriate measures which can assist with social distancing.

“We are reminding residents to continue following social distancing and safety guidelines at all times to protect themselves, market traders, and other shoppers during this ongoing pandemic.”

For more information about markets and individual opening times, please visit www.durham.gov.uk/markets

For more information about Durham Bus Station and other returning services, please visit www.durham.gov.uk/busmap

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