A new era?

September 9th, 2014 by Owen Temple

I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Project Genesis. For many years it was slow to supply people with detail about what it was doing, kept its intentions under wraps, and preferred just to tell us that it was good for us. We were asked to take it all on trust.

Recently, however, there has been a great deal more openness about its plans, a much greater effort to get alongside the community, and today’s opening of Fawcett Park took that to a new level with representatives invited from many local groups (Friends of the Park, Salvation Army, Royal British Legion, Scouts etc.) as well as children from five of our local primary schools, the same schools which had supplied a time capsule to be buried on the site earlier in the year.

Fawcett Park

The site, which lies off Genesis Way, includes a couple of excellent artworks and a children’s playground. I checked with the schoolchildren who had road-tested it. It’s excellent too!

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but talking to people there was a new sense of optimism about a project which has existed for 20 years, but has gained little trust within the community. It can’t be a bad sign that there’s a new website for the project and talk of some potentially exciting developments on the Hownsgill Industrial Estate, as well as environmental projects to link Fawcett Park through to the CTC at the Cuckoo Bridge.

In the end it’s the developments at Hownsgill which will be the real proof of the pudding. Project Genesis was always supposed to feed into the commercial regeneration of the town, particularly employment prospects, and we should all watch progress on that keenly. Consett doesn’t just need more houses and pleasant green spaces. It needs places for people to work and improve their standard of living. That will be the real evidence that Project Genesis is doing more than scratching the surface of the potential of what was once the economic heart of our town.

Bank Holiday Refuse Arrangements

August 19th, 2014 by Owen Temple

Rubbish and recycling collections in County Durham will take place as normal during the August bank holiday week. (w/c 25 August)

Film Academy for Young People

August 12th, 2014 by Owen Temple

Kids For Kids Header

Applications are now invited from young people between the ages of 16-19 for Kids for Kids second BFI Film Academy.

The BFI Film Academy (www.bfi.org.uk/filmacademy) aims to help train and inspire the next generation of British filmmakers and offers training for every film industry role, from writing and directing through to production, sound design, editing and camera work, the academy also provides learning around film history and cinematic storytelling to inspire an appreciation of film culture in the round.

After completing the BFI Film Academy course, young people are able to progress to a range of other exciting opportunities.

At last years’ Film Academy Kids for Kids worked with 12 young people from around County Durham, who attended a range of master classes with industry professionals. The students then devised, shot and edited a short film which premiered at the new Victoria Centre in Howden-le-Wear and has since gone on to be screened at various film festivals around the world.

Closing date for applications is October 13th 2014 at 12 noon.

All enquires to be directed to Helen Ward (Festival Director) either by email or phone.

T: 01388 765002

M: 07977 53148

Find out more at www . kidsforkidsuk . org

August Break

August 1st, 2014 by Owen Temple
1 Comment

This website is taking its traditional summer break.

Deckchairs and sunbathers on a sunny Sunday, Brighton beach (David Hawgood) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Childrens’ Centres consultation underway.

July 31st, 2014 by Owen Temple

Despite an attempt to get the cabinet to reconsider its approach to changes to childrens’ centres – at least until they had discussed local impacts of particular closures/transfers – the consultation is set to go ahead, and you get your chance to put forward your views (though not necessarily to have any notice taken of them).

Benfieldside Children's Centre

The consultation is to be found here.


Licensing Application for Consett

July 24th, 2014 by Owen Temple

The following application has been received/accepted by Durham County Council

Application Type – Application for a New Premises Licence

Applicant: – Anthony Nicholson, Finnians, 7 Trafalgar Street, Consett

Premises – Finnians, 7 Trafalgar Street, Consett

Date of Application – 23 July 2014             Last date for representations – 20 August 2014

Application details: for the sale of alcohol, provision of regulated entertainment (including live music) and late night refreshment between the hours of 11:00 – 01:30 each day.  All indoors only.

Please note the last date for representations

T: 03000 265107

T: 03000 265102

E: [email protected]


Musings from the Council Chamber – today’s meeting

July 23rd, 2014 by Owen Temple
1 Comment

Disgrace of the Day.

The Cabinet and council were unrepentant about fixing up a quizzing of council officers at their Labour Group meeting and five separate localised briefings for Labour Group Members only, all in relation to the proposed changes to Children’s Centres reported on this site, weeks before the proposal went to Cabinet. And that despite the fact that in this area all three of the wards containing Children’s Centres have no Labour Councillors.

How does that fit in with the bit in the Local member Consultative Charter which says:

Any matter of significance or sensitivity which relates to a particular Electoral Division or Divisions will be discussed with the Local Member(s) concerned before being submitted for consideration by the Cabinet or other Council Body.

And how doe you square that with the Code of Conduct for employees which says:

Employees serve the authority as a whole. It follows that you must serve all councillors equally and ensure that the individual rights of all councillors are respected.

International insight of the day

In praise of the fabulous decision making and Scrutiny process at County Hall, we were told that a Chinese delegation had visited the county in order to understand “the Council’s decision making process and how scrutiny operates in practice.”

Chinese delegation

You can’t help wondering who learnt most from whom in this exchange.

Predictable outcome of the day

A Liberal Democrat Motion in favour of what I thought was Labour Party Policy – the introduction of the Living Wage for council employees – was kicked into the long grass by the ruling Labour Group.


Getting there

July 18th, 2014 by Owen Temple
1 Comment

But not there yet. That has to be the verdict on County Durham’s employment statistics.

Every month Durham County Council produces statistics on employment within the county, and they all show the same trend. The employment position in the county is improving, but this county lags behind the national statistics, and the region as a whole lags behind Durham.

The graph of the percentage of the working population claiming Job Seekers Allowance paints the picture very clearly.

JSA Claimants July 2014


So, even more disturbingly, does the graph showing the percentage of the 16-24 age group who are claiming “out of work benefits” – though I have to say the use of a vertical scale which starts at 8% instead of 0% is a textbook example of how graphs can mislead and inadvertently suggests that youth unemployment is a North Eastern problem, whereas it is very much a national problem which is even worse in the North East.

Youth worklessness


If you are interested in getting the full report email [email protected] . I have asked for the council to update the website page which is still quoting April statistics, and to revise their use of graphs in order not to mislead readers.

County Durham Children’s Centres to close?

July 17th, 2014 by Owen Temple

Not according to the County Council, but does that stack up?

Benfieldside Children's Centre

Yesterday’s cabinet meeting agreed to go to “consultation” on a report which would see the number of Children’s Centres in County Durham reduced from 43 to 15 as the service is directed to run more services from local community facilities, rather than relying on parents to come to relatively expensive fixed centres. The full report can be read here.

The gist of the argument is that the service is intended to:

  • Maintain its services
  • Maintain its full staff complement
  • operate out of a wider range of buildings, but fewer fixed facilities
  • Reach a wider range of parents and families

all this whilst saving around £1 miilion.

The argument is that traditionally footfall in the centres has not reached as many of the “hard to reach” families which the service is primarily aimed at. Recently they have been working hard to get the teams into more local facilities (Church halls, Community Centres, doctor’s surgeries, One-point hubs etc.) and this has resulted in them reaching a higher proportion of “hard to reach” families and children than previously, but the other side of the coin has been that the usage of the centres themselves has declined. In short, the service has been carrying a high cost overhead for fixed buildings whilst seeking to re-focus its operation closer to people’s homes.

The proof of the pudding will, of course, be in the eating. For Consett if the plan is implemented (and I think you will know that consultation following a Cabinet decision never changes the decision) it will mean the closure of the Benfieldside and Leadgate Children’s Centres. I’ll collect a lot of flack for using that term “closure”, because the plan is to “transfer” control of them to other organisations (like, say, schools or current day-care providers) so that the buildings themselves remain open, and it may be possible for them to continue to be used to provide Early Years Services. The details of that, however, are all up in the air so I don’t think you can count on them and I’d be inclined to see it as “closure” until someone proves that the “transfer” route actually works to provide continuing services on the existing sites.

One interesting sidelight is that there is a risk of substantial claw-back of finance if some of the buildings cease to deliver early years services to children. That’s because many of these centres were set up with funding from Europe, designated specifically for the development of improving Early Years provision. That, at least, creates a real motive to retain services in them. Who said we get nothing from Europe?

The details of the consultation are not yet out, but when they are (due from July 31st.) it will be accessible from the Consultations page of the Durham County Council website  . I have also been assured that a paper questionnaire will be provided to all users of the existing centres.

Wardens’ report

July 17th, 2014 by Owen Temple

Dog fouling

Wardens have investigated 3 reports of dog fouling this month. They have also removed 9 stray dogs.


Wardens have investigated 1 report of littering this month.


66 incidents of fly-tipping were reported this month. 29 investigations into these incidents were carried out in order to find any evidence to link the fly-tipping to those who dumped it.

Untidy yards and gardens

Wardens have issued 3 advisory letters and 4 litter clearing notices to properties with untidy gardens or yards this month.

1 fixed penalty notice has been issued to a resident who has failed to respond to requests to clear their yard or garden.

Antisocial behaviour

Wardens dealt with 9 incidents of ASB reported directly by members of the public, as well as 27 incidents which were passed via the Police Airwaves system. Wardens have carried out 1 seizure of alcohol from under aged drinkers this month.

FPN table


Owen Temple & Margaret Nealis

Photo of Owen Temple & Margaret Nealis
300 Medomsley Road
Co Durham
T: 01207 505564

Owen Temple, who has been Consett North's Lib Dem Councillor since 2007, and Margaret Nealis are committed to working for local people in Consett, to make sure that their voice is heard at County Hall. As the county council takes a more and more centralised and "one-size-fits-all" approach, it is more important than ever for Consett to have campaigners who will stand up for this town.


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Consett North May 2013