Loading Bay for Front Street, Consett

A special meeting of the Highways Committee of Durham County Council will next Thursday (March 4th) be asked to designate an area at the top end of Front Street as a Loading Bay.

 By banning the existing parking of cars in this lay-by the move is intended prevent the traffic disruption which occurs when lorries have to discharge and load deliveries “double parked” in the carriageway.

A full copy of the report and diagram of the area can be seen here.

A result

A correspondent who was caught out by the parking charges at the Victoria Centre and with whom I have been in correspondence wrote to let me know what had happened in his case.

He is a blue badge holder, and after writing to the company and sending them a copy of his blue badge they agreed to forego the charge.

 As the position becomes more well-known I hope that these incidents will decline until they are negligible. In the meantime it’s good to know that this website provides real value to some constituents, and that the people managing the car-park can be persuaded to listen if you have a good case to put.

Public Meeting – local bus services and transport issues

I have received notification that Hilary Armstrong MP will be holding and chairing a public meeting on the issue of local bus services and transport issues in Consett at the Empire Theatre on September 10th at 6.00 pm.

The meeting will include a panel of representatives taking questions from members of the public. I understand that the panel will include “a senior director of Go Northern Buses and transport officials from Durham County Council.”

I am unable to attend the meeting myself, but hope it will be a useful forum. If you have any views on these issues which you’d like to share with me I’d be very pleased to hear them.

Not me, guv

Consett’s first experience of a county council cabinet meeting today was pretty astonishing. As a spectacle of political hand-washing it will take some beating.

“Not me, guv”, said the cabinet, looking the other way.

The issue in question was the contract for the Durham Park and Ride bus service, a service well used by Consett Residents. You probably know that there has been a lot of criticism in the press and from councillors about the process which will result in a change of provider from Scarlet Band (who claim a 98% satisfaction rating from customers) to Arriva. This is despite the fact that Scarlet Band would have cost the council taxpayers less.

In the face of a good deal of hostile comment, the cabinet’s response was simultaneously to disclaim any responsibility (blaming any inadequacies in the process on the officers who had designed it) whilst approving the award of the contract to Arriva.

From my point of view the problem with the process was that the “quality criteria” the county included in the process were all paper based theoretical statements. They didn’t include the most obvious element that you or I would have wanted to know: What is there in the track records of the applicants to prove that they have provided good services in the past, here or elsewhere, and are capable of doing so again?

I got no denial of my view that the cabinet believes that the tender process had followed the letter of the law, but that the cabinet has no confidence that it has delivered the right result.

In response to my charge that it was madness to disregard companies’ track records, I was told that it would not be “fair” to take them into account. I was also told it was impossible to compare “like for like” in such things. Perhaps the whole nonsense was summed up by one cabinet member’s comment that “this is where common sense meets the real world”. So in the “real world” of County Durham there is no room for common sense.

Just when I thought that we were going to have to put up with the result because the process was legal, Mr Martin Harris (Commercial Director of Go North East) threw in a claim that could rock the county council’s position. He stated quite clearly that on three occasions during the tender process the “weightings” between price and quality had been changed. He also stated that one of the criteria had been removed from the scoring process after the tenders had been submitted.

If the matter ever came to court, I guess the county could find itself in the embarrassing position of explaining how shifting goalposts comply with the rules for tendering.

I wouldn’t hold your breath, though. Which company hoping to get a County Durham contract in the future is going to take it to court today? The result will all too likely be that residents will again pay the price for the cabinet’s failure to take control.

North East economy in the Slow Lane

The Headline isn’t mine. It those revolutionaries at the North East Chamber of Commerce who have accused the government of spending a third less on the North East’s transport than they spend in the rest of the country.

Not that it’s evenly spread, of course. According to the NECC government spends more than three times as much per head on transport in London than they do in the North East. That will have surprised you!

What struck me was the NECC’s complaint that the neglect of transport in the North East is being allowed to go unnoticed by the very people who are meant to be representing us. How else can you interpret their chief executive’s statement: “It is time for everyone, particularly the people who represent the North East, to say that this simply is not good enough and that the imbalance must be redressed.”

He went on to say, “The Government has to recognise that allocating this region over a third less in funding than the national average is unacceptable and is letting down the people who live and work here. NECC will be taking this issue up both with MPs in the region and with the Treasury at the earliest possible opportunity.”

I hope the NECC does. We get a third less spent on our transport needs, and roads which residents often describe to me as “third world”.

You can read the full story here. Like they say at the end of Crimewatch – “Don’t have nightmares!”

Unadopted roads

Puddle or lake?Consett readers may recognise this unadopted road, or unadopted lake as it might be referred to.

Throughout the district there are many such roads, and many of them look just the same. It’s a huge problem which blights the lives of many residents, and that’s why Nigel Martin, our Group Leader at Durham County, moved that the county council produce a feasibility study within twelve months aimed at creating a plan to bring these roads up to an adoptable standard over a realistic timescale.

It was a sensible motion that committed the county council to nothing but the production of a feasibility study.

Even that “nothing” was too much for our county council. Instead the Labour Group amended the motion to read as follows:

“The council therefore commits to further developing innovative mechanisms to promote private investment by utilising “housing” style approaches to renewal and regeneration (equity share and equity loan schemes) aiming to generate levels of personal investment previously unattainable for such projects and thereby draw in additional public funding”.

I hope you’re impressed by this commitment and the likelihood that it will sort the problem out. For me it was just another exercise in cynicism. They knew the problem was real. They knew it mattered to a lot of people. But rather than make a real effort to examine it and find a way to improve people’s lives they preferred to create some fine words, and go away and get on with their own agenda.