You may have heard it said THAT Labour is “on the side of working people and small businesses” but, reading County Durham Labour’s list of 120 Things Labour Has Done For County Durham, we were struck by just how forward-thinking and ambitiously growth-oriented a Council it is.
It is easy to notice the huge developments – Aykley Heads, Jade, Bowburn and, of course, in Sedgefield constituency, Forrest Park, Station Place, NETPark and the expansion of Hitachi. Despite being told in 2015 that the County should plan for decline, all of these are growing quickly and successfully. When fully outworked, these developments should provide County Durham residents with up to 30,000 job opportunities.
In addition, Business Durham (the council’s business development arm) has supported 1,300 small local businesses and administers the Finance Durham Fund (creating nearly 1,500 jobs). The council’s ‘BEEP’ team has helped hundreds of firms save money on their energy costs. On top of this the Council’s DurhamWorks programme has supported 7,500 16-24-year-olds, and its Employment & Skills scheme a further 1,500 adults.
During the pandemic, the Labour-led County Council was praised by the government for the efficient and rapid way it distributed business support, helping more than 8,000 firms across the county. The Council is currently trying to find ways to support those businesses ignored by the Tory government, and has funded a £5million Business Recovery Grant.
It is tempting to compare all this to the Tories’ efforts in the recent Budget (750 Treasury employees being told to relocate to Darlington, and a freeport which might actually harm Aycliffe Business Park), which look less about levelling-up and more a Houchen re-election campaign.
THINKING OF FAMILIES
Housing developments can be controversial, but young families need somewhere to live; the County Durham Plan seeks to put in the right places 5,390 houses, 10-25% of them affordable. In addition, the Council has recently approved a £70million five-year plan to create 500 council houses. At the same time, extra money is being put into keeping neighbourhoods smart and clean, into community safety … into making communities that people will want to live in.
BUILDING BACK AFTER THE PANDEMIC
Coronavirus has shown us what matters most. As we emerge from the crisis, we need to create opportunities for families to settle and to prosper, and we need to build a future society which will see business growth, rising household incomes, and fulfilling jobs.
Sedgefield CLP Campaigns team