Hundreds of people from across County Durham attended virtual events this autumn to recognise the community response to the pandemic and help shape the future of their local area.

Over the last two months, Durham County Council’s 14 Area Action Partnerships (AAP) staged Better for Everyone sessions to gather views on a wide range of issues and to celebrate and thank the many groups, individuals and businesses supporting their communities during this difficult time.

In total, 626 people took part in the 14 online sessions and more than 1,500 comments and questions were submitted through the chat function.

Many of those who took part had not attended an AAP event before, with some attendees stating that the digital sessions were more accessible and others describing feeling more confident in expressing their views in an online setting.

At each session, the AAP co-ordinator for the area gave examples of how community-led projects are making a real difference to residents’ lives, as well as highlighting the support the AAP has given through its Covid-19 Response Fund.

Cllr. Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, and Amanda Healy, the county’s Director of Public Health, also attended to give an update on the pandemic, the authority’s work, and how residents can play their part in reducing the spread of the virus.

Cllr. Henig spoke about the new vision for the county, which has been developed by the council and the County Durham Partnership following a major consultation exercise last year. Key priorities include creating more and better jobs, connected communities and supporting people to live long and independent lives.

Views were also sought on long term projects, including the council’s £20 million scheme to enhance the vibrancy and resilience of towns and villages across the county.

Cllr. Henig said: “Our Better for Everyone Sessions had two main aims; to thank the countless groups and individuals across the county for their tireless efforts to support one another and, equally importantly, to provide an opportunity for people to help shape longer term projects that will benefit their town or village for years to come. The views and quality of life of the people of County Durham are at the heart of everything we do and so we are delighted so many people engaged with these sessions. The pandemic has demonstrated the strength of community spirit that exists here in County Durham and, as a council, we are committed to empowering residents to be part of the decisions that affect them. By working together, we can ensure the county can overcome the challenges of the pandemic and look forward to a bright and prosperous future.”

Cllr. Henig added: “The popularity of these sessions has shown there are many benefits to staging such events online, but we know not everyone has access to the internet and so we will continue to provide opportunities for people to express their views in person when it is safe to do so.”

Since the pandemic began, AAPs have provided more than £1.1 million to almost 300 community groups and organisations working to support the county’s most vulnerable residents. This is in addition to support provided to groups through partner organisations including Durham Community Action and the County Durham Community Foundation. To find out more about AAPs and the support available, visit: