County Councillor Report
by Wendy Pattison
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Snow Wardens Sought for New Scheme
Community volunteers are being sought to help clear snow and ice from Northumberland’s pavements and paths this winter.
Following its success in other parts of the country, the council is introducing a Snow Warden Scheme where an individual or a group of community volunteers can sign up to help clear snow and ice from public footpaths in their local area during periods of severe winter weather.
While there are residents out there already who get involved and are keen to help in their communities the council want to grow this and introduce a more formal scheme where these important volunteers are supported.
For more information and to sign up to the scheme go to www.northumberland.gov.uk/snowwardens
The council will provide volunteers with a snow warden kit, which includes a snow shovel; salt, a thermal hat with head torch, a pair of thermal gloves and a hi-vis vest.
Paul Jones, the council’s Director of Local Services, explained: “As the weather starts to turn colder, we’ve done a lot of planning to ensure we have the right resources in place when wintry conditions arrive.
“Our dedicated Winter Services programme, including scores of staff, a fleet of gritting vehicles and the latest technology, mean clear arrangements are in place to treat our road network and high priority footpaths in town centres during periods of snow and ice.
While we continue to provide this priority service it’s simply not possible to do everything or be everywhere and that’s why we’re appealing to residents to play their part.
“We know from the past where we’ve had snow the great community spirit here in Northumberland, with people clearing their local paths and looking out for their neighbours.
“We want to build on that spirit and ensure people have the right kit to do the job when they’re helping out.
“And while it’s never too late to join up I’d encourage anyone who’d like to volunteer to get in touch as soon as possible.
Climate Change Action Plan reaches next stage
Northumberland County Council’s Cabinet has formally approved its draft Climate Change Action Plan – and a further £3m could be committed over the next three years to get a raft of projects underway.
If agreed by full council in January, it would bring the council’s total capital investment in renewable energy schemes to more than £10m over the medium-term financial plan period.
It comes after the council declared a ‘climate emergency’ earlier this year – vowing to half its carbon footprint by 2025 and make the county carbon neutral by 2030.
In recent years the council has reduced its carbon emissions by a third and the area is now ranked as one of the greenest in the country. However, it’s acknowledged it has a significant role to play in further reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cutting its carbon footprint.
One of the council’s first pledges was to develop an Action Plan within six months of declaring an emergency, and following a programme of engagement it was approved by the Climate Change Steering Group in November and will now be considered by full Council in January 2020.
A range of activities are already underway, including work to establish a Climate Change Commission, with the local authority looking to team up with world leading experts and industry leaders to make a real difference in collective responsibility.
The Cabinet has now recommended that full council approve extra funding up to 2023 for a number of major schemes, including £2.9m towards a solar car port at County Hall, £1.9m for a Hexham hydro-electric project and £4m for renewable heat schemes.
Councillor Glen Sanderson, Cabinet Member for Environment and Local Services, said: “We have made Climate Change a priority for the Council and I am very grateful for all the expertise and work that has gone into our Action Plan.
We have presented our work at public meetings across the county and received valuable feedback.
We will build on that dialogue with residents and schools and will be introducing new initiatives up to 2025 including a further roll out across the county of electric vehicle charging points and we will look at public transport to see what we can do to encourage more bus and train use.
“We also want to see significant tree planting so over the next five years we will be offering every household in Northumberland a free sapling tree.”
The Action Plan is available to look at online on the NCC website.
Have your say on the future of library services in Northumberland
People in Northumberland are being asked for their views on the future shape of library services in Northumberland.
The county council has launched a public consultation, which went live on Wednesday 18 Dec, asking for people to submit their comments and ideas of how the service should be delivered in the future.
The consultation is open to all, whether they are a regular library user or not, and the council is also engaging with schools in order to get the opinion of youngsters in the county.
People have until March to respond to the questionnaire which is available at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NCCLibraryConsultation and as a paper copy in all libraries in the county.
It is hoped the consultation will help identify the most valued aspects of the service and the barriers to library use across the county. The results of the consultation will help the council focus on how the service is delivered in the future.
As a statutory service the council is required to carry out a public consultation exercise if changes to the service are proposed.
Cath Homer, cabinet member for Culture, Arts, Leisure and Tourism at the county council said: “Northumberland’s library service has undergone many changes in recent years, however we feel that now is the time to take a thorough look at the service and make sure that it is serving the needs of our communities both now and into the future.
“We have been committed, since bringing the service back into the council in 2017, to building a stronger and more consistent service, but we now need to ensure that we understand what people value about their library and what they think we could do more of, or improve.
“This consultation will offer people the opportunity to have their say to help us design a library service that works for all. Even if you’re not currently a regular user of the service we want to hear from you to understand what could be done to encourage more people to use their library.”
A series of drop-in sessions will also be held for residents to ask questions or provide verbal feedback.
To find out when and where the drop-ins will be held go to www.mylibrary.co.uk
[Received: 17 January 2020]