Durham County Council leader Simon Henig has used his first address of the year to deliver an upbeat speech.
Despite the uncertainty of Brexit and ongoing austerity – the council has already suffered budget cuts of £200 million – Cllr Henig said that the council remained “fiercely ambitious” and that 2017 could prove to be an exciting year for County Durham.
Cllr Henig told the council, “We will focus on our key priorities: encouraging the continued growth of our economy, redoubling our efforts to make Durham a safe, clean and green place to live, and promoting a thriving visitor economy and public sphere.”
Cllr Henig emphasised how goals can be achieved when various organisations and businesses from across County Durham work together. He said, “I was privileged to be present as the first Hitachi train, assembled on the production line at the Newton Aycliffe plant, was unveiled recently.”
“Many companies from the county supply components for the trains and this historic moment served as a great example of how working together can bring huge benefits to the county, justifying the many years of hard work that brought Hitachi to County Durham, beating off competition from more than 40 other sites across the UK.”
Cllr Henig also mentioned the creation of 1,200 jobs by ResQ in Seaham, following support from Business Durham, the council’s business arm. In addition, he highlighted the fact that GlaxoSmithKline in Barnard Castle and NETPARK in Sedgefield had expansion plans for 2017.
Cllr Henig continued, “Redevelopments are now underway on the riverbanks in Durham City which will enhance retail and cinema offers. All these developments mean more job opportunities for local people and are key to our plans for a brighter future for Durham.”
Cllr Henig said the council’s updated master plans for Durham City and other major towns would go before the county’s 14 Area Action Partnerships. The Area Action Partnerships – forums that give local people more of a say in their communities – would themselves, he said, be subject to ‘spring cleans’ to make them more effective.
Moving onto the cultural side of the council’s work, Cllr Henig said, “We are delighted that Kynren will return for a second season this summer – described as the country’s largest outdoor performance since the London Olympics – and attracting 100,000 visitors at a series of stunning night-time performances last year.”
Kynren is an outdoor show – telling the “epic tale of England” – that takes place near Bishop Auckland.
Cllr Henig went on, “Beamish, already the UK’s most popular living museum, will commence its expansion to encompass a reconstructed 1950s town this year.”
Cllr Henig also praised efforts to improve Seaham Marina as well as touching on the success of popular local festivals such as the Bishop Auckland Food Festival, Brass and the Durham Book Festival.
Cllr Henig added, “Finally, we also welcome back Lumiere for a fifth time in November – now the UK’s largest light festival – and this year accompanied by a major lighting conference which we have attracted to Durham that last year took place in Seoul in South Korea.”