Villages set back 50 years by cuts

Councillor Alan Cox outside of Glendale House. Picture by FRANK REID
Councillor Alan Cox outside of Glendale House. Picture by FRANK REID

A COUNCILLOR says budget cuts and the loss of front-line services are setting some ex-mining villages back “at least 50 years”.

Councillor Alan Cox, who represents Blackhall, Hesleden, Station Town and Hutton Henry on Durham County Council, has hit out after a number of vital facilities were scrapped in recent months.

He said the loss of services could see similar conditions to the early 1980s when a number of east Durham pits closed, devastating the area with unemployment.

He said: “Myself and many of my constituents are concerned at the loss of front-line services and where it will end.

“Since the General Election, local councils are faced with massive financial cuts and reductions to manage their budgets.

“We fought hard for these services we are losing.

“In some aspects we were probably better off 50 years ago.”

The Labour councillor described the axing of Blackhall’s Glendale House care home as a “massive loss” to the village and he said Blackhall Youth Centre, currently closed due to maintenance issues, left local youths with nowhere to go.

He is looking at alternative venues for youth provision.

He said calls for a rail halt to be situated in Blackhall looked futile after a Durham County Council feasibility study identified Horden as a preferred spot, should any plans go ahead.

Coun Cox added Station Town Community Centre, in Rodridge Park, also closed before Christmas, leaving no community venue in Station Town and people having to use Wingate facilities instead.

The councillor has also expressed fears for Blackhall Library, in Hesleden Road, which is one of 400 under-threat nationwide.

He said the axing of several bus services that serve his areas are affecting residents, especially as not everyone has cars in the rural villages.

The former miner also questioned the future of the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

He said the people he represents want world-class facilities in Hartlepool, instead of having to travel to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, and James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, or a new hospital at Wynyard.

Coun Cox said: “I don’t think the Coalition Government realise how people in the North-East struggle.

“Villages like Blackhall are already at the bottom of the pecking order.”

Don McLure, Durham County Council’s corporate for resources, said: “The Medium Term Financial Plan outlines £125m of proposed savings over the next four years and will go before full council on February 23.

“The council has prepared this document in the face of the unprecedented reduction in Government support it will receive over this time period.

“Should full council support this document then more detailed work on consulting, approving and finally implementing, any proposed changes will go ahead.”

A North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said: “Many services which would have only been available in hospital are now available in GP practices, local clinics and at Peterlee Community Hospital.

“However to continually improve services it’s necessary to bring some more specialist services where highly skilled teams can provide them safely and to the highest quality. In today’s health service this is what patients expect and deserve.”