Council pledges over care service move

The Advertiser Series: PRIORY HOUSE: A general view of Priory House, Pity Me, Durham. Picture: TOM BANKS (9594284) PRIORY HOUSE: A general view of Priory House, Pity Me, Durham. Picture: TOM BANKS (9594284)

RESIDENTS angry social services for vulnerable families are being moved into their area have won a string of concessions from council chiefs.

People living on the exclusive Smithfield estate, in Pity Me, Durham, vented their fury at Durham County Council bosses at a public meeting on Wednesday night.

They are unhappy the council decided to move two teams responsible for caring for vulnerable families from Hopper House, off North Road, to Priory House, an office near their estate currently used for financial services, without consulting them.

They fear they will suffer increased crime, anti-social behaviour and drug use as a result of the relocation.

Framwellgate Moor and Newton Hall county councillor Mark Wilkes, who chaired Wednesday’s meeting, said the council had agreed to monitor the effect of the change, review it in six months, ensure visitors parked outside Priory House and not on neighbouring residential streets and users who “might be considered a risk” would not be seen at the centre.

Sarah Robson, the council’s head of economic development, said several measures had been agreed, including “measures designed to manage parking arrangements, exploring potential changes to the way services are delivered and the ongoing monitoring of service provision from the building”.

Ms Robson said the teams would move between Wednesday, August 27 and Tuesday, September 2.

The council has previously said residents should not be worried about the switch as police had received no reports of incidents relating to the service in the last five years at Hopper House and most of the work would take place off-site.

Local councillors were unhappy they were not consulted.

The council said it did not normally consult on “operational changes” but Councillor Amanda Hopgood, a local councillor and Liberal Democrat group leader, is to seek talks with council chief executive George Garlick over the issue.

Sixteen members of the public attended Wednesday’s meeting, which Cllr Wilkes said was a “good turnout”.

“It was really important for officers to hear people’s views,” he said.

“The council don’t believe there is anything to be concerned about regarding the service itself.

“I agree that the staff who run the service are exemplary. I’m also confident that the move will not cause local problems, but some residents feel differently.”

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