Tagged: Consett

County Durham – New meters installed in fight against fuel poverty

New prepayment meters are being installed in hundreds of homes to help residents pay for their gas and electricity.

From the end of the month, Derwentside Homes will install the new smart meters, which display how much gas and electricity is being used and how much it costs, in 200 homes.

Under the pilot project, the meters will be installed in the company’s properties as they become vacant.

It follows a deal between Derwentside Homes and energy provider Ovo.

Vicky McCourt, new business development manager at Derwentside Homes, said: “The deal we have struck with Ovo will go a long way to helping our residents to reduce their energy use – and to cut their bills.

“Prepayment meters can be very expensive for customers on low incomes, who often have no choice but to have this type of supply arrangement.

“However, Ovo are consistently very competitive on the market when it comes to prepayment deals and by supplying customers with real time information on their energy use, and its costs, we can help to bring prices down even further for our residents”.

The first meter has just been installed at a house in Moorside, near Consett and Derwentside Homes says it ultimately hopes to have smart meters installed in all of its properties.

Ms McCourt added: “New residents will be set up with Ovo as their supplier – but, importantly, they will have the choice whether to stay with them or switch to an alternative provider.

“We believe this exciting initiative has the potential to reduce fuel poverty among Derwentside’s residents.”

Source –  Northern Echo, 25 July 2014

Sign of the times – three new Citizens’ Advice offices open in north Durham

Three new CAB offices are being opened in north Durham to help people deal with a range of problems.

A new Citizen’s Advice centre will open at 77 Medomsley Road, Consett, from Tuesday, following £12,000 worth of investment.

Builders are currently working on premises on Church Chare in Chester-le-Street and it is hoped it will be open in June, following a £50,000 makeover.

Citizens Advice County Durham is also looking for suitable premises in Stanley and has a between £30,000-£40,000 to invest.

Neil Bradbury, chief executive of the charity, said: “All of the new offices will provide clients with a modern, easy to access and friendly place to come for free advice.

“It used to be that CABs were tucked away above shops. That is not good enough and we can provide a better offer for clients with these new premises.”

The funding has come from various sources including the Department of Health, Durham County Council, the Community Foundation in County Durham and various councillors’ funds and funding from area action partnerships.

Neil Bradbury added: “In terms of Consett and Stanley the need for these premises is urgent as we don’t have our own offices in these towns.

“In Chester-le-Street, the new office will hopefully make a whole world of difference providing access for those with mobility problems.

“We have great offices in Seaham and other towns and it has been about upgrading so they are the same standard.”

Last year almost half of the 20,000 people turning to Citizens Advice County Durham (CACD) needed help with benefits with 29 per cent of clients struggling with debt.

The charity, which helps thousands of residents get access to millions of pounds of extra income each year, is hoping to recruit over 300 volunteers.

 Mr Bradbury said: “We have people come to us wanting advice about managing their budgets or consumer rights to those who have reached crisis point.

“We are the main advice service in the county and we are free and confidential for all. People can come to us about anything and talk it through.”

For more information about CACD, its opening times or to volunteer email enquiries@cdcab.org.uk or search Citizens Advice County Durham on Facebook.

Source – Durham times   04 May 2014

Increase minimum wage to win in North, Tory candidate tells Osborne

> Sure sign that there’s an election just over the horizon – out they come, offering bribes like the sleazy fixers they are…

A former Tory candidate in the North East is leading calls for the party to increase the minimum wage – to give it a chance of winning seats in Labour heartlands.

The campaign urging Chancellor George Osborne to increase the minimum wage has been launched by Renewal, a campaign group dedicated to broadening the appeal of the Conservative Party and giving it a chance of winning seats in regions such as the North East where the party has very few MPs.

Mr Osborne yesterday hinted that a rise from the current £6.31 an hour to £7 was indeed in the offing.

Renewal director David Skelton finished a distant second when he stood for the Labourstronghold of North Durham in the 2010 general election.

Renewal has launched a review called “Renewing Capitalism”, which will look at new ways to create a competitive economic environment in which the consumer and the low-paid are protected, competition is cherished and anti-competitive, monopolistic behaviour is cracked down on.

It will also explore ideas to create wealth in parts of the country that have been struggling to share in prosperity since the 1980s – notably deindustrialised towns in northern England.

> Yeah… might have been better if the Tories hadn’t wrecked the north in the first place perhaps ? Might be good if they weren’t cutting funding left, right & centre.

Renewal is also considering ways of changing the face of the Conservative Party by bringing in more working class MPs, including by introducing bursaries to help people on lower incomes stand for election.

> This is a wind-up, isn’t it ? Its certainly not the Conservative party.

Mr Skelton, who was born and grew up in Consett, County Durham, said:

“The Conservative Party needs to come to terms with the fact that many people, particularly the low paid, don’t think that capitalism is working for them.

“We need to do more to show that capitalism can work for everybody in every part of the country. Being pro-market isn’t the same as being pro-big business.

“Where there are instances of abuse – in either the public or the private sector – Conservatives should come down hard to protect the consumer.”

> I think we know perfectly well what capitalism is likely to do for – and do to – us.

The review could be seen as a response to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s focus on the cost of living and attack on “predatory” capitalism. Labour is arguing that the benefits of economic recovery are not being shared by most people – and is highlighting the fact workers in the North East on average are paid £1,300 a year less than they were in 2010, once inflation is taken into account.

Some Conservatives argue that putting up the minimum wage, currently £6.31 an hour for over-21s, would help ensure that working people enjoy an increase in their standard of living as the economy improves.

> Yes, but it doesn’t create new jobs, so those in work earn a few more pennies, but the high unemployment continues, and those on benefits will continue to be the scapegoats for a situation they had no hand in.

Speaking recently, Hexham MP Guy Opperman said: “I am a well known exponent of the voluntary living wage and am very keen for an enhancement of the minimum wage now that the economic conditions are beginning to ease.

“There is an ongoing campaign to see if the Chancellor is able to make such a change when we get to the Budget in March.”

Recommendations about minimum wage rate are made by the Low Pay Commission, an independent body set up by the Government.

Mr Osborne has said he will not increase the minimum wage if it will lead to job losses but there is speculation he could announce a simultaneous cut in taxes paid by employers such as National Insurance, allowing them to pay staff more while staying in profit.

> The cut in NI contributions makes sense in the light of current policy, which seems intent on making it impossible for anyone to actually claim benefits anyway.

Source – Newcastle Journal, 17 Jan 2014