County Durham community leader urges residents to join ‘our big econ-versation’

A respected former headteacher is urging people from all walks of life across County Durham to join a consultation on issues which matter to them most – including everything from jobs to opportunities available for our children.

Retired headteacher and Chair of Governors at Ofsted rated ‘outstanding’ Wingate Community Nursery School, Paddy Beels OBE feels it is imperative that residents have their say on a three-month consultation on the County Durham Inclusive Economic Strategy.

Over half a million residents are being invited to join ‘our big econ-versation’ on issues which matter to them most and affect their lives – including everything from jobs, wages, education and climate change to health, housing and transport as part of a three-month-long consultation by Durham County Council.

The council is seeking views of people across County Durham to help shape its economic strategy.

Mrs Beels, a well-respected early years teacher, said: “I do feel that it’s really important for everyone to get involved and have their say on the economic strategy. People complain about all sorts of things but if they don’t share their views, then nothing will be done about it. It will help identify what we want and what we need.

“Climate change is my biggest issue that I’d like to see tackled. I believe we need a change in mindset. We all have to pull together and accelerate the changes we really need to make for our planet.

“It’s all about the balance of priorities. We are a very diverse county and the priorities in Weardale, Teesdale and East Durham will be very different.

“Parish councils have responsibility for a lot and they often don’t have the funds to maintain the things they are responsible for but these are the sorts of things people care about in their immediate locality. Everyone has a different perspective so it’s important that people get involved or their voices won’t be heard.”

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet member for economy and partnerships at Durham County Council, said: “Our economy provides opportunities for everyone – it affects how much money people have in their pockets but also how happy and healthy they are.

“We want a County Durham that creates opportunities for everyone, makes a real difference to people’s lives and helps us grow in every way possible.”

The ambitious economic strategy for the future will harness the county’s strengths and address areas for improvement. Shaped by residents and businesses, the strategy will become a comprehensive, inclusive plan to help County Durham achieve its growth ambitions. It will also enable the county to secure further investment and support from regional and national private and public sector organisations until 2023.

County Durham is already a major economic force in the North East, with 533,100 residents, supporting 174,000 jobs in 14,565 businesses. It contributes £9 billion to the regional economy each year. With a rich and vibrant cultural scene, Durham has been longlisted for the title of UK City of Culture 2025.

Residents and businesses can join ‘our big econ-versation’ now by visiting www.durhamecon-versation.co.uk, by emailing Econ-versation@durham.gov.uk or calling 03000 260000.

People will be able to give their views in response to questions around the themes of people, places, prosperity and planet. The deadline for views and comments is 5pm on Friday 22 April.

A first draft of the Inclusive Economic Strategy will be produced in summer 2022, and following a formal consultation process, the final document is expected to be launched in autumn 2022.

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