Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Northumberland Culture and Customer Service Portfolio highlights in December 2012

The flag of Northumberland

I thought people might like to see the monthly report I ask from the officers in the portfolio I am the executive member for on Northumberland County Council. Here are the highlights for December:

December Highlights for Customer Relations and Culture Portfolio

Our Facilities

A variety of planned improvement works started and took place during December, including:

·         Preparation for the new integrated facility for Seaton Delaval at Astley Community High School. This included a special ‘book buy’ to purchase new stock specially tailored for the local community. The integrated facility opened successfully on 2 January, 2013. 
·         The Library and Customer Information Point at Amble being relocated to the Tourist Information Centre on Queen Street to allow building works to create a new integrated facility to take place at the current ‘library’ site.
·         Building works for the new integrated facility at Cramlington; plumbing, foundation and technical works were completed in the lead up to Christmas.
·         New internal and external signage being fitted at Morpeth Tourist Information Centre.
·         Rutherford’s department store ‘dressing’ Morpeth Town Hall free of charge for Christmas, resulting in a large number of couples saying how “spectacular” the building looked for their special day. 

Contact Centre

A total of 21,213 calls were received. 76.6% were answered within 20 seconds.  3.9% were abandoned against a target of 5%.

The Fire and Rescue Service completed its first month of delivering the Council’s ‘out of hours’ contact centre service with no major concerns raised.

Blue Badges

All completed applications were processed within the 5 working day target. 


118 weddings took place compared with 79 in December 2011.

Resident’s survey

The results of the North East Residents’ Perception survey were released. This showed that 49% of people in Northumberland feel well informed. Representing an increase of 10% since the last full Place Survey in 2008, this is a significant rise. Ipsos Mori called this a ‘wow’ moment in their presentation on the results.

Library Initiatives

As part of the national campaign to get more people using the internet, libraries helped 270 people get online during the first week of December 2012, booking bus tickets to London, undertaking job searches, filling in job applications, finding a long lost relative and tracing a family tree.

A survey to find out what customers think about the new mobile library routes introduced in April 2012 ended on 19 December. The results of the survey will be available in February 2013.

Local Democracy Campaign

Planning for a local democracy campaign with branding, online and printed material took place. A big push in the New Year will be focusing on voter registration (particularly among young people) with a drive to encourage more people to become parish councillors.

Creative People and Places

The Creative People and Places programme gathered views from 1,700 people living in South East Northumberland to inform the development of its business plan for a 3 year artistic programme (which needs to be submitted to the Arts Council in February for approval). Views were gathered via a questionnaire that was made available at public facilities, including libraries and GP surgeries, and online.

Woodhorn was asked to take the national lead in managing the Creative People and Places network and is bidding for a further £170,000 to fund this work.

Arts Venues

Queen’s Hall Arts Centre (QHA) hosted the D’Oscars 2012. This Learning Disability Film Festival included short films and a number of workshops and projects to develop skills and encourage self-expression. Representatives were drawn from as far afield as Hexham, Haltwhistle, Dilston, Blyth, Saltburn, Carlisle, Aspatria and Australia.

QHA delivered its first ever pantomime in December. Audience numbers exceeded targets and the show, The Adventures of Robin Hood, received rave reviews.

The Beautiful Berwick Town Team and Berwick Visual Arts were awarded funding from the Arts Council to develop a pilot project to help identify if there is demand for a permanent print facility in Berwick-upon-Tweed.


Kielder Water and Forest Park was awarded £100,000 Arts Council funding to support a project to develop new audiences through digital technologies and rural landscapes.

Northern Film and Media (NFM) briefing event

An event was held in early December to encourage location filming in Northumberland. Involving partners, landowners, Council officers and NFM, the economic benefits of location filming and the successes achieved for the county were outlined.

North East Tourism Awards

The North East Tourism Awards will be held at the Sage, Gateshead on 31st January 2013. ‘Gold’ award winners will be automatically entered into the national tourism awards organised by Visit Britain. Highlights from the shortlist include:

·         Corbridge TIC (visitor information category)
·         Woodhorn Museum and Archives (sustainable tourism category)
·         Kielder Water & Forest Park (best tourism experience category).

Customer and Cultural Services team members were involved in recruiting judges and managing the judging process for six of the 14 categories.

Portas Projects

Customer and Cultural Services team members supported the work of both the Newbiggin and the Berwick Portas Town Teams during December. Both have developed plans for their projects and tourism has been identified as a priority action in both. The Newbiggin plan is further advanced with many of the tourism aspects of the plan nearing completion. A new brand and marketing campaign have been developed and will launch, along with a new Visit Newbiggin website in mid-February. Improved visitor signage will be installed by the 31 March.

South East Northumberland Section 106 Panel

South East Northumberland Section 106 Panel met in December and awards were made to Newbiggin Town Council (refurbishment of the Skate Park); Blyth Cricket and Rugby Club (development of a second Rugby pitch); Cramlington Learning Village (creation of a cycle speedway track and cycle hub); and Ellington and Linton Parish Council (safety surface Linton Village Play area), benefitting around 2,000 residents of all ages.

Leisure Capital Programme

The results of the conditions survey, commissioned as part of the Leisure Review work, indicated that there was an immediate requirement for works to be completed at a cost of £960,000. Funding has been secured to tackle these urgent works at the earliest opportunity. This money is in addition to the £1.7 million already being spent on leisure infrastructure.

Bedlington Leisure and Gallagher Park

The Gallagher Park steering group took place on 12 December. The meeting was very well attended and discussed the spending of newly secured SITA funding.

A further meeting of the Bedlington Leisure steering group is planned for January where BVAL will present a business case for a community leisure facility using the vacated sports facilities from the current Bedlingtonshire High school build.

Ashington Community and Leisure Facility

An application was submitted to the Sport England Iconic Facilities fund in December for £942,000. The new facility is projected to increase participation in sport over the coming years from 300,000 participants in the first year of opening to over 415,000 in year 5. Existing user numbers are approximately 160,000. A decision will be made on the fund in March 2013.

The planning application for the new facility was considered and agreed by the Council’s Central Planning Committee on 8 January 2013.

Leisure – The Way Forward

A Leisure Review Overview and Scrutiny Task Group and the Council’s Risk Appraisal Panel (RAP) gave their views on the way forward for leisure provision during December. This informed the content of a delegated decision, which was also signed.

Awards and Quality Standard Achievements

Wentworth Leisure Centre was runner up in the APSE performance network’s best performer award for sports and leisure.

Ashington Leisure Centre scored 100% in the Institute of Qualified Lifeguards (IQL) assessment which took place on the 11 December. This is a fantastic result and improves on last year’s excellent score of 93.94%. The assessor summary stated they were “a very passionate and pro-active team”.

Our online resident’s magazine Northumberland News has been shortlisted in the Local Public Services Excellence Awards for best publication. The Awards are organised by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and recognise the best communications and engagement work across the public sector. More details can be found here:

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