County Durham is a large county with a wide range of settlements and landscapes. This page gives you an overview of the county and Durham County Council.
What is Durham County Council?
The council is made up of an elected assembly of 126 councillors accountable to nearly 520,000 people in County Durham. We are responsible for providing a wide range of public services to the people of the county.
We also represent and promote the interests of County Durham when dealing with regional, national and international affairs. Through effective local government, we allow local people to look after their own affairs and to decide how and where money is best spent in their area.
Our powers and responsibilities are determined by Parliament with county council elections held every four years. The most recent election was held in May 2018.
Constitution and structure
We are a 'unitary' council. This means that we provide the majority of council services in County Durham. We work with a range of partners to provide our services in the best possible way.
Our decision making structure:
- a Cabinet of ten councillors which meets on a monthly basis to make decisions to implement the council's policies and budgets. Cabinet is also required to set out its programme of work prior to taking a key decision and before making a decision in private. A notice of key decisions is produced and published on our website, which is then updated each month on a rolling basis
- an Overview and Scrutiny Management Board and its Committees which can monitor Cabinet's decisions and the Management Board can 'call-in' a decision of the Cabinet (Executive) that has been made, but not yet implemented
- the full Council of 126 councillors is a forum for general debate and also celebrates achievements or recognises outstanding service. The full Council is also responsible for a number of specific functions. This includes adopting and changing the constitution, approving the policy framework and budget, appointing the leader of the council, appointing committees, appointing chairs and vice chairs of committees, appointing representatives to outside bodies, receiving reports and recommendations from other council bodies.
- Regulatory committees are responsible for our regulatory functions, sometimes referred to as quasi-judicial, and includes planning, highways, licensing, standards and human resources. Their business is often governed by law or regulations.
Our constitution sets out how we operate, how decisions are made and the rules and procedures which are followed to ensure that these are efficient, transparent and accountable to local people. We also operate a public question time at cabinet and full council meetings and they are both open to the public.
Our Area Action Partnerships involve our partners, local people and organisations in the council's work, to allow various public, voluntary and community organisations as well as individuals to have a say in how local services are provided to their area.
We provide services to all parts of the county to meet the needs of our residents and help everyone in County Durham to achieve their ambitions.
Download a copy of our annual guide to services which is sent to every household in County Durham.
The council is made up of five service areas - Transformation and Partnerships; Children and Young People Services, Adult and Health Services, and Regeneration and Local Services. These services are responsible for providing a wide range of services for the people of County Durham.
You can contact us if you need information about any of our services. After consultation with local people, we've compiled a customer service charter and standards. These outline how you can expect to be treated when you contact us.
Where did we come from?
Throughout history, County Durham has been strategically important to settlers ranging from the Romans to the Angles, Saxons and Normans. Northumbria became the leading centre of the Christian church in Britain with the foundation of Durham Cathedral in 1093 acting as a lasting reminder of the County's legacy to Christian worship in Britain.
Following the Norman Conquests, William the Conqueror invested the Bishops of Durham with combined secular and spiritual powers to control the modern counties of Cleveland, Durham and Tyne and Wear. The Prince Bishops levied taxes, raised armies, minted money, controlled the courts and were effectively 'kings' of North East England until their powers were dramatically diminished by Henry VIII in 1536.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, County Durham became a world leader in the Industrial Revolution, with the county's development based upon coal and iron production. The area's influence on the world was demonstrated by the development of the world's first passenger steam railway at Stockton and Darlington in 1825.
Durham County Council was established, along with other county councils in England and Wales, in 1888 and started life with a small Conservative majority, unlike its present and long-standing Labour majority.
Where are we now?
Arising from its background of historical importance and a rich cultural heritage, we have developed our vision and priorities in consultation with local people and our Area Action Partnerships.
We have developed a new vision to reflect the views and aspirations of the community and opportunities for improvement. This vision is focused around an 'Altogether Better Durham', and is made up of two components: to have an Altogether Better Place, which is Altogether Better for people.
This vision helps to provide a framework which guides all of our plans and programmes which will turn our vision into a reality. This will be achieved through organising our actions for improvement into a structure made up of five priority themes.
County Durham has around 522,000 people living in about 228,000 households. The county covers an area of 223,260 hectares (2230 square kilometres/862 square miles) with 12 major centres of population including Durham City, Chester-le-Street, Newton Aycliffe, Consett and Peterlee.
Continued investment and the arrival of a range of new hi-tech businesses including telecommunications, advanced electronics and pharmaceutical and bio-tech companies have helped industry to diversify and grow in the county. Businesses in County Durham are adding to the success of the economy not only within the county but also in the North East of England and the rest of the country.
Durham County Council in numbers
- 16,500 people work for Durham County Council (ONS Quarterly Public Sector Survey, quarter 1, 2017/8)
- County Durham households generate 228,645 tonnes of waste a year. (2016/7)
- There are 269 schools in the county (2017)
- There are 39 local libraries (2017)
- We run two museums (2017)
- We have 126 county councillors (2017)
- Durham County Council has a budget of around £1.4 billion (2017)
County Durham in numbers
- 522,000 people live in County Durham (Office of National Statistics 2016 mid-year estimates)
- 50,400 people live in the City of Durham major centre (Office of National Statistics 2015 estimates)
- There are 228,000 households in the county (Department for Communities and Local Government 2015 Household Projections).
- The county covers an area of 223,260 hectares (2230 square kilometres/862 square miles). (Office of National Statistics 2011 Census estimates)
- There are 12 major centres with a population of over 7,000 people (Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland, Chester-le-Street, Consett, Crook, Durham City, Newton Aycliffe, Peterlee, Seaham, Spennymoor and Stanley). (Office of National Statistics 2015 estimates)
- The average age of people in County Durham is about 42 years old. (Office of National Statistics 2011 Census estimates)
- 53 miles of motorway run through the county. (2010)
- Durham City is 265 miles from London and 125 miles from Edinburgh. (2010)
- 142,000 hectares of the county is agricultural land. (2010)
- There are 260 ancient monuments in the county (2011).
- 12.5% of working people are employed in manufacturing in County Durham. (Annual Population Survey April 2016 to March 2017)
- 4.8% of working people are employed in construction in County Durham. (Annual Population Survey April 2016 to March 2017)
- 79.6% of working people are employed in service industries in County Durham. (Annual Population Survey April 2016 to March 2017)
- 24.7% of working people are employed in tourism related services in County Durham (figure included in the services industries above). (Annual Population Survey April 2016 to March 2017)