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About Us

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 530,100 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 2017.

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 each month. A Corporate 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 and standards. 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.

See  to download a copy of our annual guide to services. This is sent to every household in County Durham. The Council structure is made up of service areas. 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 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 530,100 people living in about 246,380 households. The county covers an area of 223,260 hectares (2230 square kilometres/862 square miles) with 21 settlements with an estimated population of over 5,000 people 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

  • 16,029 people work for Durham County Council (ONS Quarterly Public Sector Survey, quarter 3, 2019/20)
  • County Durham households generate 226,000 tonnes of waste a year. (2018/9)
  • There are 266 state-funded schools in the county (2020)
  • There are 39 local libraries (2020)
  • We run one museum (2020)
  • We have 126 County Councillors. (2020)
  • Durham County Council has a budget of around £1.4 billion (2017)

County Durham in numbers

  • 530,094 people live in County Durham. (Office of National Statistics 2019 mid-year estimates)
  • 56,100 people live in Durham City and the wider area. (Office of National Statistics mid-2019 estimates)
  • There are an estimated 246,380 households in the county in 2019. (Valuation Office Agency 2019 - Taxable Dwellings)
  • The county covers an area of 223,260 hectares. (2230 square kilometres/862 square miles) (Office of National Statistics 2011 Census estimates)
  • There are 21 settlements in County Durham with an estimated population of over 5,000 people. (Estimated from the ONS Mid-2019 Output Area Population Estimates) These settlements are: Newton Aycliffe, Chester-le-Street, Durham City, Peterlee, Spennymoor, Bishop Auckland, Seaham, Shildon, Crook, Gilesgate, Ferryhill, Newton Hall, Murton, Consett, Horden, Deneside, Stanley, Barnard Castle, Brandon, Sacriston, Willington.
  • 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.
  • 147,000 hectares of the county is agricultural land. (DEFRA 2013)
  • There are 260 ancient monuments in the county. (2011)
  • 18.6% of working people are employed in distribution, hotels and restaurants in County Durham. (Annual Population Survey January 2020 to December 2020)
  • 8.1% of working people are employed in manufacturing in County Durham. (Annual Population Survey January 2020 to December 2020)
  • 7.4% of working people are employed in construction in County Durham. (Annual Population Survey October 2020 to December 2020)
  • 82.4% of working people are employed in service industries in County Durham. (Annual Population Survey October 2020 to December 2020)
  • 12.6% of jobs are tourism related in County Durham. (Business Register and Employment Survey 2019)