A DURHAM county councillor has secured over £5,000 in funding to help three popular community centres open their doors once lockdown measures are eased.

Cllr Peter Atkinson, a Ferryhill Labour councillor of 13 years, has raised much-needed funding to ensure Ferryhill Leisure Centre, Endeavour Woodcraft and Ferryhill Ladder Centre all have the support and tools they need to reopen once it is legally and physically safe to do so.

Working shoulder-to-shoulder with 4Together Partnership, which is part of East Durham Area Action Partnership (AAP), the funding has been allocated from Cllr Atkinson’s own neighbourhood fund as well as funds set aside by the AAP to support the local community.

Cllr Atkinson said: “I am delighted that we’ve been able to secure this funding in partnership with the AAP and look forward to working with each of the organisations to ensure that, once it is safe for them to open their doors, it is done so in the safest way possible.

“Although social distancing measures are gradually being eased, we all have a duty to ensure that we continue to go about our daily lives in as safe a manner as possible and to do all we can to help eradicate this disease.

“The last few months have been incredibly challenging for families and the loss of crucial community amenities such as leisure centres, childrens’ groups and community centres has really been felt as parents juggle multiple jobs day-in-day-out from parenting to teaching.

“Hopefully, now that this funding has been put is in place, we can work with Durham County Council and each of the organisations to get Ferryhill moving again.”

Ferryhill Ladder Centre is a community hub which offers advice and guidance to those receiving universal credit, helping them enrol on training courses and search for jobs while also playing host to a number of children’s and adults’ groups, such as gardening clubs, weight management classes, coffee mornings and kids’ adventure groups.

Kath Merrington, manager of the Ferryhill Ladder Centre, said: “The funding from Peter has allowed us to purchase the safety equipment we need to finally reopen our doors and ensure that we abide by all of the necessary health and safety requirements outlined by Government.

“Although we’ll be limited to running only a few of our services for the time being, they will be services that can really help those who need our support the most, such as one-to-one meetings around benefit support, employability and searching for jobs.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has left millions of people out of work and our communities are suffering as a result. It’s vital that we do all we can to get services like this back up and running and support those who need it most.”

Through his continued work with the Ferryhill 2000 Committee, Cllr Atkinson has also helped raise a further £5,000 to support the Ferryhill Foodbank based at St Luke’s C of E Church, which provides much-needed food parcels to struggling families in and around the local area.

He added: “Foodbanks have played a vital role in putting food on the tables of millions of struggling families across the UK, ever since austerity was introduced by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition back in 2010 and they’ve never been as relied upon as they are today.

“The Coronavirus has piled even more pressure on our foodbanks as families try to cope with school closures and loss of work. This funding will provide a huge boost to families relying on the support foodbanks, ensuring they can make ends meet throughout these difficult times.

“I’d also like to say a huge thank you to the members of the community who have continued to support the foodbank over the past few years. The donations go a long way to helping those going through hard times and the support by the community since it opened its doors has been absolutely outstanding.”