An awards scheme which aims to raise the bar in Durham City pubs and clubs is in the running for a national prize.

Best Bar None is a national awards programme operating in 34 towns and cities which aims to promote the responsible management and operation of licensed premises.

It was set up in Durham City in 2007 and is delivered each year by Durham County Council and Durham Constabulary.

The Durham scheme has now been shortlisted for the title of Best Bar None Overall Scheme in the UK 2016.

It is up against last year’s winner Sheffield and Bedfordshire, with the finals of the national Best Bar None awards to take place at the House of Lords in London on 31 January.

Durham Best Bar None has been successful in the national awards before, having been crowned the Most Innovative Scheme in the UK in 2009 and shortlisted for the Best Overall Scheme in the UK for 2015.

Scheme manager Carol Feenan was also winner of the National Outstanding Recognition Award for 2015.

Schemes up and down the country were invited to enter the national awards in December.

Cllr Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “Our Best Bar None programme has been a tremendous success over the years and we are both proud and delighted to have once again been shortlisted for the overall scheme award.

“Best Bar None has helped make socialising in our city’s pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs a safe and enjoyable experience and we are keeping our fingers crossed that we can go one better than last year and bring home the top prize.”

PC Claire McNaney, alcohol harm reduction officer at Durham Constabulary, said: “It’s great news that the scheme has been nominated for a national award and is seen as a flagship nationally.

“There has been some tremendous work by all involved to make socialising in Durham City as safe as possible and everyone should be very proud.”

The Durham scheme sees licensed premises sign up to undergo assessments as well as ‘mystery shopper’ visits.

Best Bar None accreditation is given out to establishments which meet set criteria while awards are given to those premises which score the most points in the assessments and mystery shopper visits.

In 2016, accreditation was given to 34 of the 37 premises which applied and 12 awards given out to category winners and runners up at a ceremony at Ramside Hall in November.

Best Bar None licensees reported an almost 20 percent increase in profits during 2016.

Last year’s figures for violence against the person in Durham were also nearly ten percent lower than in the 12 months before Best Bar None began operating in the city.

Mick McDonnell, national Best Bar None co-ordinator, said: “The Best Bar None scheme in Durham has in the past received national recognition and always been considered one of our flagship schemes.

“Best Bar None strives to raise operating standards in pubs and clubs by working in partnership with the statutory authorities and the venues.

“Durham continually demonstrates that partnership working has a positive effect on the night-time economy and because crime is being reduced, footfall and trade are improving year on year.

“More people are going out at night, and spending more money. Having professionally run, safe venues clearly contributes to that success.

“The commitment by the trade and the support given by the council and the police to this scheme is much appreciated and long may it continue.”