Durham County Council is in the running for two prestigious national awards in recognition of its work to spruce up towns and villages and support local businesses.

The council has reached the final of the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Awards 2018 for its Operation Spruce Up programme, and its Finance Durham Fund.

The awards celebrate excellence in local government with Spruce Up shortlisted in the environmental services category and Finance Durham in the innovation section.

Operation Spruce Up was launched in November 2016 with the intention of working in one town or village centre each month to get it as clean and tidy as possible.

The programme sees council teams working with partners such as town and parish councils, schoolchildren, local businesses and residents groups, and has been well received everywhere it has been.

Finance Durham is a £20m fund overseen for the council by national private equity managers, Maven Partners, working closely with the authority’s economic development organisation Business Durham.

The fund can give up to £700,000 to support local businesses, or to help firms from outside the county to move here.

Teams from Spruce Up and Finance Durham will make presentations to, and be interviewed by, the LGC judges before winners of the awards are announced in March.

Cllr Simon Henig, leader of the council, said: “We’re delighted to have been shortlisted for two such distinguished national awards.

“We know the feedback from communities and businesses who have benefitted from Operation Spruce Up and Finance Durham has been hugely positive and it’s really pleasing that the award judges have picked up on this.

“It’s also very satisfying to have been shortlisted in the innovation category which demonstrates that the services we provide to both our residents and businesses are at the forefront of best practice in local government.”

LGC editor Nick Golding said: “To be shortlisted for an LGC Award shows a council service is among the country’s most innovative, and doing the most to support the needs of residents as councils face budget cuts.

“We should salute the council officers and councillors doing the most to ensure our vital public services thrive in the era of austerity.”

To find out more about Operation Spruce Up visit www.durham.gov.uk/spruceup

and for more information about Finance Durham, head to www.financedurham.co.uk