A £2M TRUST trust aimed at helping a strong community spirit to flourish was launched yesterday.

East Durham Trust officially left the starting blocks at a ceremony in the Glebe Centre, in the former mining village of Murton.

The trust has been given a £2m local government grant to help community groups forge a bright future for the area.

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Councillor Alan Napier, who heads the Local Strategic Partnership, which has provided the funding for the venture, launched the group.

He said: "The area already has a strong community spirit, which the new trust will help harness.''

The event was attended by more than 100 participants, ranging from members of local community groups to representatives of the district council, Local Strategic Partnership and primary care trust, as well as staff from other trusts, such as Groundwork East Durham and Acumen Development Trust.

Alan Miller, chairman of the new trust, thanked the staff of the former CVS and Community Network, who have joined together to form the new organisation.

The trust's chief executive, Malcolm Fallow, said that the new group had already been working in the field and scored some early successes.

These, he said, included the administration of the local Service Improvement Funding Programme and the distribution of starter packs to re-housed homeless people across the district.

Based in one of the country's worst areas of deprivation, the new trust will focus on helping communities to take a more active role in shaping the future of the district.

The event ended with a rendition of the miners' hymn, Gresford, by Andrew Holmes.

Everyone attending was given a promotional mug and a packet of Earthwalker sunflower seeds with the message Join East Durham Trust...A Growing Community.

Mr Fallow said: "Some of you may not know that a sunflower is not one flower, it is actually made up of about 4,000 tiny flowers, and for this reason I have chosen it to represent the trust, as we are not one organisation, we are only as strong as our constituent parts, which are the community groups who we represent."