A DEDICATED councillor has spoken to 13,000 children in his quest to clean up the streets of Darlington.

Hailed as the town’s ‘litter-picking tsar’, veteran councillor Gerald Lee has spent more than a decade encouraging people to pick up after themselves.

The Litter Free Durham campaign was launched ten years ago and Cllr Lee has been at its forefront ever since.

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He has travelled the length and breadth of County Durham in his tireless efforts to drum home the importance of keeping the area litter free.

As part of the campaign to keep Darlington and Durham tidy, the Conservative councillor has spoken to community groups, scrutiny committees and other organisations.

Cllr Lee has also visited scores of schools and believes he has spoken to more than 13,000 young people over the years.

He said: “We have been working hard to raise awareness of the problems associated with littering and to make people think about the consequences of it.

“It’s not just about standing in front of the little ones and saying this problem is your fault, it’s about explaining the consequences and problems associated with dropping litter.

“We do this in the hope that they will go away and think, and accept the message before passing it on to their mums and dads, brothers and sisters.”

Cllr Lee, who represents the Heighington and Coniscliffe ward, is urging the people of Darlington and its surrounding areas to do more to keep their neighbourhoods clean in the wake of council cuts.

Darlington Borough Council’s latest round of budget cuts is expected to have a significant impact on the overall appearance of the town in years to come.

The £12.5m programme of cuts approved earlier this year will see street cleaning reduced to the statutory minimum and environmental crime enforcement ceased completely.

Cllr Lee said: “The local authority needs help.

“They could have raised their precepts or robbed from another service to pay for street cleaning, neither of which is particularly attractive.

“Their third option is to encourage people young or old to take responsibility and clean up their community - speaking to 13,000 children is one way to do it..

“I’m not going to be around forever but I will continue to raise awareness and try to make sure the message goes home.”