A COMMUNITY safety boss has outlined a series of plans to make women feel safer, both at home and while in public areas.

Darlington Borough Council deputy leader Councillor Jonathan Dulston said he was pleased the Government had recognised concerns which were highlighted following the death of Sarah Everard.

Women across the borough and the North-East have spoken out about how violence and the fear of violence is an everyday experience for them. One Darlington woman told how she only left her home in shoes she could not run in if she was also carrying a spare pair which she could, while another related how she and her daughter never walked home alone from a night out, but her husband and son were able to.

Labour candidate for Tees Valley mayor Jessie Joe Jacobs said: “You don’t walk through a park at night, you don’t run via a cycle path, you try not to walk alone or in quiet places, even in the daytime.”

Cllr Dulston said as a result he was optimistic the Government doubling of the Safer Streets Fund to £45m would enable the authority to take more safety action and the outcome of the council’s bid for extra cash would be announced in June.

He said: “Darlington is ahead of most local authorities as we have already submitted our application for the maximum amount possible to enhance our CCTV provision along with investing in better street lighting across our town centre.”

He confirmed some of the safety improvements would be borough-wide.

Cllr Dulston said the council was working in partnership with an independent consultant and the police, crime and victims commissioner’s office on developing the safety plan. He said: “We are confident our bid is strong and captures the key issues we need to address to ensure we build confidence with both our female population, but also our community as a whole.”

Cllr Dulston, cabinet member for community safety, said like many other places, it was clear there had been an increase in domestic violence in Darlington during the pandemic.

The charity Refuge revealed last week that it recorded an average of 13,162 calls and messages to its National Domestic Abuse helpline every month between last April and February this year - a rise of more than 60 per cent on its average monthly contacts. Campaigners have described the trend as “an epidemic beneath a pandemic”. Referring to domestic abuse, Cllr Dulston added: “There’s a lot of plans and a lot of agencies working together to push this further up the agenda.”

Darlington MP Peter Gibson, who served on the Domestic Abuse Bill Committee, said Durham Constabulary had taken many proactive steps over domestic violence during the pandemic.

He said: “The funds invested in making our streets safer and the extra police on our streets will help.”