IT is very easy when discussing politics to focus on the large issues and national crises – the spiralling cost-of-living; energy security and the climate crisis, for instance.

But we shouldn’t forget that politics is as much about the local and personal as it is about grand themes. That’s why for the past few weeks I’ve been working with residents in the Gilesgate and Claypath area as they campaign to save Leazes footbridge in Durham.

Many of you who come into Durham will recognise the bridge as an integral part of the Durham City skyline as you enter the city from the A690. However, it has been closed for some time, and Durham County Council has now claimed it is beyond repair.

As you can imagine, local residents, for whom this bridge is a vital – and safe – route into the city and to the riverside, are furious about this decision, not least because there seems to have been no public consultation, and precious little scrutiny within the council.

This also flies in the face of so much of what Durham County Council should be delivering for our communities. Why are we making it harder to get around an already challenging city for people with mobility issues? Why are we discouraging active travel modes around the city, and why are we making it harder for people to access local, independent businesses?

There are also serious questions to answer about the transparency of decision-making here as well. Residents have already asked the question, but are still waiting for a clear answer, as to whether a full assessment has been made of the actual costs of replacing this bridge.

We all appreciate that councils are facing financial pressures, and Leazes footbridge may well be another casualty of 14 years of Tory austerity, but this doesn’t remove the need to discuss and explain massive decisions that will affect so many people.

I’ve already challenged the council leadership on this, but in the meantime local residents are steadily gaining support. Their e-petition on the council’s website has already gathered more than 400 signatures, and local businesses have indicated concerns too. If you haven’t already signed it, please do.

And this opposition isn’t just amongst the permanent population – I’m hearing from more and more students about how outraged they are about the closure of Leazes Bridge. For students living in Gilesgate, or trying to get to St Hild & St Bede colleges, this bridge was the safest and easiest way to do so.

This is an issue that affects everyone – from the student heading to their college, or the new parent with a pushchair, to the elderly resident for whom negotiating a major road in the A690 is simply too challenging.

Ultimately, this is a political decision by the coalition running the county council. Nobody disputes that being in power involves making difficult decisions, but it also requires strong leadership. Elected representatives need to be open about the choices that are being made. A new council building has recently been sold at a profit we are told, and residents in Durham are looking at another 4.99 per cent Council Tax increase. They’re understandably asking where the money has gone. It’s long past time for some clarity.