What happened?

AS the father of a 42-year-old son with Downs Syndrome I write to you regarding my concerns about Ripon Community Link.

The “Link”, as it is fondly known, was founded 30 years ago as a charity offering care and support to adults with learning disabilities over a wide range of abilities. During this time it has proved very successful and is held in high esteem by its members/carers and the community at large. How things can change.

The financial accounts and trustees report dated March 31, 2017, showed a healthy bank balance, little debt, assets and reserves in line with Charity Commission requirements and a growing membership.

Members, parents and carers were advised by letter dated June 11 this year that RCL was in dire financial straits and changes would have to be made to secure its future.

How could a well-established charity with good reserves get into such a financial mess in a year?

The latest changes will see a culling of staff, many who have been with RCL for years giving a highly skilled service and advice. This wasn’t a job to them, it was a vocation. The cutbacks mean that wheelchair members can no longer be accommodated, and parents /carers of these members were told to find an alternative service after June 22.

The remaining members will now be corralled into a small bungalow which is woefully inadequate to their needs, all sports sessions have been withdrawn from service and female members will no longer be able to go swimming due to lack of staff cover. Many other programme changes will follow due to lack of space.

It is quite disgraceful to note that there has been no representation on the board of trustees for members and families since November 2017 and in consequence we have been kept in the dark to the financial state of affairs which must have been going on for months.

This is a serious situation and to date families have not received satisfactory answers to questions asked of the executive and trustees.

Mike Goddard, Sowerby

Hospital concern

THE trustees of the Friends of Richmond Friary Community Hospital have been concerned that the plans announced by Hambleton and Richmondshire Clinical Commissioning Group about new NHS facilities for Catterick and district in the next few years will not compromise our excellent Friary Community Hospital.

Facilities there have existed for years in Richmond, firstly at the Victoria Hospital and now in the Friary building.

The Victoria Ward is an outstanding, award-winning, 18-bed ward for patients who need recuperation and rehabilitation before returning home as well as excellent palliative care. Downstairs X-ray, physiotherapy, phlebotomy, podiatry, audiology and many clinics are available for patients every day, saving many journeys.

Over the years the Friends have helped all these services with more than £500,000 given by generous donations. One of our proudest gifts has been the new up to date digital X-ray machine put in last year to replace the one we put in when the hospital moved to the Friary.

It is vital that the CCG acknowledge the importance to Richmond and environs of “our” hospital and the services available there and do not put those services under any threat.

As chairman, I was privileged to meet representatives of the CCG to discuss these points. I was advised that there will be no changes during the three-year consultation period when there will be public meetings for all to have a say.

The trustees of the Friends hope to work with all involved professionals to ensure that the present facilities (and may be more) can be replicated in future plans.

Margaret Clayson, chairman, Friends of Richmond Friary Hospital

Brexit questions

YOUR correspondent Joseph Lambert (D&S Times, June 15) criticises an MP who says that leaving the single market was not on the EU referendum ballot paper two years ago.

True, and nor were many other issues such as:

Do you want a complete break from the EU even though many are at risk of losing their jobs as employers turn their attention, factories and recruitment to the EU?.

Are you prepared to pay much more for goods from EU countries?

Are you still willing to accept free movement of people to and from EU countries? If not, are you willing to stop free movement of people and goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland and also, if Scotland were to break from UK and negotiate to remain in the EU, between England and Scotland?

Are younger voters ready to give up the right to apply for a job in any EU country as easily as to make an application within UK?

Are you willing to accept a lower standard of living as “a price worth paying”, even if only temporarily?

Other issues could be added, and most people would answer “yes” to some and “no” to others.

A referendum is a more useful tool if the issue is more straightforward, such as “Should 16 and 17-year olds be given the vote?"

It could be argued the many issues are involved in voting in a General Election. But the decision can be reversed in five years or less. The EU issue is far more complex and some issues are far from being resolved.

The 37 per cent of the electorate who voted to leave and the 34 per cent who voted to remain did so for a variety of reasons. Leaving the EU would take much longer to reverse. I think it will eventually if voting patterns continue as at the referendum, and the EU undergoes the drastic reformation that several of its nations accept is needed.

Jim Robinson, Morton on Swale

Not unpatriotic

JOSEPH Lambert (D&S Times, June 15) refers to “what us patriotic leavers voted for when we won the referendum”.

He implies that people who voted for remain are unpatriotic. This is wrong in two ways: it is not true and it is unhelpfully divisive.

I am sure that the overwhelming majority of people who voted for leave did so because they believed it was best for the country and its people. Is it too much to ask leavers to accept that those who voted to remain also did so because they believed it was best for the country and its people?

If patriotism is loving your country, its people, and its values and traditions, then as a patriot I value the tradition of vigorous political debate – principled, evidence-based, rational, and respectful of truth and of the arguments and motives of the other side

Sadly this tradition is threatened by the tone of much debate and media comment in the referendum campaign and afterwards.

Dave Dalton, Richmond

Universal credit

THE National Audit Office has now confirmed that the Universal Credit benefit system is not fit for purpose.

The report confirms what has been known for some time - Universal Credit causes hardship to claimants and is set to cost taxpayers more than the systems it replaces.

In his column in the DST dated December 15, 2017, Rishi Sunak MP stated: “I’m not saying that Universal Credit is perfect. No system as big as Britain’s welfare system could be. But it is infinitely better than the highly complex maze of benefits that it replaces. It provides the compassionate safety net we need to protect the vulnerable while properly providing help and incentives for people to find the work that will transform lives in a way a simple hand-out will never do. It is also fair for those who pay the working age welfare bill which is now almost the same as spending on our NHS.”.

The report from the National Audit Office shows that Universal Credit is far from being compassionate and good value for money. Anyone that has experienced Universal Credit will know that it is cruel, crass and incompetent.

The report demonstrates that Mr Sunak was factually wrong about Universal Credit. He was also wrong when he suggested that the welfare bill was similar in size to the NHS budget. In fact the welfare bill is much less than the NHS budget.

In my letter to the D&S Times on December 22 I invited Mr Sunak to apologise for his errors of fact and judgement. We are still waiting for his apology.

I do hope that as a Junior Minister he will not follow the example set by the Prime Minister and her Cabinet and continue to be in denial about Universal Credit.

David McAsey, Hutton Rudby

Department stores

HOW poignant it was to read about some of the history of Binns in Darlington (D&S Times, June 15). This was a timely article and I am sure it brought back many memories for your readers.

The Binns department stores were indeed the “Harrods department stores of the north”.

It was a treat to be taken to the waitress-serving restaurant for tea. The Christmas visit to see Santa was another childhood highlight. The window displays were spectacular too. Can you imagine that families came out just to see the Christmas window displays?

Who remembers the rare delights of the renowned but long-closed food halls? The huge success of Lewis and Cooper in Northallerton and Yarm proves there is still a place for gourmet food departments. They are an irresistible attraction.

So what went wrong?

The headlines blamed the internet, but I believe there is more to their demise than shoppers going on-line. I suspect that the House of Fraser directors have seen the huge profits generated by companies, like Amazon, that have no presence on the High Street.

However, we love shopping and many department stores and shops are still very successful. This is because they have embraced the new and combined it with an entertaining shopping experience. To attract customers, the in-store restaurants and coffee shops have to serve fabulous food; the stock has to be exciting, original and up-to-date. The staff must be friendly, polite and interested in their customers. Staff ought to be valued as a shop's top resource.

Think: John Lewis, Barker and Stonehouse, Pysche in Middlesbrough, The House in Yarm and Barkers in Northallerton - they seem to have retained the magic that Binns and the House of Fraser shops lost quite some time ago. People travel to these excellent shops from all over our area: a tribute to their management, fresh ideas and customer service.

They have not ignored the internet; they use it to enhance the shopping experience.

Shops need to embrace new technology but retain the excitement of seeing the goods on display. Shopping is for the senses.

Government and councils must ensure the balance of rates and taxes is not weighed in favour of on-line-only firms. Retail competition needs to be fair and our local councils must listen to the needs of traders and give them support.

Towns need a focal point, a must-go to destination - a department store.

We need someone to bring back the shopping magic. Anyone know a 21st century George Binns?

Terence Fleming, Guisborough

Lambing season

I REFER to your article “Farmer fined for failing to dispose of sheep carcasses” (D&S Times, June 8).

Farmers around the Dales must have been horrified to read that Mr Lynas says his flock of 750 lambing ewes are “very much left to themselves during the lambing season”.

As a retired farmer with many farming friends we all know this is the busiest time of the year.

We would go round the flock day and night, with a lantern through the night at least every two hours to make sure all was well.

Imagine a sheep having difficulty lambing, with no help she dies in agony; lambs born who haven’t got their mother’s milk, they die of starvation.

My husband and I are shocked and saddened that this is happening today.

Jean Lewis, Leyburn

No loos

I WAS shocked on viewing the proposed plans for the Treadmill development on the old prison site in Northallerton produced by Hambleton District Council and Wykeland Properties Limited.

In the literature of the developers it states “Treadmills is a once in a generational opportunity which can deliver the facilities and jobs that are needed…”

There is an important facility missing from the potential building development for the people of Northallerton. This county town stands out in having such poor public toilet facilities.

North Yorkshire has the highest proportion of over 65s in Britain and they tend to have more need for toilets. The town has some limited, hidden away, facilities in the town hall e.g. one cubilel for men. If this limited facility has a problem (plumbing problems are common in Britain) this system fails.

If these essential public facilities were included in the development it would be so welcome to the public and attract them away from the main street towards the area.

The lost facility off the Applegarth car park was very popular, even though a charge was made, and they won national awards. I am informed that coach loads of visitors used to come to Northallerton, but they no longer come since the closure.

If this development did include public toilets it would be “a generational opportunity” as stated in the Treadmill’s literature.

Michael Chaloner, Aiskew

Fire service

IT has been said that part of the reason that the leave vote was so high in the EU referendum was to send a message to the “elite” about not being listened to.

Two years on and two decisions were made this week that shows nothing has changed.

Everybody in the country was for the change in the law about “upskirting” apart from one Tory MP, Sir Christopher Chope.

The other was the decision to transfer the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to the Police and Crime Commissioner. The Tory county council didn’t want it, most of the people didn’t want it but the Government decided “to hell with what they think ‘We know better’.”

The police are an enforcement service, the fire and rescue Service needs to be seen to be separate from enforcement and this combining is a dangerous step. Fire and rescue is a better fit with the ambulance service rather than the police.

Philip Knowles, chair, Richmondshire Lib-Dems

Bridge builders

EVERYONE in our area knows that the magnificent Sydney harbour bridge was built by Dorman Long of Middlesbrough, right? Wrong! Not according to Dan Snow on Sunday night at the Darlington Hippodrome.

Dan gave everyone a night not to forget with an excellent talk on his life and his interest in history and a well- researched brief on our local history with Captain Cook, Darlington and Stockton Railway, Auckland Castle etc in the mix.

He mentioned that he had given a talk in Scunthorpe recently and he was told by the good people that the steel works there built the Sydney bridge. I spoke up and corrected him on this error.

Having seen some of the testing gear used on the bridge during a tour of the then British Steel in 1972 as an aspiring apprentice I knew that Dan's information was incorrect. A lady in the audience also spoke up saying she had been on the bridge in Australia and seen made in Middlesbrough stamped on the steel work.

Dan was surprised by the passion of the audience and accepted what was said.

Don Smith, Swainby