‘Simply brutal’

AS the husband of someone who worked for the hitherto well-respected charity Ripon Community Link, I was shocked to read the inaccuracies in Karen Murray’s letter (D&S Times, July 6).

The changes in North Yorkshire County Council funding was one of the many excuses given for the charity’s difficulties, not the real reason - complete unfettered financial mismanagement over a very short period of time.

Furthermore, Karen Murray failed to state the charity had “chosen” to give parents and carers just 10 days’ notice of the closure of this exemplary day service. The 12 members “discharged” are among the most vulnerable members of our community. Neither in her letter to parents, nor in the press release did Karen Murray or her CEO think fit to inform readers of this fact or that the project manager of the organisation, who has been with the charity since its inception 28 years ago, was also being made redundant with 21 further members of staff.

The charity’s lack of care for its staff was quite simply brutal, resulting in physical and emotional damage. Staff were threatened that if they were to mention to anyone outside the organisation of the dire financial situation and the cutting of services, they would be dismissed immediately, and lose their right to redundancy payments. Even the president of the charity was kept in the dark.

The board of trustees failed to use the talents of their staff or the supportive local community to help them formulate an emergency action plan when faced with their self-inflicted serious financial instability. Instead, they were led by their CEO, Adele Hudson, to commission external consultants to review the charity. The trustees then accepted the findings of this wholly inaccurate review document which had failed to consult with any key personnel or stakeholders.

I attended the recent Ripon Council meeting where people alarmed by the rapid financial decline of Ripon Community Link were asked to present their statements before town councillors who then voted unanimously to write to the Charity Commissioners with their concerns. Victoria Ashley and members of the board of trustees had been invited to attend but declined. Despite their precarious financial position, they are now using the services of a PR company.

The trustees with their new interim CEO, Victoria Ashley, of Victoria Ashley Consultancy, the author of the inaccurate review document which decimated the charity, will need to be more open and transparent if they wish to earn the respect and confidence of the townspeople of Ripon to fundraise £80,000 over the next few months.

Peter Liddle, Mickley

‘Alarming factors’

OUR son was one of the severely and profoundly disabled adults who lost their much-loved day placements at Ripon Community Link.

One of the many alarming factors Karen Murray failed to mention in her letter (D&S Times, July 6), was that the trustees and CEO, Adele Hudson, chose not to tell parents and carers until 10 days before our expulsion - and that finding new placements for these very vulnerable adults can take weeks if not months.

Ms Hudson is now on “gardening leave” and an interim CEO Victoria Ashley has been appointed. Twenty-two dedicated and very capable staff were made redundant not twelve as Ms Murray states.

We would like to thank the mayor of Ripon for inviting all those concerned about the recent events at RCL to a council meeting on July 9. The trustees and CEO declined the invitation. After presentations by a parent, a former staff member, a former trustee and volunteers the council voted unanimously to contact the Charity Commission to request an inquiry into this matter.

Stephen & Valerie Cocker, Bedale

Planning row

IN April Hambleton District Council lost a judicial review, brought on behalf of objectors and local residents at an estimated cost to ratepayers of around £40,000. HDC admitted acting unlawfully on two grounds when granting two planning consents for Newby Wiske Hall to PGL Travel Ltd. A further three grounds for review remain to be tested later if necessary.

The result of the judicial review is that the planning consents are quashed and the clock is turned back to a point before the planning officer’s report for the planning committee was prepared. The decision-making process will need to be re-run.

Having had such a setback one might be forgiven for thinking that HDC would be keen to ensure that the applications are re-heard in such a way that there can be no further criticism of their actions. One might even have thought the council would want to be seen to comply with national planning guidance which indicates that a “major” planning application should be dealt with within 13 weeks.

Not a bit of it. It is now over 13 weeks since the judicial review but it would appear the council has done little or nothing to carry out its duty to re-determine the applications but have managed to breach the statutory timescales set out in national guidance. Little wonder that in villages around here the council are now known as Shambleton (a name given by a local lady in her 90s). The comment, above, of the clock having been turned back may be mis-judged as the council seems to have no concept of the meaning of time.

Over the space of 13 weeks the only thing heard by the authors of the 299 objections to the applications is a single letter (which itself took over a month before it was sent out) saying that “the council will be speaking with the applicant with regard to timescales for the re-determination of the applications”. In response to a visit from members of the parish council the planning officer now says PGL are submitting new documents “probably by the middle of July”. We can’t wait.

While pandering to PGL the council needs to remember that residents/objectors also have a legitimate expectation that HDC will act within statutory timescales.

David Stockport, Newby Wiske

Fighting crime

I CERTAINLY agree that failure to adopt a new model for CCTV in North Yorkshire would result in a decline in service and would consequently make the public less safe (D&S Times, July 13).

Whatever privacy issues many of us might have had with the project initially, we'd have to accept it has proved a crucial tool for the police, helping them solve many crimes, including, rapes, murders and serious assaults.

As no doubt senior officers would tell us its cost is worthwhile. It's a very big bed they have to cover with a very small security blanket, they have to move the blanket around. So if the blanket is covering anti-terror work, those are police officers who can't be doing anti-crime work, stopping, checking vehicles, patrolling the streets, attending crime scenes quickly. Dare I say it, carrying out proper, basic, police criminal procedures.

As Isaac Newton said: “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity and not in the multiplicity of things.” Public survey after public survey has shown that we favour “the comfort blanket” of seeing bobbies on the beat.

Though I don't doubt our crime commissioner's good intentions when she made the offer to members of the public to become part of the process in picking a new chief constable, I'm equally sure that this is not a priority for the public. They would rather have the confidence that if they were being burgled, a call to the police would result in an immediate response.

Recent National Crime Agency figures show that violent crime has sky-rocketed in suburban areas with some shire towns seeing an increase of over 140 per cent in the past four years. Robbery rates in small towns have surpassed London as criminals target quieter more affluent areas. That drug trafficking in shire towns is on the rise because organised crime gangs are increasingly using supply routes known as “country lines.”'

I submit this is sufficient reason for the police to go back to basics, to reconnect with the public on a daily basis and to use us as their eyes and ears. I have no doubt this approach would pay for itself, in terms of prevention associated with a higher profile uniform presence, as well as crimes solved with the help of a newly-enthused public.

Phil O'Brien, Northallerton

Chinese market

AS we celebrate the rise in exports of Yorkshire produced food to China (D&S Times, July 13), I congratulate the producers involved and the Yorkshire-based International Trade Advisors led by Mark Robson who support them so effectively.

We should also recognise the contribution of the UK’s Agricultural Attaché to China, based in Beijing. Not only has her work opened the door to more cheese exports to China from Yorkshire, but she has helped to unlock the potential to export pigs’ trotters and other pigs’ parts considered delicacies in China from the Malton Bacon factory.

The UK agricultural attaché is paid primarily by the meat sector with modest support from the Government, an export model followed successfully by other EU countries such as Denmark, which has traditionally punched above its weight in terms of food exports.

Britain is now the sixth largest exporter of pork to China and with the appetite of China growing, there is great potential for more exports of pork, cheese and other British food.

Producers such as Shepherd Purse Cheese near Thirsk and Malton Bacon Factory stand to benefit from this future growth as well as the potential to substitute food products which we currently import into Britain with good Yorkshire produce.

There is huge potential for export growth to China and other countries for cheese from producers such as Shepherds Purse as well as pork and other such products going forward.

Yorkshire food stands on the threshold of unprecedented growth both at home and abroad and with the support of local consumers, as well as increasing export potential, their contribution to the regional and national economy is set to grow.

Baroness McIntosh, former MP for Thirsk and Malton

Cunning plan

AS a resident of Heathwaite near Swainby my wife and I, being of a certain age, rely on our monthly planner to avoid memory lapses and confusion. However we now look upon it with horror. Why is this you ask?

Not long ago Hambleton District Council reorganised our bin collections (a cunning plan no doubt thought up by a highly-paid official called Baldrick) to improve efficiency. To date we have had four amendments, resulting in a monthly planner resembling a cat's cradle of crossings-out and alterations. How the bin operatives cope is beyond me.

Poor road maintenance, fewer council-run libraries, parking issues etc and other issues belie the incompetence of our Conservative- led council, a reflection I feel of national government where Brexit negotiations are a complete laughing stock.

Don Smith, Heathwaite

Wild orchids

I WRITE in response to Isobel Walker’s letter (D&S Times, July 6) referring to our wild orchids.

The roundabout mentioned is in the parish of Brough With St Giles (not Colburn) and was constructed some 14-15 years ago to accommodate the building of over 100 new homes. After the roundabout was finished our lovely wild orchids (some 100 or so) continued to grow in part of the verge and have been beautiful again this year.

Brough With St Giles Parish Council sought the help of a well-known local plants-woman, Kathleen Needham, who tested the soil around the verge and advised us how to proceed. The area where Isobel Walker mentioned as being rotovated is in fact heavy clay and not where the orchids grow.

Our parish council have actually put down topsoil (at minimal cost) to encourage the growth of more wild flowers but unfortunately at the moment the drought has held them back.

The parish council is about to inherit in excess of two miles of new verges running from Catterick Racecourse and the new A1 interchange. We would genuinely welcome Isobel Walker’s expertise on how we might progress our idea of creating a “bee corridor” through the parish, bearing in mind that the majority of the verges incorporate cycling and footpaths which need to be accessible.

Melva J Steckles, vice-chair, Brough With St Giles PC

Verge cutting

THE other week I had a similar experience to Marion Moverley (D&S Times, July 13). I went from Leyburn to Richmond on the early morning bus and enjoyed the sight of verges covered in a variety of wild flowers along the length of the route. To my dismay on the return journey that afternoon not a wild flower was to be seen. They had all been cut down by a man on a tractor.

I am told this is to improve sight lines for road users. If this cutting was restricted to junctions and sections of the roads where visibility is hampered by the growth of vegetation on verges, I would agree that it was a good thing to do as a safety measure, but it is not. Verges are cut back on wide, straight, open sections where there is no impairment to visibilty for a considerable distance.

The destruction of wild flowers I have seen in the area is bad enough but yesterday between West Tanfield and Masham the man on the tractor was there again - this time cutting a further metre plus out of the verges beyond what had already been removed. In some places the cutting is over two metres wide into the hedge from the edge of the road. This is not about sight lines. This is local authority vandalism.

I would have thought money spent by the NYCC highways department would be better used in filling the potholes which really are a danger to all road users and the cutting back of foliage would be better used where road signs are obscured by it.

Let's get our priorities right when local authority funds are an ever-dwindling resource.

Sheila Simms, Leyburn

‘Tidy police’

WHEN we came to this area, over 30 years ago, the grass verge on the south side of the Scorton-Brompton-on-Swale crossroads was a picture every summer with poppies, ox-eye daisies and viper’s bugloss (red, white and blue).

The accompanying grass was thin and poor and didn’t cause obstruction on the footpath or reduce road visibility.

Several years ago (I can’t remember when), the “tidy police” started cutting the verges regularly and the wild flowers have gone as they needed to be able to flower – and set seed – to be self-propagating.

The wild flower strip on the manicured village green at Scorton is very pretty and attracting attention from humans and wildlife - but I know which form of management is the cheaper for our cash-strapped councils.

Judith Lowther, Streetlam, Northallerton

Wanton destruction

I AM writing in support of previous correspondents' complaints about the wanton destruction of wildflowers and other native plants growing on our road verges. In this part of the world, the chief culprit is North Yorkshire County Council.

Perhaps five per cent of verge mowing is justified in order to improve sight lines at junctions. The remaining 95 per cent is a complete waste of council tax payers' money and worse than that is doing serious harm to one of the most important wildlife habitats in the countryside.

Other more enlightened county councils have adopted a more sensible approach to verge management, but North Yorkshire seems oblivious to the environmental damage it is causing.

Next time it pleads a lack of money to deal with urgent repairs to hazards such as potholes, motorists should remember that the authority seems to prefer spending its money on destroying wildflowers.

Frank Broughton, Brompton-on-Swale

Backing Boris

DESPITE his character defects and irrational policies on climate change and gun laws, President Trump will almost certainly be re-elected for a second term.

Without doubt, his popularity with ordinary Americans is growing because he puts them and their country first. And, unlike any other political leader, Trump does his damnedest to carry through his promises.

Despite the recent undignified protests against the President, the silent majority, here in the UK, yearn for similar strong, honest and decisive leadership.

Ever since Margaret Thatcher, we’ve had nothing but false promises, fudge and compromise; all coming to a head with the sell-out to the EU, embodied in Theresa May’s latest Brexit proposals.

Trump believes Boris Johnson is made of the right stuff to restore our pride as a nation. They say “it takes one to know one” - so I say: Give Boris a chance to sort out the current mess, on the basis that the UK and its citizens come first.

Cllr Steve Kay, Moorsholm

No money

LAST week there was a post on social media that read “Stokesley has run out of money”.

This is unsurprising with the closure of three major banks in the town over the last year – first HSBC, then Barclays and now Nat West. There is only Santander left.

With the cash machines located in the two Co-Op stores that means Stokesley has only three cash withdrawal machines. Cashiers in the stores are being asked for cash-back more frequently, depleting the amount of cash in their tills.

Despite the running trend that appears to be funnelling everyone to bank/pay electronically there are still a lot of people who prefer to have cash in their pocket, and there are still people who do not use the internet.

The Post Office which already has long queues now has banking to cope with as well for those of us who still receive cheques that need paying in and other counter-based services. Sometimes I wonder if this really is the way forward…

Mrs L Cope, Bilsdale

Offended patriot

IN two letters about Brexit , Joseph Lambert has given his views on the relationship between leaving the EU and patriotism, clearly stating in his most recent letter that "remainiacs are unpatriotic" (D&S Times, July 6).

I can easily dismiss the term, "remainiacs" as juvenile and more appropriate to the playground than reasoned debate in a newspaper, ironic given his wish to avoid "childish squabble", but I am greatly offended by his calling those who voted to stay in the EU as unpatriotic.

I voted remain. I also served in the Royal Air Force for 16 years so I certainly do not need any lessons in patriotism from Mr Lambert.

Phil Mason, Kirkby Fleetham