Area committees

CLLR JOHN BLACKIE has earned respect over the years for his steadfast support of communities in his Upper Dales constituency but I fear he has completely lost the plot over the new North Yorkshire County Council area committees (D&S Times, Aug 24).

Firstly, for Cllr Blackie to cry foul over what he describes as a politically-motivated appointment to the committee brings black pots and kettles to mind. Cllr Blackie is the arch politician.

Secondly, his decision and that of his Richmond Independent colleague Cllr Stuart Parsons to boycott the committee of which they are members smacks of sadly pathetic political petulance. Having not got their own way they, to coin another saying, are "taking their bat home".

Cllr Blackie's suggestions that the new committee areas based on constituency boundaries rather than district councils are less locally relevant simply does not stand up to serious scrutiny. For example, under the old arrangements Catterick Garrison issues were discussed along with matters affecting Hawes. To what extent are those two communities of a type? And while the upland national park communities of Keld and Chop Gate might be 60 miles apart I would suggest they have a lot in common.

Further, I don't think Cllr Blackie's constituents will be remotely impressed by his decision not to attend the committee because there is, as he puts it, no business of direct relevance to the Upper Dales being discussed. I note the committee's agenda included the funding of adult social care. If that's not an issue affecting his constituents, I don't know what is.

Lastly, these councillors need to acknowledge that the majority of local authority business is not political in a party sense and welcome the co-option of a well-respected member of our North Yorkshire community (your former editor Malcom Warne) on to the committee. I note he will be a non-voting member and his role will be keep our MP Rishi Sunak (who happens to be the minister for local government no less) abreast of local matters the council is dealing with when he is unable to attend because of business in Westminster.

They should stop playing games and work co-operatively for their communities. Their screaming and foot-stamping does them no credit.

Edward Harden, Catterick Garrison

Street lights

THE wonderful new LED streetlights being installed around North Yorkshire draw much less electricity than the old ones. So why not make use of the spare capacity?

The government wants to us to drive electric cars, and many of us would love to do so - but a major hurdle is the lack of public charging. North Yorkshire is particularly dreadful in this regard, as the zap-map website shows.

Adding chargers to LED streetlights is cheap, easy and quick. Not all lights are suitably positioned, of course, but if even five per cent of them were fitted out as chargers they could make a real and effective contribution to cutting pollution and reducing our dependence on oil.

Plenty of other councils around Britain are taking this route. Over to you, North Yorkshire County Council.

Nicholas Reckert, Richmond

Captain Cook

THE memorial garden is not the site of Captain Cook's boyhood home as stated at the beginning of an article concerning the garden project (D&S Times, August 24). Historical research indicates the cottage that was on that site (now in Australia) was built in 1755 - the same year the to-be-Captain James Cook left the merchant navy and joined the Royal Navy.

James Cook had left home long before, when he was 16, and moved to Staithes to be an apprentice in a shop in 1745 - ten years before the cottage in Ayton was built!

Graham Smith, Stokesley

Swimming for health

I WAS disappointed to learn of the sudden cessation of the ladies only swim session on Sunday evenings at the Thirsk swimming pool.

I have been going to this slot for 13 years and have not missed many weeks in all that time. To add insult to injury, the new timetable states: "The ladies only swim session on Sundays will be changed on the programme to 'adult lanes' also offering an earlier time. This session will hopefully improve attendance which can be utilised by both men and women".

This implies an improvement to the timetable whereas, in fact, it means a popular session will no longer be available.

I understand that the reason is equality and that some men have complained. Surely, instead of cancelling the ladies only swim, men could be offered their own separate slot; or even alternate ladies only swim and men only awim sessions between 6.30pm and 8pm on Sundays?

The Hambleton District Council website promotes “Zest for an ACTIVE life”. However, I suspect that many of the ladies who go to the pool on Sunday evenings will now not go swimming at all.

Surely with the current obesity crisis in this country, Hambleton District Council should be encouraging more people to exercise and get/keep fit and not stopping this session.

Christine Ogden, Thornton le Moor

Richmond School

AS long-retired teachers and parents of a very grown up daughter, my wife and I have lost touch with the day to day vagaries of school uniforms.

It came as a surprise therefore to be shown a pair of trousers with a tiny school logo woven into the material of one leg about mid-thigh. The surprise was not the logo but the suggestion that any child not wearing such prescribed apparel would be sent home, there to stay until the correct trousers are worn.

Please tell me that this is one of those silly rumours more likely to be heard in early April than in August? I find it difficult to believe that a child’s education can be disrupted over such a petty rule that exacerbates economic hardship without adding a jot to the well-being and educational needs of our children.

Perhaps a governor from Richmond School can throw some light on the purpose of the logo? I note that it is unlikely to be seen if the child is wearing a jumper or jacket. Is there is a similar plan for skirts?

John Storry, Richmond

Military hospital

I WAS working at Duchess of Kent Military Hospital for the surgeons when the pilots from the crash above West Burton (D&S Times, August 24) were brought in, badly injured - and according to reports not wearing their own flying suits.

It was difficult to find their correct names. Everyone remarked on the fact at how easily any of the surrounding villages could have been badly damaged and a major disaster would have ensued. For a long time, low flying aircraft had done low level flying down the Dale, using various landmarks and there had been endless complaints - to no avail - many of these were foreign aircraft here on exercise. No longer in such high numbers.

It was sad to see the Duchess of Kent's Military Hospital not receiving its proper title in the article - how many lives it saved before it was razed to the ground, ending almost a century of health care for the Dales as well as servicemen - not a plaque to remember where my own father was treated during the First World War. No wonder we have so few hospital beds available.

The Yorkshire Dales and Lake District TV programme recently showed pilots from RAF Leeming finding points for planes to focus on when speeding over Wensleydale and they found Bolton Castle - I think I would object if I were Lord Bolton!

DKMH and all the other military hospitals which are now closed, all over the country, must have caused a great deal of changes within the NHS, never acknowledged by the CCG. The MOD must have saved money by having military families no longer classed as dependants.

Change is not always an improvement, but it is much pleasanter not to have jets screaming regularly overhead and know any of these could crash by mischance.

A colour picture of a jet plane was sent from RAF Coningsby to DKMH Catterick as a thank you for the care received by their pilots. I wonder if it was returned when the hospital was demolished, or did it go to Leeming?

Audrey Waudby, Middleham

Social housing

IN his letter on the subject of social housing (D&S Times, Aug 14), Robin Brooks comments on the fact that Rishi Sunak praises a development in Gilling West yet his party's policies have "largely created the current housing crisis". A very valid point.

In the same issue, I read that Rishi is to officially open the extension to the library in Great Ayton. We can all be delighted that the library, relaunched as the Discovery Centre with its enthusiastic team of volunteers, is going well and has even been extended. However, it seems to me a little odd to invite to carry out this duty a representative of the party whose policies have caused the closure of so many libraries and the radical changes to our own.

Richard Short, Great Ayton

Bedale artworks

I AM unfortunately having to reply to P Wright’s letter about the so-called art signs in Bedale (D&S Times, Aug 31). As he seems to have been part of the process I can safely say “well he would say that wouldn't he”.

He accuses me of taking offence about the shocking and expensive laser cut profiles. It’s a letters page where people are asked write in to air their views and so I did.

He says I have no idea about the commissioning process. It may not have occurred to Mr Wright that I am myself an artist and have had plenty of, ahem, “interaction” with councils and committees on art installations, so he is preaching to someone who knows for a fact that a committee is the wrong animal to be choosing what is art.

The trouble with committees is that once formed they have a massive need to do something and given money to spend, things like this are the sad result.

I think most people would agree with me that to be deemed art there must be some degree of skill and difficulty involved. He says he looks forward to the next commissioning process (god help our town) where he would like me to offer advice.

Here’s some for free - sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, a concept that councils and committees with money to waste never seem to grasp.

It is a Georgian high street and does not need to be adorned by this tacky tin plate 'art'. A carrot and a coffee cup, wow, welcome to Bedale.

Will Willson, Bedale

Hospital thanks

I HAVE spent the past seven days going backwards and forwards to the Friarage Hospital for tests of one kind and another. I could not have been looked after any better if I was paying, all the staff in all the different places I had to go to were first class.

We are very lucky to have the Friarage and may it always be in Northallerton. If I should have had to go to James Cook or others it would have been a nightmare.

It is good we have this on the doorstep, so thank you very much to you all and let’s hope we have the Friarage for a lot of years to come .

Brenda Jackson, Northallerton

Public confidence

HOW can the public have any confidence in magistrates’ courts in the Cleveland Police area when, last year, they gaoled a microscopic 1.7 per cent of those convicted?

Petty criminals think our justice system is a joke because they know they can return to court, time and time again, with no fear of anything approaching a real punishment.

Punishment should have three elements: retribution, deterrence and reform. The first is the imposition meted out to the law breaker by society. The second is to stop others committing similar offences. The third aims at turning the prisoner away from his criminal activities. Take away prison sentences and none of these objectives can be accomplished and we descend into lawlessness.

Recently, in East Cleveland, because of police cutbacks and the drug culture, we’ve seen an escalation in crime. But, the criminals cock a snook at their law abiding neighbours and the constabulary, knowing that at worst they’ll get a slap on the wrist from our inept local magistracy.

Steve Kay, Redcar & Cleveland councillor

No chance

PERHAPS there is a chance, when I read of all the delights that a no deal Brexit promises, that I may be saved by the swashbuckling Brexiteers (37 per cent of the electorate) from still wanting to Remain.

Some chance? No chance.

Chances are that the NHS will run out of drugs, critical injury treatments will be delayed, huge queues of trucks will build up at ports being unable to enter Europe, there will be empty food and drinks shelves in shops, long-haul flights to the rest of the world will be disrupted, there will be financial instability related to cross border controls between firms, insurance claims and pensions will not be paid, the future for EU citizens in the UK will be in doubt and there will be catastrophe for manufacturing industries when small firms will be wiped out and larger firms will be moving abroad.

I`d rather take my chances when Members of Parliament (probably not Richmond`s MP) have voted for a second referendum. We might then vote to Remain and not leave things to chance.

John Hopkins, Crakehall

Public services

BRIAN TYDSLEY (D&S Times, August 24) is correct if you underfund any public service you shouldn't be surprised when it underperforms, but money alone doesn't solve the problem, it's about how that money is used to best serve the public need.

In the cases Brian mentions, the police and prisons, it should be about protecting the public, not gestures and PR.

In terms of the police that means ensuring that minorities are treated equally under the law on every occasion, not necessarily wearing badges to denote sympathy for any cause or section of the population.

For prisons it should be about ensuring that the importance of security, control and justice to a stable prison is paramount.

Security refers to the obligation to prevent prisoners escaping. Control deals with the obligation of the prison to prevent prisoners from being disruptive. Justice refers to the obligation of the prison to treat prisoners with humanity and fairness.

There are two basic rules if these requirements are to be met. They are: sufficient attention has to be paid to each of the requirements and they must be kept in balance. A regime based on consistency and firmness is not only in the interests of security, but it provides the greatest protection for prisoners, in particular those vulnerable to the power wielded by more violent prisoners. It's this that the prison service should be championing not deflecting.

In relation to Birmingham what will happen is, the more disruptive will be relocated, compliant prisoners will be kept, they will flood it with staff and the prisons' minister will not have to resign. How well it will function longer term however is a matter of conjecture.

Long-term planning best serves the public need and the public purse.

Phil O'Brien, Northallerton

Life expectancy

THE letter from John Gilmore (D&S Times, Aug 17) about BBC Panorama reporting that life expectancy for men in large parts of Stockton is only 64 years compared to 82 in nearby Yarm is a strange interpretation of the facts.

Any survey must be viewed by reverting to the base information, the parameters of the study and the qualifications required for inclusion in the survey. The comparison between a relatively affluent area with a poorer area of diverse origins may not be valid.

Stockton on Tees has a substantial refugee population who may well have come from areas of the globe where life expectancy is less than in the UK and damage to long term health may have taken place already.

Stockton is the obesity capital of the UK. A healthy lifestyle is partly about eating a balanced diet of fresh produce coupled with exercise. If one’s lifestyle choice is to consume vast quantities of convenience foods and sitting watching television all day, there are consequences.

There are several council-run sports facilities within Stockton and Thornaby. Membership can be free if one is in receipt of a whole range of benefits. Furthermore, other gym facilities are available in Stockton for as little as £7.99 per month or less than the price of two big Mac happy meals. Let's not forget walking is free.

As a regular visitor during working hours to the Stockton High Street area I used to be amazed at the number of people standing outside the public houses and betting shops smoking cigarettes (average cost £10.40 per packet of 20). This is now so common a sight that it only registers when I am forced to walk onto the road because the pavement is full.

Did it ever occur to Mr Gilmore that there is a section of the population who do not want to work, and others who cannot work for reasons of a self-inflicted nature? Obesity is not always an incurable condition although it can shorten one’s life.

R.T Semain, West Rounton