Lack of trust

I SEE Janet Probert, chief Officer of the HRW CCG, is complaining that some media sources did not contact her when reporting recent debates at Richmondshire District Council (RDC) about the cutbacks in Patient Transport Service (PTS) and the future of The Friary Community Hospital.

She clearly is unaware the reputation of the organisation she presides over amongst the public, patients, and local councillors is they simply do not trust it anymore. It has previous form for imposing key reductions, or closing by stealth, essential healthcare services of great value to the communities they serve. Remember the Lambert Community Hospital in Thirsk? And it is quietly taking away provision for immediate healthcare events at our wonderful Friarage Hospital.

What did Mrs Probert think RDC councillors would make of coming to a committee with news of a review of the excellent Friary Hospital quoting the lease of the building is up for renewal in 2023?

Instead of emphasising the starting point was the Friary, with its in-patient beds for respite and end of life care, was here to stay as an essential facility serving Richmond and the Upper Dales, she talked about value for money – penny wise, pound foolish yet again. All we said was given the track record of the HRW CCG, the writing appeared to be on the wall for the Friary.

She also found it impossible to defend the cutbacks in the PTS services that the HRW CCG had imposed without any consultation whatsoever.

This left a quiet 80 year old in Hawes, suffering from cancer and losing his sight through eye disease, to miss two hospital appointments at the James Cook, 60 miles away, for chemotherapy and eye consultations at the Friarage through the refusal of the PTS interrogators at Wakefield to provide PTS transport, and on the verge of missing a third appointment when I intervened on his behalf. It was thankfully reported, rightly as a disgraceful decision (D&S Times, Oct 26).

The fear is there are many others who are missing potential life-saving hospital appointments by the cavalier and uncaring attitude of the HRW CCG, and I hope they will contact their local councillors who will speak up for them to get the PTS service their medical and personal needs demand.

Meantime we will be calling the HRW CCG to account until the service is restored to its former level. Watch this space.

County Councillor John Blackie, Independent, Hawes

Scotch Corner

I AM amazed that the proposed retail development at Scotch Corner is still going ahead (D&S Times, Oct 26). Hardly a week goes by without news of yet another retailer having financial problems. There are many empty shops in nearby high streets and market places. The centre of Catterick Camp has been developed as a shopping destination.

People should not be encouraged to drive long distances to the Designer Village, whatever that means. This is not a good idea environmentally. How many people on a long journey will stop at Scotch Corner for a spot of retail therapy?

In the unlikely case of it being successful, it will be yet another nail in the coffin of nearby high streets. Seven hundred jobs may well be created at Scotch Corner, but how many jobs will be lost elsewhere?

It would be more appropriate if the site at Scotch Corner was developed with housing or business units. There are excellent roads going North, South, East and West for materials to go in and finished products to go out, and much needed manufacturing jobs would be created.

Miles Garnett, South Otterington

No assessment

POLICE officers are assessed before they are appointed, throughout their probation and throughout their careers. Officers destined for the higher ranks are assessed before they are given appropriate training, including training in leadership.

Julia Mulligan, the police and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire, was not assessed before she was appointed, except by the Conservative Party who clearly got it wrong. She has not been assessed during her six-year PCC career, except by those of us with the interests of the local police at heart who have repeatedly found her wanting.

Ludicrously, despite her obvious failings, she has been given responsibility for ethics by her PCC colleagues. As far as we are aware she has had no training for her roles.

Having urged her to address “an endemic issue around the perception of bullying” in her office, the police and crime panel has now suggested she should be given training in leadership and mentoring (D&S Times, Oct 26). We really are in cloud cuckoo land. Should that not have happened years ago?

The PCC has justified her behaviour by saying it was necessary because she works in a male environment. Poppycock. The PCC’s explanation has no merit whatsoever, it is simply an excuse.

We have still not been told how much she wasted on her ridiculous plan to build a new headquarters at South Kilvington. We have still not been told how much is being wasted as a result of her moving the headquarters to inadequate premises before the old one had been sold.

Spectator recently criticised the PCC’s annual report and we have waited in vain for the information it lacked. She treats the public like she has been found to have treated her staff. We deserve better.

The PCC has said she is shocked and dismayed by the findings and she does not recognise the picture painted by the report. Given her past behaviour, the public will recognise the picture and will not have been shocked. We are dismayed only by the want of any means of sacking her. She has been a disaster and the Conservative Party should choose somebody else before the next election.

David Severs, Northallerton

No surprises

AMID all the furore surrounding the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel’s findings about the behaviour of police and crime commissioner, Julia Mulligan – which comes as a surprise to very few who have had the misfortune to have to deal with her – perhaps we should take a step back and not judge her too hastily.

After all anyone who can combine the behaviour outlined with incompetence and arrogance all at the same time must surely have some hidden depths of talent.

Incompetence? Simply look to Ms Mulligan’s performance – telephone handling, HMI PEEL performance, increase in crime figures and failed financial targets all presided over by her. Failure to listen to the objections of the county council and every district council on her bid to grab power over the fire brigade. Not to mention the cost of the debacle of the "Northern Base" at South Kilvington or the ongoing farce of her attempt to offload the old police headquarters at Newby Wiske.

Arrogance? Look to Cllr Peter Dew’s assessment of the “contempt” with which she treats the panel – contempt that led to his resignation. However, for a real insight go no further than Ms Mulligan’s response made to the panel’s findings. “On the recommendations themselves, I am happy to consider them, but I would need considerable reassurance that the matter will be dealt with fairly and constructively, not least on behalf of my staff.” How magnanimous.

Your sister paper, The Northern Echo, records the “wild applause” from Tory members when she was selected as PCC candidate. That will be nothing to the cheers when she leaves.

David Stockport, Newby Wiske

Renewable energy

JOHN MICKLETHWAITE’S letter (D&S Times, Oct 26) on the need to produce natural gas (methane) by fracking in UK was full of misleading information.

Mineral oil is not used in significant amounts for energy production and heating peoples’ homes. It is used principally for the manufacture of plastics and producing fuels for transport.

Using the most recent figures for the first quarter of 2018 for the UK’s electricity; renewables produced 30.1 per cent (a rise of 3.1 per cent on 2017), natural gas produced 39.9 per cent (down 0.6 per cent on 2017) and coal 9.4 per cent (down 1.7 per cent on 2017).

We are rather slowly replacing the burning of natural gas as our major source of electricity. The UK is in a good position for solar PV, hydropower and wind generation of energy. The sun shines every day, the wind blows most days (especially at sea) and water flows in rivers. The use of land-based wind power is now our cheapest source of energy. Rapid developments on improving the storage of electricity are happening.

We do not import natural gas from Russia, we extract 45 per cent in the UK, 41 per cent from Norway with small quantities from Belgium, Netherlands and the Middle East (as LNG).

We will not get 50 years of shale gas as it is so hazardous to extract with earthquakes, water and air pollution.

The percentage of air pollution in the UK due to burning fossil fuels is also important, it is considered to be linked to much poor health. The UK is able to lead the way to cut carbon dioxide and methane emissions that are producing global warming.

Michael E. Chaloner, Aiskew

District Valuer

THE District Valuer report relating to the Sowerby Gateway project in Thirsk makes for very interesting reading (D&S Times, Oct 26).

We may now get a well deserved public inquiry.

The council should hang their heads in shame.

Lawrence Whiteley, Thirsk

Footpath work

I NOTICED that at the last Stokesley Council Meeting they discussed the building of an elderly persons' home next to Stokesley bypass. During the discussion they recognised that the footpath running alongside the bypass wasn't suitable for wheelchairs.

Considering that footpath is used by walkers, joggers, and school children it's in a terrible state. It's so overgrown that it's not wide enough for prams or two people passing, and the surface is in a bad state having not been resurfaced for many years.

The verge is easily wide enough for the path to be widened to also accommodate a cycle lane. The speed of the traffic along the bypass makes it very dangerous for cyclists and a cycle lane is long overdue.

Graham Westbrook, Stokesley

Bed closures

CONTRARY to Edward Harden’s assertion that I and my colleagues had not taken the trouble to speak to users of mental health services in the area (D&S Times, Oct 19), we were working closely with both service users and their representative groups who were concerned about the bed closures at the Friarage Hospital.

Nor was it solely a Liberal Democrats campaign as we were working with independent councillors too. In particular, these groups were concerned about the assertions in the proposals that the wards were "not fit for purpose".

In fact, the wards are no worse than most of the provision in the country.

In addition, Mr Harden’s statement about patients not being bothered about where the bed would be is not backed by the evidence, which shows that outcomes are better when patients are admitted close to where they live. In November, Richmond MP Rishi Sunak also raised concerns in Parliament about the distance that patients and visitors would have to travel.

In his article, Mr Sunak was talking about the welcome improvement to the service for young people but I was writing about the real issues for adult and elderly service users. North Yorkshire has one of the highest male suicide rates in the country. This service does nothing to resolve that.

Elderly dementia patients are being moved to Bishop Auckland. With North Yorkshire’s increasingly elderly population, their partners and relatives will be bothered by both the transport difficulties and the break in links to their community.

I do agree with Mr Harden that we need community provision but we need the wards too – it should not be either or.

Philip Knowles, chair, Richmondshire Liberal Democrats

Post-war folly

AS the National Trust's Folly exhibition of contemporary garden features at Studley Royal draws to a close, what better time to envisage something to mark that greatest of all post-war follies – Brexit.

To honour this event, I suggest that a giant statue of Britannia, clutching a copy of The Big Issue and gazing towards the horizon in search of a new global home, be constructed outside of the Houses of Parliament as a permanent rebuke to the political pygmies who have created this mess.

The cost? Oh, £350m should just about cover it.

Tony Robinson, Northallerton

Meaning Brexit

ONCE again I take issue with one of your correspondents, John York (D&S Times, Oct 19)

In 1973 Edward Heath took us into the Common Market without a people’s vote.

We’ve also had numerous laws and treaties since that date without referenda.

In that time the EU has taken over every aspect of our lives.

Thousands of people like myself do not agree and for the past 40 years have had to live with the consequences.

The unelected appointed bureaucrats in Brussels dictate on everything and will not accept any points made by the UK.

We voted to leave in order to regain our sovereignty and control of our laws, finances and borders.

After all Brexit means Brexit.

J B Ramsdale, Northallerton

Help abroad

I READ that a PhD student Matthew Hedges from Durham University was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport in the United Arab Emirates. He has now been charged with spying.

Many of your readers will remember the six British ex-soldiers, some from the North-East, who were detained in India and were part of a private security team protecting ships from piracy. The soldiers were jailed in 2013 then finally released in 2017.

The British government tried to offer political help from the prime minister and foreign secretary, all to no avail.

There is a similarity to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe of dual British and Iranian nationality, who was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016, then sentenced to five years in jail in September 2016.

Boris Johnson summarised this saying: “Well I think she was just teaching journalism.”

If politicians intervene they should get their facts straight – that comment was instantly pounced on by the Iranians and sealed her fate.

From what is happening today in Westminster I believe it is quite clear that politicians like to talk but achieve nothing and should stay out of things like this.

Britain should be getting high-achieving qualified lawyers who know the individual personal circumstances, as well as the local political climate, to act for those involved, it may cost a few pounds more but who would not pay more for this?

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham

More Yorkshire

WITH reference to the query from David Fawcett concerning Redcar and the Tour de Yorkshire (D&S Times, Oct 19) he is obviously not aware that the County Borough of Teesside was abolished in 1974 and Cleveland County was abolished in 1996.

Cleveland/Teesside councils will therefore be unable to comment. The unitary authorities that were then created are still in North Yorkshire with the exception of Stockton which is in County Durham.

John Floyd, Thornaby, North Yorkshire