Richmond river picnics

I WOULD just like to express how disgusted I am by the images I've seen of Richmond Falls from the Bank Holiday.

Not only have dozens of people carelessly disobeyed the lockdown rules, potentially putting lives at risk, they have gone on to trash the effortlessly beautiful Richmond Falls area with litter and drug paraphernalia.

I sincerely hope that the local councils do more in future to prevent such incidents recurring. Nevertheless, praise is due for the selfless volunteers who cleared the area after it was trashed. I hope the local authorities recognise their hard work and award them in some way for their service to the community.

Cllr Joseph Lambert, East Cowton.

Keeping distant

ON May 10, the Government decreed that those who could not work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go back to work, avoiding public transport to maintain social distancing.

Most of the local buses I have seen lately have been virtually empty, so perhaps we are all doing as we are told, or it could be they are not much used by the workforce, even in more normal times.

The Prime Minister seems to think that provided the public stay alert and obedient, the reproduction rate of Covid-19 will not be forced back up over one.

North Yorkshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Richard Flinton, warns us that there is a very real risk of a second peak.

I have some reservations as to whether workers are in a safe situation at present, especially if the Health and Safety Executive is not carrying out any spot inspections, to reduce the risks posed to its own staff.

What I have seen recently of local people's behaviour and their reserves of patience and good humour, has been quite impressive. But, while I was waiting in a queue last week, I did have the opportunity to observe some workmen in a hole in the road.

They were all kitted out with hard hats and high-vis. jackets and probably wearing boots with steel toecaps, but social distancing appeared to be an unknown concept.

If you have ever watched six men in a hole about three metres wide, trying to manoeuvre a long plastic pipe into position and struggling to fit it over some smaller pipes, you would appreciate the difficulty.

Although the gang looked to me like fit, capable young men and they were working in the open air, I felt concerned that they literally had to get their heads together over this task and no one was wearing a face mask.

It wouldn't surprise me, if they had travelled the hour's journey from their base in the cosy proximity of shared transport either. There certainly wouldn't have been a bus. This sort of scenario must be replicated all over the country.

Boris Johnson has often worn a hard hat for the photo call, but does he really appreciate what's involved in hands-on practical work?

Similarly, if children return to school next month, how problematic will it be for their teachers to ensure social distancing? The average five-year-old will need a lot of reminding.

Phoebe Newton, Northallerton.

Charity donations

WHILE millions has been raised in donations for the NHS perhaps we should spare a thought for the hundreds of charities that are seeing a huge downturn in their incomes while trying to carry out vital work.

The NHS is not a charity. It is meant to be funded by the Government and it finds itself in the current financial difficulties due to decades of cuts by successive governments.

When this is over the NHS should get the investment it needs so it is no longer regarded as a charity and those charities that rely solely on donations will be able to continue with their crucial work.

Sue Barton, Sessay.

Trade talks

OUR current and understandable preoccupation with the Covid-19 crisis has taken public attention away from the trade talks currently taking place between the UK and US.

The Trade Secretary, Lis Truss and her team have embarked on these secret negotiations aimed at hammering out a post-Brexit deal with the US.

We must ensure that the UK government honours its repeatedly made commitment not to allow the import of US food produced to lower standards that those operating in the UK. Chlorine washed chicken and hormone produced beef are the two best known examples of the many lower standards operating in the US.

As a British farmer, I am worried that the UK, in its desperation for a deal, will backtrack on promises previously made. The Covid-19 crisis has emphasised the importance of food security. A flood of cheaper sub-standard US food would undermine UK agriculture and our ability to provide secure British produced food.

It is essential that these talks are conducted in an open manner and subject to public and parliamentary scrutiny and debate. Otherwise, while our attention is elsewhere, we may end up with lower quality food on our supermarket shelves and our domestic agriculture damaged.

Andrew Welford, Scaling.

Transport for everyone

I AM grateful to your Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Minting, for his article 'No winners' to North Yorkshire School Transport Legal Action (D&S Times, May 22).

It exposed the continued failure of certain county councillors to understand and accept North Yorkshire County Council’s duties and responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010.

North Yorkshire County Council is facing an immediate bill of £2.7m because it failed to take the right action at the right time.

Had the council properly anticipated the needs of all wheelchair users on all buses (as required under the Equality Act) they could have made the cost of wheelchair access on school buses more affordable by spreading the cost over a much longer period of time. Instead the council chose to delay making reasonable adjustments and wasted time and council tax payers' money on fighting an unwinnable legal battle against disability campaigner Doug Paulley.

The council’s deputy leader, County Councillor Gareth Dadd, apparently blames Doug Paulley for the council’s financial predicament.

Councillor Dadd’s comments demonstrate why it was necessary for the council to be challenged in the Supreme Court.

If disabled people and their supporters continue to be dismissed in this way, the council will once again find itself in court for its failures under the Equality Act.

County Councillor Patrick Mulligan also demonstrated his failure to understand the Equality Act by reportedly suggesting that the consequences of making reasonable adjustments to school buses would fall disproportionately on disabled school pupils.

Legislation requires that the organisation providing the service must bear the consequences of making reasonable adjustments – not disabled people.

The minutes of the meeting at which the reported comments were made, show that council officials reminded councillors of their duties under the Equality Act.

We should all be appalled that councillors, even when they had it spelt out to them, did not accept or comprehend their duties towards disabled people and their families. It is not just disabled people that suffer – council tax payers' money also gets wasted.

Getting it right for disabled people improves lives and saves money for everyone. Our councillors and those who back them need to change their attitude and behaviour – for all our sakes.

David McAsey, Hutton Rudby.

Different rules

WITH reference to Steve Kay's letter "Wrong message" (D&S letters, May 22) concerning this government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and mixed messages.

There is also the matter of the various health advisors and government staff who were seen away from their homes or having visitors when this was against their own advice, the worst of course being the adviser who travelled from London to County Durham because he required child care.

As usual there is one rule for them and another for the rest of us, or as the old saying goes “Don't do as I do, do as I say".

CP Atkinson, Great Ayton.

Independent mind?

RISHI SUNAK is a diligent constituency MP but I fear his political instincts have gone AWOL with respect to the Dominic Cummings affair.

Like the majority of Conservatives before him, Mr Sunak can always be relied upon to close ranks if the party or fellow travellers come under fire.

As Chancellor he can also be relied on to show unflinching loyalty to the PM.

However, his endorsement and uncritical support for Dominic Cummings' recent behaviour before the facts of the case were established tend to suggest his independence of mind has strayed on this occasion.

Constituents look for integrity in their MP regardless of the party line or the PM’s preferred narrative.

They also look for consistency of practice with respect to national guidelines and the modelling of normative behaviour from senior members of government.

Sadly, this has been missing and Mr Sunak’s support for unsupportable behaviour undermines his reputation for clear, evidence-based thinking.

Gus Pennington, Stokesley.

Power of Dom

IT can't really be a surprise that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has failed to sack or ask for Dominic Cummings' resignation.

The Prime Minister has proved in the recent past to be an expert liar, cheat and breaker of the law and rules. Why should someone like him be expected to condemn a fellow breaker of rules?

For heaven's sake, if Mr Cummings is involved in making rules for the “plebs” why should he have to take any notice of those rules himself.

Mr Johnson will do and has done whatever Mr Cummings says anyway – so no problem there Dom?

John Hopkins, Crakehall.

Spirit of the law

DOMINIC CUMMINGS may not have broken the letter of the law and advice by travelling to County Durham but he certainly has not abided by the its spirit. Hardly leading by example.

In the days of the Blair Government a rapid response unit would have swung into action, denied the alleged offence and proceeded to rubbish the story by spinning a better version and/or brief against those involved.

Apparently, Mr Cummings is not the most popular of figures in the Westminster bubble and his enemies were fighting to add their condemnation of his actions.

The sight of a journalist for a respected publication appearing on television with a smug expression on his face like a petulant schoolboy who had just told the teacher that another pupil had broken a window only adds credence to view that sole purpose of this exercise is to get one’s own back.

Mr Cummings apparently did once say that the press were 100 per cent irrelevant in his thinking.

Calls for his resignation are ludicrous and a public enquiry a ridiculous waste of money.

But hey! Let’s make sure the truth or common sense don't get in the way of a good story.

RT Semain, West Rounton.

Fundraising singers

REGULAR readers will know that this is around the time of year when the Seasonal Singers, a 15-strong Teesside-based group who raise funds for local deserving causes meet up with the nominees and present them with their cheques, funded by the performance fees and donations we receive in the previous year. The current restrictions of course prohibit such events, so we have taken the step of sending them their cheques now so that they can use the funding immediately for their very deserving causes. We will of course be meeting up with them as soon as restrictions are lifted.

This year’s five beneficiaries each received cheques for £300, making our total donations £1,500 and taking our total donations in recent years to over £12,000.

This year’s beneficiaries are: Hope 4 Nell, helping Rett’s Syndrome children, My Sister’s Place, supporting vulnerable women and children suffering from domestic abuse, the Riding for the disabled Unicorn Centre, Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice, and the Kieran Maxwell legacy. Details of all of these local and very worthwhile organisations can be found online.

The Seasonal Singers play about 25 concerts each year, and have a wide repertoire, including popular songs from the 1920s and 30s through to the modern day, including West End Musicals, folk songs, rock n pop, and more besides.

Our audiences include care homes, WI’s, Ladies luncheon groups, in fact anyone who enjoys good songs and joining in with us.

We would like to thank all of the organisations who book us regularly, and of course the public who come and hear us sing.

Clearly this year’s concert programme is being radically affected, but we will continue to raise as much funding as possible at the end of the year, when hopefully social contact returns to some kind of normality. Please contact Ken Day on 07887 824 431 for more details.

Ken Day, Ingleby Barwick