Meaningful data

I WAS not surprised by your front page headline last week (D&S Times North Yorkshire edition, Nov 27) regarding the integrity of a survey carried out on behalf of the district councils regarding local government reorganisation. It would appear that the 92 per cent claim of support in Richmondshire was based on only 29 responses, which can not possibly be representative of a population of more than 50,000. I fail to see how the results could be marked as "statistically significant".

I know that it is difficult to get people to respond to surveys. This is usually because they are not interested in the topic or they feel their opinion is not valued/will not make any difference, which I believe is the case here.

Residents/service users are not really interested in which organisation deliver their services. What they are interested in is having effective and efficient services which demonstrate value for money.

I have spent most of my working life in local government and have worked for districts, boroughs, mets and counties and have experience of working in both two tier and single tier authorities. My personal opinion is that single tier authorities are a better delivery mechanism.

The majority of our services are already delivered through the county and to me the most straight forward option would be to integrated district services into the county as they already deliver services across the whole area and I believe it would be more disruptive/expensive to split into two unitaries.

I realise that there is concern about the lack of local perspective however I think this can be overcome by a responsive delivery mechanism which is sensitive to local needs and populations and I believe the county already do this.

It is easy to manipulate data to get it to show the results which you want, however to be meaningful data has to be given some context.

As a resident of Richmondshire what I would like to see is a responsive service delivery organisation which offers quality services and can demonstrate value for money. Whither this is done through a unitary or some other accountable organisation I am not really bothered

Mirren Hunter, Richmond.

Credible surveys

MY attention was particularly drawn to two apparently separate articles in your paper (D&S Times, Nov 27) but which clearly raise the same issue.

The main headline of the paper (North Yorkshire edition) deals with the questionable integrity of the survey carried out by councils in North Yorkshire over how, or if, the county should be split. Whilst on page 79 we have the results of a different survey under the heading "Roasts to become meat-free".

The first line of the article on page 79 starts with a claim that –"More than half (56 per cent) of people in Yorkshire and Humber believe meat in a British roast dinner could become a thing of the past by 2030".

Yet this survey report lacks the same details that have caused concerns over the integrity of the council survey, and more besides.

The article seems to indicate that the survey was carried out by a vegetarian based organisation so one may think it hardly surprising that results suggest meat is on the way out. This alone would clearly raise the suspicions of any independent evaluation of the survey. There is no indication of where, when and how this survey was conducted and there are separate skills needed for dealing with each.

Then you have to look at the quality of the questions asked to ensure that there is a lack of bias.

The careful randomisation of survey recipients to include a spread of social backgrounds a gender and age balance and of course the total numbers surveyed, as highlighted in your report on the council survey.

If you send the majority of your survey questionnaires to members of your organisation it is probable that results will show strongly in favour of your organisation's aims!

There is a very specific expertise needed in the design, development, circulation and analysis of surveys. Unless all these aspects are professionally dealt with, the results of any survey can be, accidentally or deliberately, biased and misleading.

Based upon the brief information provided around the "Roasts to become meat free" survey I would suggest that it should be placed on a pile marked "lacking credibility".

As Prime Minister Disraeli said: "There are lies, dammed lies and statistics."

John Hutchinson, Brompton on Swale.

Council investigations

I THINK that most people were shocked at the sight of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 where 72 people died.

After the fire it was determined that there were hundreds of tower blocks that were clad with non-fire resistant cladding. The flats were bought leasehold and today they are worthless. Who would buy a flat where the external cladding was flammable?

As a gesture of goodwill the government gave £1bn of public money to help resolve the problem.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Today things have not progressed much. There is no one leading the whole problem, but it is now thought that about £15bn will be needed to replace the cladding. Initially it was expected that that the leasehold residents should pay the costs, but they simply do not have the money.

Today it is being considered that the government should pay this £15bn that is required, that is you and me. All this is because the government did nothing five years before the fire when there was a similar fire with the same cladding.

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham.

Richmond founder

I SEE from Friday's edition (D&S Times Nov, 27) that 2021 marks the 950th anniversary of the founding of Richmond and its castle, being a gift of the land to Breton nobleman, Alan the Red, by William the Conqueror. His reward was for "helping quell unrest among the population".

One doesn't need to be an expert on history to read between the lines on that one.

I trust that suitable interpretive information relating to oppression, murder and ethnic cleansing of Saxons will be prominently displayed as part of any commemorations.

Due acknowledgement and an apology must be given for these monstrous crimes perpetrated against people not of Norman origin. Further any reference to Alan the Red by way of street name, building name or similar must be changed and any public statues removed at once to a suitably obscure corner of a museum or preferably the river.

Peter Metcalfe, Hutton Rudby.

Christmas celebrations

CHRISTIANS believe that, through Jesus, God revealed his love for mankind.

Can we not therefore assume that Christ would agree his birthday celebrations be postponed, or even cancelled, to prevent another spike of Covid-19? A spike inevitably accompanied by more physical and mental torment and the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

But, of course, with The Five Days of Fun-Filled Christmas, Boris knows best.

Steve Kay, cabinet member, health, housing and welfare, Redcar and Cleveland Council.

Foreign aid

IT seems to me that our departure from the gold standard of giving 0.7 per cent of GDP in aid is avoidable.

First, we can legitimately boost the total figure for foreign aid by including government expenditure on foreigners in this country. This would bring in spending to support asylum seekers, on furlough for foreign workers, on NHS treatment for foreign patients and on imprisoning foreign criminals.

This would also impress upon those who wish to see aid actually going overseas the need to keep such expenses to a minimum. They must recognise that money spent on housing refugees in Middlesbrough is taken from the same pot as for helping those encamped in Lebanon.

Secondly, we can address the unpopularity of spending on aid by ditching the high-minded notion that British aid should not be tied to British exports. Ultimately, all that any recipient nation can do with donated foreign currency is to buy foreign goods and services. If they have a preference for the goods or services of some other country then they can either pay for these themselves or ask the chosen supplier to donate them.

Where we wish to support organisations working in-country, with staff wages to pay, we would provide them with goods which they can sell to raise local currency. Our aid money would go into contracts with British companies or individuals. Aid would then form a natural part of any package for economic stimulation.

John Riseley, Harrogate.

Tier system

WITH regard to the news of the areas in England with designated tiers of lockdown, most areas designated Tier Three are going to feel that they have been unfairly treated.

I have felt that overall Boris Johnson has handled the pandemic poorly but to have a blanket ban including areas which by themselves would qualify for Tiers One or Two, is counterproductive.

This could lead to people breaking the ban, believing they have a right to do so.

I feel that tiers could have been handled locally, and reviewed daily or weekly giving an incentive for people in Tiers Three or Two to lower their tier by behaving.

I could not believe that London is Tier Two. Could it be that the Prime Minister and all the ministers responsible for tiering the country live in London?

I have been trying to think of a word which would sum up this partiality and all I can think of is a form of nepotism.

Thomas Ball, Barnard Castle.

Puppy smuggling

EVERY year thousands of puppies are smuggled across Europe in appalling conditions to be mis-sold to UK dog lovers. Many suffer life-threatening health conditions, and some don’t survive, leaving their buyers helpless and heartbroken – as well as out of pocket.

Demand for dogs has soared during lockdown and it’s creating a lucrative market for puppy smugglers. Since lockdown started, we’ve rescued 14 heavily pregnant mums, and an incredible 140 puppies that could have fetched over £380,000 for cruel smugglers, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Recently, Dogs Trust Veterinary Director Paula Boyden gave evidence to a special one-off EFRA session (The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee) on puppy smuggling, to urge the Government to take action.

Something has to change. For over six years we’ve campaigned to end this abhorrent trade, yet Government continues to drag its heels. Despite the three largest political parties pledging to stop puppy smuggling at last year’s General Election, over 200 Parliamentary Questions being tabled on puppy smuggling since 2014, and 148 MPs joining our puppy smuggling campaign, we’re no closer to seeing this suffering end. In fact, we have yet to see any significant action from Government at all.

Current legislation is not fit for purpose. We need to cut this trade off at the source and close the loopholes which put innocent puppies at risk, and we need to do this urgently. As the Brexit transition period draws to a close on December 31, now is the time for Government to act and, dare we say, ‘take back control’ of this spiralling situation.

Government must change the law to raise the minimum age for puppies to be imported into the UK to a minimum of six months to make them less desirable to buy and sell, and introduce tougher penalties for smuggling.

With every day of delay more innocent puppies will continue to pay the price.

Owen Sharp, CEO at Dogs Trust.

Lonely elephant

SINGER and actress Cher deserves great credit over her part in helping to rescue "Kaavan" said to be the world’s loneliest elephant after being on her own for eight years after her partner died, she is now in a sanctuary with other elephants and reported to be happy and settling in well.

She was flown from Pakistan to Cambodia and it did make me wonder if it was possible that she had travelled on a jumbo jet.

John Rusby, Bishop Auckland.

Worse off

WHY have we found ourselves 80 per cent worse off than other G7 economies, fighting the same pandemic – and face a 90 per cent deeper decline in economic output – while also having 60 per cent more deaths?

Angela Harris, Baroness Harris of Richmond.