Subsidy changes

I READ with interest your very informative article about a survey of the concerns of farmers and landowners regarding the shift from the EU’s Basic Payment subsidy to our government’s proposal to replace it with the ELM Scheme (D&S Times, Dec 11).

Although I sympathise with their anxiety about losing the EU subsidy, there must surely be a realisation that in our market economy they must become more efficient to survive.

To rely on aid for their agricultural industry may now be looked on by other industries to be a bit unfair and almost immature.

It could be that the industry, in a previous era could possibly have been regarded by some as an ignoble “lame duck” and should be left to fend for itself – as other industries do.

The ELMS proposes many things in order for them to survive, on the land. In order that this takes place they become custodians of our landscapes, and get paid for it, by the general public.

For this to be acceptable to those who pay for it, the land will have to be made more accessible to those. This may not please farmers and landowners but, if they are unable to survive otherwise, it is something they must simply accept, as long as it is also acceptable to those who are going to be paying for them to stay on the land, which really could then become classed as “public land” by those who are contributing towards it.

There is also a view that those whose children are without school meals during school holidays, that the land should be used for the purpose for which it is intended ie producing food. If not then the subsidy should go to those who are going hungry.

To rely on handouts from UNICEF is unthinkable in a country which is the sixth richest in the world.

Reg Rowlinson, Eaglescliffe.

Special Sandsend

“THERE is nothing special about Sandsend” said Jonathon Smith in the weekend walk article last week (D&S Times, Jan 1).

I really must disagree. For a start there are public toilets there and numerous benches to rest and take in the beautiful sands and sea.

There are two gift shops and three cafes and a post office which also sells “take out” drinks and snacks. The valley which follows the river is delightful and the interesting and beautiful Mulgrave estate woods are open to the public twice a week.

I think Sandsend is special and a good place to pause a while before continuing on the lovely walk to Runswick Bay.

Bernice Turnbull, Hartburn.

Waste disposal

I READ with interest your article on page 53 (D&S Times, Dec 25) entitled “Flytippers caught by covert cameras”, dumping TVs, PCs, beds, garden waste, carpet and toys.

All of these items can be disposed of free of charge at North Yorkshire County Council tips. Or, for a bulky waste fee, collected directly by the district council from your doorstep to be fettled by the county council.

But these messages are not getting through to the public, hence the bullyboy tactics employed by the district council.

Don’t get me wrong. Illegal flytipping must be prosecuted. But the confusion of who is responsible for what service in their locality must end.

If ever there was a good reason for a single council, eliminating any confusion for the public, with one council responsible for all services in an area, with clear accountability for the council taxes paid, then this is it.

David Briscombe, Winksley, Ripon, former leader of Harrogate BC Conservatives.

High scorer

I WOULD like to congratulate Hannah Chapman on her account of a recent visit to the Whitegates café (D&S Times, Jan 1).

My wife and I fully agree about the quality of this venue, but feel that the level of service in both the cafe and nursery is so consistently high, it is deserving of a score of ten.

David Webster, Northallerton.

Here to stay

FOLLOWING the outcry from hungry customers after your brilliant Eating Out review (D&S Times, Dec 18) of Barkers Kitchen over the news that the ‘legendary’ Steak Pie has been taken off the menu, please help us to restore calm by reassuring your readers that our homemade Steak Pie is on the menu every day, and we have no intention of taking it off anytime soon, otherwise we really would have a riot on our hands!

Guy Barker, Northallerton.

Editor’s note: Both Barkers stores are currently closed due to new lockdown announced on Monday.

Toilets plea

IT is good news that Northallerton has secured £6m government funding (D&S Times, Jan 1).

Top of the list of what project takes priority should surely be to provide decent toilet facilities similar to the ones purpose built in the Applegarth a good few years ago, then for some reason sold and converted to yet another coffee shop.

Malcolm Gill, Crakehall, Bedale.

Sanitary savings

I WOULD have been more impressed with Rishi Sunak’s announcement about the abolition of VAT on sanitary products if he hadn’t voted against it in 2015.

The VAT rate was five per cent so there will be a small saving but, to put it into context, the rate of VAT was five per cent and raised £15m a year. George Osborne raised VAT from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent in 2011 and, as a result, we have paid £35m a day extra since then.

Philip Knowles, Eppleby, Richmond.


YOUR correspondent Jo Stevenson (D&S Times letters, Jan 1) dismisses the respected peer Baroness Harris as “cheap and unworthy” for asking a few straightforward questions about the UK’s key indicators in this time of Covid and demands she “curbs her party instincts”. In favour of what?, I would ask in reply. Dumb compliance perhaps?

As far back as I can remember (and I’ve been voting for nearly 50 years) the Conservative Party have tended to accuse anyone with a different view to theirs of playing politics. The sub-text being that their views are just common sense of course, not politics, which is a shabby thing engaged in by bad people who want power.

Our current government is one of the least accountable I can remember. They unilaterally decided to break the law (the Irish border question), ignored the findings of a parliamentary committee they set up to rule more favourably for one of their own (the Priti Patel bullying case), appoint chums to senior jobs without regard for the fair and open competition required by law for Civil Service posts (Dido Harding) and, last but not least, continue to make opaque decisions behind closed doors about this country’s approach to the pandemic.

Ms Stevenson rightly notes this has been a terrible year, with an unprecedented situation and no easy answers. Decision making in this scenario is tough and being a minister a responsible an unenviable job. All the more reason then, for the government to be open and transparent about the choices facing our country and how they are making decisions. Better still, the broader inclusion of experienced politicians from all parties and devolved governments could be better used to ensure we do as well as we can for all people.

The government’s decisions today create our common future, one we must all live with. It is right they are challenged and scrutinised, not swept under the carpet of false patriotism. It’s what politicians, and democracy, are for.

Kathryn Streatfield, Croft.

Game spoiler

VAR has removed the spontaneity and fluidity from football, thereby destroying the beautiful game. And, things will get worse once the pandemic is over and the fans return to the terraces.

When the ball goes into the net, neither players nor fans can celebrate because, before a goal can be given, there is a tortuous wait so that VAR can be checked. Nobody knows whether to laugh, or cry.

Ironically, VAR has failed to eradicate disputed decisions because, even when referees consult the screen, there’s nothing to guarantee they’ll get it right.

VAR is a disaster, hated by everybody involved. It should be used for one purpose only: to decide, on a close call, whether or not the ball has crossed the goal line. Everything else should be left to referees and their assistants, unencumbered by spies in the sky. Yes, the officials will make the odd mistake, but the game will flow again, bringing back skill and excitement.

As in all aspects of life, it’s better to be ruled by fallible people than fallible people in cahoots with supposedly infallible machines.

Steve Kay, Redcar & Cleveland councillor.

Too carefree

COMPARED to first lockdown have many others noted just how few now sanitise when entering shops, especially supermarkets, and how the sanitiser stations are now often woefully neglected with no gel in dispensers, together with carefree shopping once inside with little or no social distancing? No wonder we are where we are, it’s not the government’s fault we don’t follow the guidelines.

Robert Walker, Middleton St George.

Vaccine queue

THE vaccine is being administered at pace and scale to people who are able to isolate except for contact with their carers. Does this make sense while delivery is a scarce and critical resource? Much the same effect as vaccinating the cared-for and their carers could be achieved by vaccinating just the carers.

Age-based prioritisation reflects the higher risk of death if infected. But it does not take into account the lower likelihood of becoming infected for those who do not have to go out to work either to provide essential services or to support their families. Nor does it allow (as is usual in decisions on medical resource allocation) for the shorter period of healthy life which would be lost. It also neglects the smaller contribution to herd immunity from immunising the less interactive.

If such allocation is now appropriate, can we assume that all those whose encounters with the infected are not random, but deliberate and a matter of duty, have already been vaccinated? Can we expect that in a few days the NHS losing staff who need to isolate will be a thing of the past?

This matters when demand for NHS care may be about to exceed capacity. Furthermore, if this happens we will surely wish at least some rudimentary care for the overflow of patients triaged away from our hospitals. We could not in conscience allow this to be provided by volunteers who are unprotected. We need to be vaccinating a reserve of potential auxiliary nurses now.

It was perhaps not envisaged that the vaccine would become available at such a critical moment. This may be why the priorities appear to reflect sentimentality rather than any serious operational analysis.

John Riseley, Harrogate.

Spend request

IT’S great to see Darlington council spending millions of pounds on Victoria Road footpath improvements.

Can us residents of Eastbourne ask the council to spend a few pounds to make a very busy nature walk safer?

The entrance and exit gate to this very popular nature reserve on Parkside which leads to Geneva woods walk is directly onto a main road with no pedestrian footpath at all, this area is very popular with dog walkers the entrance and exit gate is very unsafe to gain access and to exit.

Stan Wilby, Darlington.

Imaginary encounters

ONE of the most explicit and constant features of the 5pm coronavirus briefing is the remarkable and unflinching composure and self-restraint of the panel members in the face of arguably the most mischievous and politically motivated inquisition by certain (not all) representatives of the media.

Some viewers might occasionally wish that the “experts” would momentarily abandon their dignified professionalism and give some of these self-congratulatory news-spinners a good verbal “smacking”. But they wouldn’t, would they?

Their dignified, self-restrained method is all the more convincing and reassuring.

However, one could be forgiven for envisaging the drama and likely outcome of a Thatcher/Kuenssberg or Beth Rigby/Ann Widdecombe or a Robert Peston/Barbara Castle encounter.

Michael Baldasera, Darlington.

Driving dates

FOR the life of me I can’t understand why there is not some sort of driving re-test for the elderly. You can pass a test at 17 years, drive until you are 100 years – more than 80 years without a re-test which to me is ridiculous. It is obvious over that length of time your physical, mental and eyesight will deteriorate and be a possible danger to yourself and others.

I propose a short re-test at age 75 years and perhaps every five years thereafter, to test eyesight and driving ability for long enough to assess these abilities for a small fee.

Without being judgemental there are plenty of people of this age past their drive by date and if you wish to know I will be in this category.

Thomas Ball, Barnard Castle.

Covid deniers

I DON’T suppose it would be possible to collect the names and addresses of all the ravers and demonstrators who insist on denying the seriousness or even the existence of Covid, forward those names to all the hospitals and then if, or when they catch it and need intensive treatment, put them under house arrest and then leave them to their own devices, starting with the drunken mob outside that hospital in, I thought not.....pity!

Jo Jones, Darlington.