Clearing up

I HAVE just been for my daily walk, one I do regularly, and came across three girls fishing debris out of the beck just by the bridge near the cemetery in Northallerton.

They had found a fire extinguisher and no doubt other items which had been discarded. They were part of a bigger group of students from the old Allertonshire School, and did this, voluntarily, on a regular basis. They had set this up themselves.

I stopped to say they must be cold wading in the water, but what struck me most was how committed and cheerful they were clearing up the trash others had dumped there. They told me that their parents were also involved in helping them to take all the rubbish to the recycling facility.

They were so lovely to talk to and they cheered me so much I felt I had to let Northallerton know what they are doing. They are a real credit to their families and the school.

I’d like to think that their selfless efforts on a dreary afternoon could earn them some community plaudits and recognition.

Carol Cordrey, Northallerton.

Future power

FURTHER to my letter concerning power outages due to storm damage “Power suggestion” (D&S Times letters, Dec 10).

Looking to the future when all open fires, wood burning stoves and gas fires and boilers are banned and we have to rely on electricity for everything, for example, cars, buses, trains and HGVs, what happens when we all get home from work, put the electric car on charge, start the heating, start cooking and then a storm arrives and puts off the power again?

It means unless the utility companies do not put cables underground, the affected areas will suffer again with the added problem of not getting to work due to transport having flat batteries.

Of course this problem won't happen down south, as all the stops will be pulled out so people down there don't suffer too much.

CP Atkinson, Great Ayton.

Leadership bid?

LARGE sums of money could have been raised from a few of the richest people by the Chancellor.

However, this would displease Tory donors, those who will influence the choice of the next party leader. Hence the Chancellor is abandoning the chance to raise as much as £14bn a year from increasing capital gains tax from 20 per cent to 25 per cent, according to the Office of Tax Simplification set up by George Osborne.

Under taxed, unearned wealth is soaring but Rishi Sunak prefers to raise National Insurance contributions from everyone else. According to reports, he intends to cut income tax by 2p which the Institute for Fiscal Studies says "discriminates in favour of the wealthy".

It will cost the Treasury an estimated £12bn, yet the State cannot afford to give up this amount of money when it is needed for the NHS, schools, social care. skills and transport.

Mr Sunak wants to be seen as a small-state anti-taxer to win the backing of the hardline Tory party leader selectorate.

By seducing a small, unrepresentative right wing clique, will the voters of Mr Sunak`s constituency be impressed with his willingness to deprive public services of much needed resources?

His glossy Christmas no-expenses-spared newsletter, full of photo opportunities, is intended to keep the voters on-side. It masks his levelling down manoeuvring for a leadership bid.

John Hopkins, Crakehall, Bedale.

Cladding scandal

THE public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire is getting down to revealing the dirty secrets of politics and is requiring many high powered people past and present to attend and give evidence.

David Cameron gave a speech in 2012 where he said that he would kill off the health and safety culture for good because it was an albatross around the neck of British businesses. He wanted deregulation.

The government is guilty of a deliberate cover up in not investigating other fires in cladding which took place over five years before the Grenfell fire four years ago. This could be one of the greatest scandals of our time.

Today repairs to tower blocks are creeping along slowly with some residents feeling suicidal because as a leaseholder they cannot afford the repair costs and cannot move on with their lives.

The government have made a decision that the cladding on blocks over 18m is to be replaced, so do they think this cladding on buildings under 18m is acceptable?

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham.

Polluted waterways

THERE can be no greater failure of government than when basic standards of sanitation are routinely breached in the upper Derwent catchment area by discharge of raw sewage.

According to government statistics obtained by the Rivers Trust this happened about 2,000 times in 2020 for a combined duration of over 12,000 hours. A pattern repeated across Yorkshire and the rest of England.

It should surprise no-one that the general public do not like the idea of raw sewage flowing openly in our streams and rivers and bobbing about near our beaches. So how have the water companies got away with it for so long?

Up to 1974 the responsibilities for water supply and dealing with waste water rested mainly with local councils, under direct local democratic control. Funding of major new schemes was dependent on central government, so also under democratic control.

In 1974 the Tory government removed all responsibilities from local authorities, transferring them to newly created regional water authorities (RWAs). The democratic responsibility now lay with central government.

Successive governments starved the RWAs of funding for improvements. In 1989, Margaret Thatcher privatised the RWAs and wrote off their debts.

Privatisation was presented as the solution to a funding problem which the government had itself created. Weak regulation was installed through Ofwat but essentially these private companies, largely foreign owned, have been self-regulating.

According to them they have been doing a great job. And they have too, if judged solely by their dividends to shareholders which have averaged £2bn a year since privatisation.

Judged by the pollution of our waterways and cost of our water they are an abject failure. As they are monopolies we can’t get our water and sewage treatment from any other source.

The blame for the current scandal lies in the first place with the government that privatised the service. Successive governments bear the responsibility for what has happened since. Recent comments by our current representative in government, Kevin Hollinrake, suggest he thinks public hygiene is too expensive to insist on. Considerable responsibility also lies with our elected representatives on local councils.

To head-off the widespread condemnation of part of the 2021 Environment Bill, the government added a requirement for water companies to "secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows". This is so woolly and allows water companies so much wriggle room that they will be able to carry on getting away with it.

As Mr Hollinrake voted for this fudge we would like to know what steps he intends to take to ensure that Yorkshire Water actually does stop polluting our watercourses and coastal waters.

Alan Avery, Pickering; Mick Johnston, Ebberston; Graham Scott, Hunmanby; Jill Wells, Kirkbymoorside; and David Yellen, Butterwick. On behalf of Thirsk and Malton Labour Party.

Guilty by association

AS the news of, and evidence for, the widespread and serial Conservative government failures becomes overwhelming, so the contest to replace Boris Johnson amongst ministerial leaders heats up.

This Conservative government is without shame, beyond accountability, acting in contempt for everything actually British – Britain itself including Northern Ireland, the constitution, the rule of law, respect for the monarchy, respect for judges and professionals, for decency, civility, for the needs of local government, careless for the very welfare and lives of its citizens.

The Conservative Party in the country and in Parliament has abandoned its traditional principles and purpose, having been taken over by showmen and extremists, morphing into a narrow English nationalist party, so creating a dis-united, rather than a United Kingdom.

But we must not think that the causes of our critical situation are personal and that a new person will make it all better. We must elect MPs who actually put the interests of society above their own, hedge funds, mates and party donors.

It is true that there is an absence of talent, responsibility, leadership, ethics, and principle amongst the Johnson cohort, and our two local MPs are guilty by association. But we must give other parties a chance to show that reason, balance, civility, diligence, honesty, planning, investment in public services and hard work are essential to good government.

We live in a One Party Conservative State here. Perhaps the electors of North Shropshire will show the electors of North Yorkshire what to do now – and bring in some proper leaders.

It's not just the singer that is rubbish, it's the singers and the song.

Dr John R Gibbins, Sowerby, Thirsk.

Discerning dining

IT is with wry amusement that I partially read your Eating Out page. Most of the reviews seem to cover either Sunday lunches, beef burgers or fish and chips. For example, "The Seafood Restaurant serves a range of excellent fish dishes". What does your critic order, fish and chips twice and scampi and chips.

Poor critics are one of the reasons we have such a low standard in this area and very little recognition in The Good Food or Michelin guides.

My wife and I recently went to a well-known establishment for Sunday lunch, although the food was acceptable her gin and tonic was served in a large tumbler with a full measure of tonic, our red wine served cold. Schoolboy errors.

Restaurant staff sometime ask if everything is okay but if one says no they seem to be surprised and make some excuse such as it’s the chef's night off tonight, to quote just one example.

I would urge the general public to be more discriminating, to complain and to require a higher standard. I would urge restaurateurs to spent time and effort in achieving efficiency in the quality of food and service. I would also urge critics to order something worth reviewing rather than run of the mill food.

David Ward, Seamer, North Yorkshire.

Downpage news

REGARDING Mike Taylor's letter “BBC bias?” (D&S Times letters, Dec 10). Surely the result of the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election would only have warranted being headline news if in fact the Conservatives had lost, given they have won the seat in every election since the constituency was created.

It did once have an Independent member though but that only came about because the then Conservative MP had the whip withdrawn when he refused to resign following the expenses scandal and he remained as an Independent MP, that fact is perhaps more newsworthy.

Tony Dodd, Leyburn

Comparison needed

IN response to Mike Taylor 's accusation about BBC bias regarding the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election, he really should have been more even handed. “BBC bias?” (D&S Times letters, Dec 10).

He failed to detail the coverage from ITN or Sky News of the result, this would have given a fair comparison.

Or maybe he just prefers to watch BBC news.

Ian Wilson, Guisborough.