Further to last week’s D&S article “Fears over workload of volunteer groups” (D&S Times, Mar 10) it must be a concern to the newly formed North Yorkshire Council (NYC) that volunteer numbers have dropped so drastically.

It is a core feature of their unitary strategy that more volunteers are recruited to take on some of the work and aspirations of the new authority. Clearly this isn’t working.

In the article, Councillors Foster, Griffiths and Brown have highlighted that turning theory into practice requires a bit more thought.

There is however another aspect of “volunteering” which is nothing to do with NYC or their “Stronger Communities Team” and which the council should recognise (and leave alone) as it’s proved very successful in the past.

In my own village and in other surrounding communities many people see keeping an eye on one another, helping the more vulnerable, organising social activities and generally helping the physical and mental wellbeing of neighbours as something they do naturally, not because they’ve joined a list of availability and become a council statistic.

Many individuals and groups do things because human nature tells them it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s part of a big society scheme promoted by local government.

Yes, there are those who function better if organised and directed, and funding will support established charitable organisations, but the red tape and danger of being “corralled” will discourage many, as intimated by Cllrs Foster, Griffiths and Brown.

There is also a danger that, bottling the milk of human kindness, sticking a NYC label on it and selling it back to the public as the council strategy will be seen as disingenuous at best and an abdication of responsibility at worst as the strategy is funnelled down through parish councils.

Still, given this is a core part of the future strategy, then, most councillors believe it will work, and of course it had better work, as there is no “plan B.”

Brian Forbes, Thornton-le-Moor.


WITH reference to the letters in last week's edition of the D&S Times deploring the state of our rivers, I believe that all our utilities should be renationalised, but the question is how can this be achieved? “Waterways woe” and “River protection” (D&S Times letters, Mar 10).

There is no chance of this happening with the present Government but if and when we have a Labour government this could be achieved through the imposition of windfall taxes.

These would have to be punitive enough to ensure that the share price of these companies plummet, enabling the Government to buy them at rock bottom prices.

This would be a win-win situation, providing the wherewithal to improve our public services and to have utilities whose raison d'etre would be to improve the service by investing in vital infrastructure, rather than making excessive profits.

Dick Booth, Guisborough.

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Flawed policy

I AM appalled that Rishi Sunak, my constituency MP, in fronting up the latest government campaign on migration is claiming it is "fair, compassionate and morally right".

Leaving aside this clearly fatuous statement (and its associated slogan of "stop the boats") Mr Sunak claims his policy is both "a personal priority and a priority with the British people".

Had he consulted the latest public surveys regarding migration, asylum and refugees he would have found that national opinion is far more nuanced and diverse than he claims.

Indeed, his policy seems to be aimed almost exclusively at a small coterie of MPs in his own party and not at that entity, "the British people", he claims share his preoccupation.

More mainstream Conservative MPs have already pointed out the numerous practical flaws in the policy, notably the costs, legality, logistics and location of suitable accommodation to hold and house the numbers of individuals concerned.

These practical difficulties will multiply in the coming months, not least being the finding of "safe, third countries" to house the people deported.

I’m guessing Mr Sunak is not a close student of contemporary African history and speaks from a base of inadequate knowledge, but there will be many amongst "the British people" with the requisite expertise who could advise him that Rwanda is not a "safe" depository.

Ironically, the government he leads employs many with this evidence-based expertise.

Gus Pennington, Stokesley.

Vicious policy

ONCE again, our Government’s proposed legislation to stop immigration is revealed as a repulsive, ugly policy which turns our country into an international pariah state amongst those which respect decency, international law and agreed conventions.

This Government seeks to force the boundaries of such civilised norms in a direction which flies in the face of any ethical/moral considerations, heedless of the fate of those driven by desperation to take a real risk with their lives in small boats.

Our ruling party is aware that the safe and legal routes advocated are not available to the majority of those who make it here, and even the numbers of those “legally” arriving here are to be capped – our government will decide the number of desperate people they will accept as suffering.

Have we unilaterally extinguished the right to apply for asylum save for those whom governments permit to apply? What mind came up with this idea? What logic punishes the victims for the perpetrators’ crimes?

Our MPs are also aware that legally there is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker and that the crusade against smugglers, despicable though they are, is merely a convenient cover for bankrupt policies which weaponise trash-media concerns about the unknown in our midst.

The governing party promotes human trafficking by its anti-immigration policies.

We support smugglers and fuel their activities by denying remotely adequate safe routes to the desperate.

I am reminded of a letter in the Guardian in 2016 from a Durham couple: "Certainly, the more closely we approximate to North Korea, the more in control we shall feel."

Let us demand that our MPs raise their voices against this vicious policy contemptuously designed merely to distract by reinforcing prejudice and hatred.

David Cragg-James, Stonegrave, York.

Challenging decisions

I FIND it disappointing that Gary Lineker was reprimanded for his comments about migrants coming to the UK.

We have been trying to resolve this problem for about ten years and our politicians have achieved nothing so perhaps we should look at and change the rules.

I recognise that impartiality is very important for the BBC, but this does not mean that no public figure is allowed to challenge the Home Secretary? I find the reports most disturbing but sadly this is British politics.

Talking about a problem for ten years and achieving nothing is not a good advertisement for our politicians, we need better.

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham.

Hollow pledge

ON our journey to meet a commitment to Net Zero how wonderful it would be if our Prime Minister and MP would lead by example.

News of a new heated swimming pool at Rishi Sunak's home and the need for a new electricity supply to be laid begs a question or two.

Photographs show an extensive pitched roof that could accommodate solar panels for heating the pool for most of the year which would save drawing power from the grid for most of the year, especially if accompanied by battery storage.

This could be supplemented by a wind turbine.

The lack of such installations mean that Government policies for reducing dependence on fossil fuels ring hollow. What we need is a leader to inspire us on the way to Net Zero.

Lisle Ryder, Newton-le-Willows, Bedale.

Voting lottery

AS things stand, the next general election is liable to see mass abstentions or mass voting against rather than for.

I don’t really credit Conservative MPs with the mental agility to avert this (and their own wipe-out) by swiftly introducing such radical reform as proportional representation.

How, within the strait-jacket of single member constituencies, can we accommodate those not wanting a representative who always vote with a major party, or whose social and intellectual milieu is that party?

I suggest that, below the other candidates on a ballot paper, we add a notional party or candidate – “Lottery”. If that option attracts the largest number of votes in a constituency, then the MP will be chosen at random from those who voted “Lottery” there.

This does not involve appointing a completely random voter as the MP.

All those eligible will have declared their non-partisanship. In this significant respect the one picked will reflect the many Lottery voters not picked.

We’d be likely to have a group of Lottery MPs as a "party" unencumbered by a leader, chief whip, manifesto or membership.

As a Lottery voter, the constituency I live in probably wouldn’t have a Lottery MP and, if it did, they wouldn’t be someone (aside from the extremely small chance of it being myself) with whom I see eye to eye on every issue. Yet, across the group, I could expect there to be one or more voting as I would wish them to.

For each motion, we would sensibly focus on the aggregate Lottery votes for and against. We could emphasis this by Lottery MPs using a secret ballot, they will not, after all, have made any promises against which they need to be held to account.

The share of the Parliamentary Lottery vote meeting with my approval would broadly reflect the proportion of my fellow Lottery voters across the country in agreement with me.

This would be a more faithful representation of our views than anyone except the most dedicated party loyalist currently enjoys.

John Riseley, Harrogate.

Donation appeal

THIS month people across the globe will be coming together to put the planet first on Global Recycling Day on Saturday, March 18.

Age UK and our new friends, the Wombles community litter picking group, are helping to spread the message of sustainability and asking the people of Bedale to take part by donating their unwanted items to the Age UK Bedale shop.

The Wombles are working with the charity throughout the year as they celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Together we hope to inspire people to adopt positive (Womble-style) behaviour, whether that’s by recycling their unwanted items and donating them to Age UK, or by reusing pre-loved items purchased in the charity’s shops.

The Age UK Bedale shop urgently needs good quality donations such as clothing and accessories, gifts, toys, household items and shoes, all of which are then sold on to be loved again.

Age UK shops raise funds to support vital services for older people, including the charity’s free and confidential national Advice Line and Telephone Friendship Services.

Global Recycling Day celebrates the importance of recycling when it comes to protecting the planet. Donating your unwanted items to Age UK not only helps raise vital funds for the charity’s work supporting older people, but helps to reduce waste and landfill.

So please join us and the Wombles, and donate your unwanted items on Global Recycling Day.

Not only will you be doing your bit for the environment, you’ll also be helping a great cause.

Margaret Bell, Shop Manager, Age UK Bedale shop.

Redundant signage

I HAVE never seen so many redundant road signs as there are in and around Darlington, which in most cases are dangerous, are just littering, and have no use.

Many are dangerous to pedestrians and motorists, it’s about time the council and the Highways Agency got together and picked the redundant signs up.

Along the A66 there are far too many lying about towards Scotch Corner.

Stan Wilby, Darlington.