State of our rivers: As a volunteer with Save our Swale (SOS), I was delighted to read that North Yorkshire Council (NYC) are to take urgent action to deal with pollution in our rivers and on our coasts.

I hope that councillors will work with all the many volunteer groups in North Yorkshire, including Save Our Swale, who are actively challenging what is going on.

I also hope that NYC engages with Yorkshire Water’s PR 24 Price Review process that sets priorities for 2025-2030 (

The 300-page review does not seem overly concerned with the state of our rivers.

It seems more concerned with the money Yorkshire Water are going to raise on our bills.

PR24 tells us that customers’ bills will increase by 35 per cent (taking into account inflation) from approximately £440pa to £630pa in 2030.

This price hike means that water customers will be paying for infrastructure improvements that should reduce sewage dumping into our rivers by a mere 35 per cent in five years.

Customers will have to wait until quite a few of us are dead – 2050 – for sewage dumping to be restricted further.

Are not the sewerage charges in customers’ bills meant to cover the cost of cleaning up our sewage? If not, what on earth have we been paying for?

Is it right or fair – or even legal – to expect water customers to pay twice?

Will North Yorkshire councillors address the issue of the proposed price hike as well as the fact that Yorkshire Water currently carries a net debt of £6.1bn?

Twenty per cent of customers’ water bills goes on servicing this debt. Meanwhile last year Yorkshire Water paid out £62m in dividends.

What happens if Yorkshire Water fails? Who picks up the tab?

Surely not the customer/tax payer? (again).

Hilary Plews, Save our Swale, Richmond.

Festering issue

FURTHER to letters “Gaza conflict” and “Caution needed” (D&S letters, Oct 20), I read that Rishi Sunak has aligned the UK with the US and against the approach of the EU who seek a ceasefire for humanitarian reasons.

In this, as in much else, he does not reflect my views – I wonder what the majority view of the nation might be?

Our past history of following US foreign policy is not a happy one.

As Brian Tyldesley points out in his letter “Gaza conflict”, the Palestinian-Israel problem remains as a festering sore after many decades.

Hamas is clearly a terrorist organisation – one cannot go around slaughtering innocent civilians – but many innocent people in Gaza are just as dead.

It seems possible that many Palestinians see no other way of protesting their situation.

Surely world leaders should be ashamed that a peaceful solution has not been found – perhaps the total and apparently unquestioning support of Israel by the US has been a contributory factor.

Richard Short, Great Ayton.

Food standards

PRESS reports say that NFU President Minette Batters was “staggered” when she learned that in the last two years the import of Polish battery-cage eggs increased by 2,000 per cent.

At the same time, the Food Standards Agency has linked Polish eggs to a large salmonella outbreak this year.

We are now living, and in some tragic cases dying, with the consequences of the import of low quality food from countries whose hygiene and welfare standards are much lower than they are for British farmers.

Recent trade deals have encouraged the imports that undercut British produced food, while at the same time undermining our public health.

The Government was warned that opening our markets to producers operating at standards lower than ours would damage both British farming and our public health.

The government response, as typified in a reply from local Tory MP Dehenna Davison, was that everything would be fine.

Now the Tory chickens are coming home to roost, but it is the farmers and the consumers who are bearing the consequences of the Conservatives’ obsession with cutting regulation.

We now have cut-price competition for the farmers and public health risks for the consumers.

The Tories used to be the farmers’ party. Surely not any more.

Phil Hunt, Barningham.

Exemplary pupils

WE are aware young people often get bad press, I would in a small way like to redress the balance.

On Wednesday, October 25, I boarded the 7.30am train from Darlington to Kings Cross, a party of some 25 pupils I judged to be about 12 to 13-years-old also got on the train, entering the same carriage I was in along with two or three other passengers.

Before the train departed a member of the train company informed us we could transfer to another carriage which would be quieter expecting the pupils to be somewhat rowdy.

As my sister was joining me at York I decided not to change carriages.

Not once during the two-and a-half-hour journey were we in any way disturbed by the pupils. In fact, they were courteous and friendly, acknowledging us and exchanging greetings.

I was given to understand they were pupils from St. Aidan’s Academy off to visit the House of Commons.

They were a credit to themselves their parents and their school. I hope they enjoyed their trip.

Margaret Lee, School Aycliffe.

Black History Month

IT is quite pleasing to see that we are having a Black History Month; but it does raise the question – why just Black history?

History like all subjects taught at school, due to time constraints and intellectual capacity of the students, is just a superficial skim of key issues, events, and people.

I do not recall being taught “white history” per-se.

What I was taught was the history of these islands, it’s interactions with the rest of the world and the activities of just a few key people.

It is just that the vast majority of the peoples of these islands – as well as the various peoples who invaded us and inflicted mass slaughter – just happened to be white.

We were presented with historical facts and no attempt was made to say that our culture was better or worse than anyone else’s.

It did not shy away from the wrongs of our history.

Those wrongs did, apparently contrary to current popular perception, include information on slavery and the African slave trade.

We were also taught about the African slave traders taking over a million white people from western Europe into slavery: of the Black African leaders campaigning for the continuation of the slave trade. It did acknowledge the contribution slavery made to the wealth of this country, thus assisting industrial development.

It did not however ignore the contribution made by the woollen industry, the lead, coal, tin and iron miners, the industrial workers, both adult and child, and the genius of our innovators and inventors who drove that revolution.

I have to assume that those people who do not recall fit the educational mantra “I taught them it, but they did not learn it”.

The ethnic mix of this country has changed, and is changing, dramatically and it is proper that education is appropriately updated.

In doing so it should be remembered that our society is much more complex than just black and white. To give one group priority over all the others is potentially problematic.

Unfortunately, it will be impossible to give all cultures represented a detailed coverage of their ancestral history and cultures in our education system – even if we drop from the syllabus the actual history of these islands, its culture and the contribution of its peoples to the world we now live in.

John Hutchinson, Brompton on Swale.

Cool chemists

NO doubt many chemists have been extremely busy with the flu and Covid jabs.

Our chemist in Catterick Village especially, it seems to have been non-stop for weeks now, even opening on Sundays.

But the staff are so well organised, keep their cool, and are so kind, nothing seems to be too much trouble. They are so well organised with everything. I would like to say well done and thank you to them all.

Dulcie Farmer, Catterick Village.

New name debate

I WAS pleased to read that at last the North Road Railway Museum in Darlington has been given a new name, “Hopetown revealed as the new name for visitor hub” (D&S Times, Oct 27).

The Head of Steam was never a great choice.

It’s great to have a new name to link the area back to the beginning, but the name Hopetown doesn’t tell people who don’t know the area, what it means.

Something like “The Hopetown Railway Heritage Quarter” would tell the world a bit more. I can’t wait to see the end result after the scaffolding comes down and the work is complete.

John Hill, Darlington.

Profit priority

STORM BABET should be a wakeup call but the present ordering of our society blocks any climate progress.

Energy firms rake in billions from oil and gas while investing more on new sources rather than renewables.

Despite the heatwaves, wildfires and floods PM Rishi Sunak’s policies are a love letter to the motorist. Cowardly Keir Starmer backs down from Ultra Low Emission Zones after one narrow Tory by-election win.

But both the Conservatives and Labour, far from appeasing the electorate, are more interested in protecting corporate profits. From air pollution to dirty rivers these issues are seen as icebergs to be steered around rather than problems to be solved.

Four decades of neoliberalism, where every area of human activity must make a profit, have undermined our capacity to cope with emergencies.

For example, cuts in public spending resulted in fire brigade jobs being cut by a third since 2010. During Storm Babet, the fire service was so overstretched it was unable to attend scores of flooding incidents.

A rationally run society would respond to the symptoms of climate change like floods by increasing resources and protecting us from its effects.

The UK prefers to fill the coffers of Serco and G4S. As a result corporate profit margins go through the roof as we float down the swanee.

The world is changing but without political change to match, we are all staring into the abyss.

C Walker, Darlington.

Forgotten war

HAS anybody else noticed that since the war in Gaza and Israel started, the war in Ukraine with Russia has been forgotten about in the news media?

G O Wright, Sadberge.