So-called democracy: When the Liberal Democrat had a clear run against their candidate in the Masham & Fountains by-election last February, the council's Tory group were "furious" – now North Yorkshire Council leader, Carl Les tells us: "I am certainly not in favour of tactical voting" (D&S Times, Nov 17).

What a surprise!

Fearing the Brexit rival to their right, the party was absorbed. Thus the (now) centre-right Brexervatives, as ever, expect to benefit from a centre-left now splintered into three by the Greens.

That much is a given. Apparently we must not even discuss this inequality; Councillor Gareth Dadd (D&S Times, Feb 24) is reported denigrating the idea of having the council elected by proportional representation as "time-wasting, grandstanding and irrelevant". Wow!

As with other matters which should have been settled before the creation of the new North Yorkshire unitary authority, the system of electing its councillors seems not to have been considered. Was it considered having the local election single transferable vote (STV) system of Scotland, or the hybrid constituency/list system that elects the Edinburgh Parliament, the latter said to have been designed by New Labour to keep the SNP out of power? Good luck with that one!

I hope the electors of Sowerby & Topcliffe will bear in mind the above when they go to the polls on November 30.

Doubtless Cllr Dadd will denounce my ideas so perhaps he will tell us next week how devolution is be the "absolute strengthening of democracy" as he has publicly promised. (D&S Times, Sept 9, 2022).

How will the new mayor be elected? The antiquated first past the post system? The second preference system used to elect the police and crime commissioner?

What will be his formalised relationship with the two constituent councils, one still, just about, Brexervative controlled, the other dominated by Labour and the Lib Dems?

All this should have been decided before the changes.

Meanwhile, devolution is accompanied by Westminster preparing to legislate to micromanage our recycle bins. Hoots!

J Fyles, Sowerby.

Tactical voting

I WAS dismayed to read of the decision by progressive parties to all put forward candidates for the upcoming by-election for North Yorkshire Council in Sowerby and Topcliffe.

The people of the region voted for Dave Whitfield of the Green party to stand as their representative for five years in May last year.

Unfortunately, Mr Whitfield has had to stand down through ill health so it would seem only sensible for other parties to stand aside and give the new Green party candidate a decent shot at taking over, rather than splitting the vote and making it a walk over for the Conservatives.

Until we get rid of the archaic first past the post system and replace it with much more democratic proportional representation, tactical voting is the only way we are going to rid ourselves of the Conservative stranglehold in this part of the country.

Come on people, start working together for the common good.

Wendy Patch, Bedale.

Split vote

FURTHER to Stuart Minting’s article “Six candidates contest Sowerby and Topcliffe by-election” (D&S Times, Nov 14) it seems to us that the five non-Tory candidates in this by-election need to take a good hard look at themselves, and at the certain defeat that faces them if they allow the progressive vote to be split.

We and thousands of other progressive voters would challenge them to put aside personal ambition, and to ask themselves what is more important: getting the Tories out, or allowing them to win by failing to organise tactically.

Jacob Heringman and Susanna Pell, Richmond.

A candidate writes

MY apologies if you don't live in the Sowerby/Topcliffe electoral division for which there will be an election for a new North Yorkshire councillor on Thursday, November 30, however many of you may have friends and associates in that area who will be entitled to vote.

I am standing in the election as the Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate.

You may be thinking “what the …” but please let me explain.

I am a long standing town councillor who strongly believes in supporting the views of the local people but even more significant is the fact that I am not restricted in my role by remote party politics that the major party candidates have to abide to, regardless of how those may affect local issues.

The loss of Hambleton District Council earlier this year, an efficient well-managed vibrant, financially stable council that looked after and promoted your interests locally and not remotely has been detrimental to the residents of the area and next year devolution will move major decisions even further away from the ratepayers.

I will fight for local people over party politics – local solutions for local people whether that may be highways safety matters such as traffic speeds and road conditions, rail and Post Office closures and any other proposals that adversely affect you personally.

Please use your vote in this election. Do not think that all political parties are all the same so why should I bother to vote.

A vote for me gives you a viable alternative reason for turning out to vote or returning your postal vote.

Stew Exotic, AKA Stewart Barber, Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate, Sowerby and Topcliffe division by-election.

Following protocol

YOUR reader, Mr Mundell, writes at feeling upset at treatment when attending his bank “Third degree” (D&S letters, Nov 17).

I feel it is important to flag up that banks follow "banking protocol" particularly for elderly or vulnerable clients due to the incredible increases in fraud cases and scams.

It is very common for people to be "taken" to banks to withdraw larger sums such as mentioned as they can be threatened or coerced into making payments often for very menial amounts or work and told to tell banks that money is for relatives, repairs or a similar story.

Silver surfers with tablets have not all grown up learning the security and safeguarding that regular computer users have become used to and can easily succumb to fraud, romance frauds, purchasing scams and particularly investment fraud.

Banks and police will never ask anyone to move money from or to another account.

It is unfortunate that Mr Mundell felt bothered by this safeguarding as I am aware of people that have lost huge amounts and the pain and distress caused can be life changing in these cases, causing agoraphobia, embarrassment and considerable financial hardship.

"If in doubt, check it out" works for public as well as the banks that are losing millions when they have to refund fraud victims.

Ian Wright, Bedale.

Impacting elderly

AS the CEO of Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington, it has become increasingly apparent that the current cost of living crisis is having a profound impact on our older population.

Recent research conducted by Age UK highlights a worrying trend: six in ten older people with annual household incomes of £20,000 or less are cutting back on heating or powering their homes to make ends meet.

This alarming statistic is a clear indicator of the distressing circumstances faced by many.

As we enter the colder months, the fear and anxiety among our elderly is palpable.

Our findings reveal that 54 per cent of over-60s are worried about paying their energy bills, while 44 per cent have reduced their social and leisure activities due to financial constraints.

Moreover, 16 per cent are cutting back on essential services such as telephone, internet, and water.

The anticipated high energy prices, expected to persist until at least the end of 2024, pose a significant threat to those with limited savings, those living on low incomes but not claiming their due financial support, and those with increased energy needs due to health conditions or disabilities.

In light of this, Age UK is advocating for the government to extend targeted support for older people this winter.

Our recommendations include expanding the eligibility for cost of living payments, extending these payments beyond Spring 2024, increasing the Household Support Fund, and ensuring the State Pension and other benefits keep pace with inflation.

The voices of those affected are heart-rending. A 72-year-old man, ineligible for Pension Credit and thus for cost of living pay outs, speaks of his struggle to make ends meet.

A 67-year-old woman, unable to afford transportation due to ill health, feels increasingly isolated. These stories are not isolated incidents but represent a broader issue affecting millions.

As we continue our work to encourage Pension Credit claims, which saw £1.72bn unclaimed in 2021/2022, we believe more proactive measures are necessary. The government must reform the delivery of these benefits, ensuring that older people are not burdened with navigating complex systems.

I urge the media to bring this critical issue to the forefront of public discourse.

By highlighting the struggles of our older community, we can collectively advocate for the changes necessary to provide them with the support and dignity they deserve.

Helen Hunter, CEO, Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington.

Better class of rubbish...

SINCE the end of single-use plastic containers for takeaway foods on October 1 and their replacement with biodegradable eco-friendly takeaway containers, I’ve noticed that instead of the disgusting plastic containers containing foods scattered around the streets, we now have a better class of biodegradable litter.

Many late-night revellers are giving pigs a bad name with their disgusting eating habits.

D M Deamer, York.

National Trust change

FOUNDING members of the National Trust must be turning in their graves at the direction this once fine organisation is heading, led by people with more interest in woke diversity and inclusivity than preservation. Intellectual “know alls” whose knowledge of the history and architecture of the properties entrusted to their charge is possibly limited to thinking “gargoyles” are a remedy for a sore throat.

Peter Rickaby, Selby.

Cost of tobacco

THE Government has brought in a situation where the age to buy tobacco products is going up every year.

Well, I’m glad I won’t be around in later years, because the Government gets somewhere in the region of £50m to £80m in tax duty from smokers.

Where are they going to get that back? Probably on fuel, alcohol, spirits, income tax etc.

The people that don’t smoke will suffer, whilst they claw the millions back.

Andy Wood, York.

Rope access

FURTHER to my letter article on the restoration of the plaque on Yarm Viaduct, Network Rail have suggested rope access will be needed, let’s hope such skills are available locally?

Steve Crighton, Yarm.