Second homes

TEN years ago, my late wife and I wanted a second home and the choice came down to the Costa del Sol or the Yorkshire Dales. We decided on a lovely cottage in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Entirely reasonably, we wanted to spend quality time together in her final years (she died of cancer, aged 49) and visited every weekend, including winter, spending money in local pubs, shops and businesses. The family still enjoy the cottage today.

Now the National Park Authority sees second homeowners as the cause of a housing shortage for local people. My council tax could rise to more than £8,000 making the cottage unaffordable and forcing sale. In turn the market will be affected causing the property to lose money.

The policy is both premature and narrow-focused. Although houses sell well in the National Park, they are still not at their peak price. We bought our cottage in 2007 for £185,000, I had it valued eight weeks ago at £165,000.

Other options need fuller exploration. Bringing disused agricultural buildings into new use and dealing with empty homes should be higher up the ‘to-do’ list. The cottage next door to mine has been empty 11 years and nearby farm buildings have been converted in ways that are perfectly compatible with the local landscape and heritage.

New second homeowners face a large stamp duty bill – a new measure not yet properly evaluated.

Furthermore, when I bought there was no prospect of this tax and for it to be brought in retrospectively for existing owners seems unfair. It would be better to offer a normal council tax rate to any second homeowner who would sign a legal undertaking, similar to 106 agreements for new homes, to sell to a local buyer. Over time this combination of steep stamp duty and a carrot of second home tax exemption for current owners willing to restrict their sale to locals, could change the home ownership demographic in the Dales.

Demonising people who have spent their savings legally to enjoy a national asset seems divisive and crude. True, it will deter second homeowners from investing in the Dales, but rather than visiting they may just buy in places like Spain and spend their money abroad.

Graham Robb, West Witton.

Bank closures

LYING awake in the early hours one morning recently, the words of a Richmond town councillor, about the closure of the NatWest branch, came to mind: “Luckily we have many other banks present so we’re not entirely reliant on NatWest but hopefully customers will change their accounts to a bank that is willing to invest in our town.” (D&S, Dec 8).

But what about other rural market towns, who may only have the one bank operating, which may be due to close? This same calamity not only affects ordinary people, who solely rely on banking facilities, but it certainly affects elderly people, partially disabled people (who are able to get about), and especially local business people?

I know the Richmond, Reeth, and Barnard Castle post offices are providing some banking facilities on top of their normal postal services and foreign money transactions, but you cannot beat having a proper local banking system for everybody to participate in. It is definitely a very much needed, important facility, for rural towns and villages.

Online banking may suit a lot of people – it may be ideal for people who are unable to get out and about – but these scientific boffins who have created all this modern technology have created a lot of problems and also unemployment.

Now some scientists have created automated robots! Where’s all this going to end?

All I can say is: “God help us all in the coming future!”

Roland Bramham, Richmond.

Overburdened NHS

THERE seems no doubt that the Lambert Hospital in Thirsk was originally endowed to the people of Thirsk for their benefit.

The hospital has been used by the NHS and financed and supported by taxes and the generosity of local people. The NHS at no time bought the hospital and has effectively occupied the building as a "squatter".

If the NHS does not wish to use it anymore, the least it can do is hand the building back to the people of Thirsk.

It beggars belief that the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wishes to prevent any future use of the premises for healthcare purposes. How on earth can this be justified? Surely this restriction will reduce the value of the property. In fact, the valuation of the site does seem unbelievably low, doesn`t it? I wonder why?

The CCG is a quango with numerous members being over-generously financed by us via NHS funds which could have been spent on front line nursing and medical services.

We have a system that does not provide enough university places to train the doctors that we need, and the nursing training now requires an expensive degree course which has replaced the on-the-job "apprenticeship" training.

We have an NHS overburdened with expensive bureaucracy which does nothing to improve the efficiency of the business and cannot even staff places like the Lambert.

Really, words almost fail me!

Chris Wright, Thirsk.

Tax rise for NHS

THE future of the Friarage hospital in Northallerton continues to cause great concern. You report (D&S, Dec 8) that “few are having their say” in response to the series of engagement events being held across Hambleton and Richmondshire.

Those who have attended these engagement sessions will completely understand why the response rate has been low. It appears that the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has already decided the future of the Friarage, and it does not include an A&E facility. There appears little the public can say to change this sad state of affairs.

This is a familiar pattern to other recent engagements and consultations; they are self serving and change nothing.

The current survey asks us to give our ideas for a sustainable Friarage. Surely that it is the responsibility of the Trust, although it has not made a great job of it over the last few years, with services being gradually relocated to James Cook.

It cannot be right that these decisions about the future of the Friarage are made by an organisation based outside North Yorkshire.

In the same edition, your correspondent Jane Ritchie writes that the public need to be more realistic about their expectations of the NHS. She explains that the CCG is doing its best within the very challenging budget set by the Conservative Government.

Here, then, is the crux of the matter; it’s all about the money.

It is just not realistic to expect the NHS to meet the increasing demands placed upon it by an ageing population without an increase in funding. The Liberal Democrats propose a penny on income tax to provide that additional funding now, not sometime in the future when the mythical £350m per week promised on the side of a bus may, or may not appear, depending on who you believe.

As I write, the Scottish government has done just that, introducing new tax bands of 21p and 41p. We can afford to pay more for the NHS and social care, and we need to start now.

Philip Wicks, Richmondshire Liberal Democrats.

Police funding

IN answer to the questions Redcar & Cleveland Councillor Steve Kay poses in his ill-informed letter (D&S, Dec 15), Neighbourhood Policing remains a priority for Cleveland Police and that will continue for as long as I am the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Government has cut funding to the force by 36 per cent in the past seven years resulting in the loss of 500 officer posts and it is planning a further real term cut of over £2.5m next year.

Instead of undermining hard working police community support officers, Steve needs to join me in doing all he can to ensure the MPs representing this part of the world use their vote to defeat any budget measures that would result in these further cuts to Cleveland Police.

I will ensure that the new Chief Constable is aware of the high priority we place on community policing, but he or she can only deploy the officers at their disposal and that is reliant on Government funding.

Barry Coppinger, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland Police.

Ecce Romani

I AM immensely sad that the impact of cuts made in Whitehall has led an historic local school to stop teaching Latin, possibly for the first time in its long history.

Supressing a desire to throw a piece of chalk across the room and bang a copy of Kennedy’s Latin Primer onto the nearest desk, I would like to make a plea for this most beautiful and valuable language and its relevance today.

A knowledge of Latin improves our understanding of English.

Latin is the source of more than half of the English vocabulary, and to know the source of a word is to understand it better.

Latin is the language of forensic technical material used in courts of law, eg “Corpus delicti”.

Latin is the language used by Linnaes for the binomial taxonomy of plants and animals and used internationally.

Latin is the language for chemical elements and compounds.

It is also on every single coin in our pocket.

If all else fails to convince us that Latin is a worthwhile language to study, then let us look no further than that universal role model for young people – David Beckham.

On his left forearm he has: “ut Amen et Foveam.” (That I might love and cherish) which makes careful and correct use of the subjunctive.

On this right arm he has: “Perfictio in spiritu.” (Perfection in spirit.)

If there is only one reason for retaining Latin in our schools it is surely to give our children the skill to translate footballers’ tattoos.

And if Virgil will forgive the pun “Arma virumque cano” (I sing of arms and of the man.)

Rodney Hall, Richmond.

Universal Credit

AS an MP, Rishi Sunak should know better than to misrepresent official statistics. In his column, he states that the working age welfare bill at £90bn is now almost the same as spending on the NHS (D&S, Dec 15). This is not correct.

A cursory check of the Office of National Statistics website shows that across the UK just over £46bn goes on benefits for working age adults and their families, whereas £147bn goes on the NHS.

Such a misleading statement perpetuates the myth that people who are out of work or on a low income are a comparatively significant drain on the taxpayer. They are not.

It is great that JobCentre coaches are helping more people into work. However we need to recognise that there are people who are struggling to get work or who are in work but have a very low income. The vast majority of people who are depending on Universal Credit and in-work Tax Credits do not choose to be in that situation. They and their families need the support of a compassionate benefits system.

The Universal Credit system is so dysfunctional that it is now closed to new claimants. New claimants are required to access the old benefits system!

Mr Sunak acknowledges that the Universal Credit system is not perfect. Anyone who has tried to access the benefits system for working age adults will tell you that it is almost impossible unless you can get on-line. Given that Mr Sunak has campaigned for better broadband and mobile phone coverage, he will understand what a real barrier that is.

For Mr Sunak to suggest that the Universal Credit system is being sorted out will come as little comfort to those families who are battling a dysfunctional benefits system and are struggling to make ends meet this Christmas. It may have been unintended, but at this time of year Mr Sunak’s comments and observations are ill-judged and offensive.

Perhaps Mr Sunak would like to consider making an apology, before Christmas, for his error of fact and his error of judgement.

David McAsey, Hutton Rudby.

Eating out

ARE you sure you really ate at La Vecchia Scuola in York (D&S, Dec 15)? Five of us ate there last Wednesday and had a fabulous experience! The ambience was great. We ate in the conservatory with its wonderful view of York Minster. The Italian staff were friendly and very helpful.

The food was cooked to perfection and very reasonable in price, as was the wine. I would rate it five for food, five for service, five for ambience and five for value.

Diana Jolland plus four friends, North Yorkshire.

Police parking

WHILE walking past the new North Yorkshire Police headquarters in Northallerton, I counted 13 parked police vehicles. Presumably they are all taxed and insured – so why aren't they out and about earning their keep?

If they were, then the slalom that has become Greenhowsyke Lane would disappear as those parked cars would be in the police headquarters car park.

Bit of a result all round, I fancy!

Howard James Ellis, South Otterington.

Town solutions

WHILE Hambleton District Council is merrily approving a wide range of planning applications for developments on the north side of Northallerton, which I do not particularly object to in themselves as I am happily resident on one such development, when will they finally do something to accommodate all of the extra traffic and pedestrians that these new developments are creating?

We all know about the queues of traffic caused by Low Gates level crossing, which will get worse next year when Virgin East Coast starts to run services along that line to and from Middlesbrough.

We hear talk of an access road as part of the North Northallerton Development Area, but nothing tangible appears to be imminent with this. When will the path be completed to connect Mowbray Park/Castlegate to the town, one of the key sales points given by Barratt Homes/David Wilson Homes?

Why not build a footbridge over Willow Beck and the railway line to the land next to the Willow Beck pub on Finkills Way in order to reduce the need for pedestrians using narrow pavements over the bridge and level crossing?

Why not build a pavement along the south side of Yafforth Road, or a pedestrian crossing along there?

Why not build an enclosed footbridge over the East Coast Mainline where there is currently a right of way across the railway line in the immediate vicinity of some 300 houses?

Meanwhile there are plans for another 38 houses along Yafforth Road, hundreds more off Darlington Road and Stokesley Road which are in progress, a retirement home and hotel on Finkills Way, all of which will generate more traffic and more pedestrians.

I appreciate the good work on major developments like the former prison site, we’ve seen some £36m spent on the delightful Bedale/Leeming bypass, but how about spending some money on the infrastructure in the county town before creating more congestion?

The council doesn’t have a good track record with certain planning decisions here, such as the building next to the train station which obstructs the view of Boroughbridge Road when leaving the station, or the width of the road with parking spaces at the end of Quaker Lane when it approved the building of new houses there – perhaps it could think ahead a bit more, be proactive rather than reactive.

Jamie Mash, Northallerton.

Brexit facts

LAST week’s letter writers just do not seem to understand the facts (D&S, Dec 15). Regarding the EU referendum words like “advisory” are being used as a prop to overturn the result. The facts are the electorate were simply asked in or out, and they clearly voted out. Our arrogant MPs should bear that in mind.

In 1975 we had a referendum on the EEC which was simply a trading agreement between nine nations, not a referendum to form an undemocratic, corrupt dictatorship of the 'United States of Europe'.

The facts that the electorate voted for were control of our laws, immigration, tax, trade, and borders. We will be able to trade freely with the rest of the world. With modern shipping distance is not a barrier. We already import perishable goods from far away as Thailand and the Caribbean. Britain can only prosper because British taxpayers will not be propping up a corrupt EU.

The facts are that Norway and Canada have a trade agreement with the EU, and Switzerland (which is in the middle of Europe) is thriving and prosperous and has over 100 separate trade agreements with the EU. Greenland left the EU in 1985 and no one batted an eyelid, or were even aware of it at the time.

Ask a simple question. How did we trade with the EEC and deal with the Irish border pre 1973? Can anyone come up with any problems at that time?

Post-Brexit Britain will take back control of UK waters and stop French and Spanish fishermen exploiting our fishing grounds. Sixty per cent of European fish comes from UK waters. Can anyone deny that will be a major boost to the North East fishing industry.

It is unpalatable to hear unelected has-been politicians (Barnier, Tusk, Juncker) dictating to Britain. It should be remembered that from 1939 to 1945 not one French, Belgian, Dutch or Luxembourg politician dictated to Britain.

Trevor Nicholson, Leeming.

High spot

IT should be obvious to anyone visiting or driving past the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge that it does not occupy the highest point on the North York Moors (Countryman’s Daughter, Dec 15). The road alongside, Hutton-le-Hole to Castleton, clearly adopts a rising gradient to the north. And it is one-and-a-half miles in that direction, at the junction with the Rosedale road, near Ralph Cross (Young Ralph if you must) that the highest point in the Moors accessible by car is reached. At 1,370ft this is 45ft higher than the Lion Inn.

Harry Mead, Great Broughton.

Homeless help

LAST week, my wife was shopping in one of our North Yorkhire towns, on a bitterly cold day, and was talking to a young homeless beggar, when a large man hurried up to them and thrust a small parcel into the young man’s hands saying: "Eat them while they're still hot."

It was a parcel of fish and chips.

The man left and the recipient told my wife that the donor was an off-duty policeman.

I recall, quite a few years ago, a chief constable complaining that the police were not being given the respect he felt they were due.

I can assure that chief constable that this small act of kindness has certainly earned our respect.

I have not named the town, not wishing to embarrass that policeman, but I wish to say: “Well done sir, and God bless you.”

Mick White, Wensley.