FIVE years ago this week, the then editor of The Northern Echo, Peter Barron, stepped down after 17 years in the post.

2001: Peter Barron with Prime Minister Tony Blair

2001: Peter Barron with Prime Minister Tony Blair

The Northern Echo’s report on Peter Barron stepping down

The Northern Echo’s report on Peter Barron stepping down

Mr Barron joined The Northern Echo as a reporter in 1984 after spending three years as a trainee with the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph.

He rose through the ranks to become deputy editor of the Great Daily of the North before leaving to edit the Hartlepool Mail in 1997.

He returned to The Northern Echo as editor in January 1999 and had gone on to become the paper’s longest-serving editor.

In 2013, he was awarded the MBE for services to journalism and community life in the North-East and was presented with a lifetime of achievement award by the Society of Editors a year later. He is also a deputy lieutenant of County Durham and the author of six children’s books.

Mr Barron said at the time: “It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to step down as editor but The Northern Echo is in robust health both in print and online and I feel the time is right to hand over to someone with fresh ideas and the energy to take the title into a new era in its illustrious history.”

Also that week, a North-East hospital had become the first in the world to fit wireless pacemakers the size of a grain of rice to heart failure patients.

The wireless pacemaker on a 20p piece.

The wireless pacemaker on a 20p piece.

The Northern Echo’s front page on the pacemaker

The Northern Echo’s front page on the pacemaker

Seriously-ill patients at the James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, were the first to benefit from the potentially lifesaving new technology, which could revolutionise treatment for heart attacks.

Surgeons and cardiologists conventionally treat the condition with a Cardiac Resynchronisation Therapy (CRT) device, known as a biventricular pacemaker.

This sits below the collar bone and relies on wires that feed into the right chambers of the heart, which perform the vital function of pumping deoxygenated blood into the lungs.

But the new type of wireless pacemaker, developed by EBR Systems Inc and known as WiSE Technology, is implanted directly into the innermost layer of tissue that lines the left chamber of the heart.

This can then perform the same job as a traditional CRT pacemaker.

Also that week, a cash-strapped council that was axing 2,300 jobs had been cutting the grass in thousands of private gardens for free for years, costing the taxpayer possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Then Liberal Democrat Mark Wilkes condemned Durham County Council

Then Liberal Democrat Mark Wilkes condemned Durham County Council

The Northern Echo’s front page on The Council’s waste of money

The Northern Echo’s front page on The Council’s waste of money

Durham County Council, which was faced with savings of more than £370m had voted to close care homes, leisure centres and the DLI Museum, put the oversight – the cost of which one councillor put at £4.2m – down to the complex processes of selling off and transferring ex-council houses.

Oliver Sherratt, the council’s interim corporate director of neighbourhood services, said stopping the service would save the authority an estimated £18,000 a year.

But Liberal Democrat Councillor Mark Wilkes said: “This is unbelievable. The council has been cutting the grass of 2,234 households for free for at least six years and didn’t realise or didn’t care about the cost to the public."