COUNTRY MATTERS: WHOSE country is this? How low and how greedy can this Government get?

We are priced, taxed and conned into submission by legal blackmail and lackadaisical, incompetent nincompoops who live in a world of their own.

These three are a funny lot: Reid, Darling and Straw. They have made a mess of each job they have had. Why treat the British public like a set of backward delinquents. Not all of us have just got off an onion boat.

CCTV cameras, meters, toll gates, road tax, Asbos, leg tags. What a farce. ID cards - a load of old tripe. We have insurance numbers, licences for driving.

We don't all have well-paid, cushy, inside jobs and expenses paid to boot to sit in the biggest armchair theatre in this country, the House of Commons, and talk a load of hogwash while bleeding the British people dry by buffoonery. It's dictatorship not democracy. - Vincent Weldon, Witton Gilbert.


I WAS absolutely appalled to read (Echo, June 3) that hospital bosses are thinking of removing Bibles from hospital bedsides for fear of upsetting non-Christians.

Don't hospital bosses realise that these Bibles can be a lifeline to some patients? They can read words of comfort from them and, rather than offending non-Christians, would it not be better to give them an opportunity to lead them towards God?

Everyone needs God in their lives in order to be made whole and to get happiness. Taking Bibles away from hospital beds might stop these patients from being cured more quickly and also deprive them from knowing God, who is the distributor of all happiness. - Margaret A Greenhalgh, Darlington.


I READ (Echo, June 7) of the aid campaign and fund raising for Africa.

This is very noble of all concerned but, on the same front page, I read of our old age pensioners struggling to keep warm and how an estimated 22,000 died of a result of the cold and malnutrition last year.

I would have thought that our own people should have come first and that they should be saving our pensioners, of which I am one, and still working at 73 years old. - BE Marley, Northallerton.


I HAVE just read a letter on Times Online ( ) in which someone suggests that if London is determined to stage the Olympic Games in 2012 how it might be a gesture of generosity for Her Majesty's Government (whoever happens to be in power at that time) to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece.

I fully support such a goodwill action and may I advocate that others who believe in justice likewise campaign for these magnificent ancient relics be returned to their rightful owners - the Greek people, in particular the Athenians from whose temple, the Parthenon, they were taken. (Although I understand, Lord Elgin bought them from the Turks).

These sculptures are not ours, but belong to Greece, especially Athens. - Bethany-Megan Robinson, Middleton St George.


I REMEMBER Margaret Thatcher arguing Britain's case over its EU rebate in 1984 (Echo, June 11). Britain even then was a major contributor to Europe and the Prime Minister of the day was intent on having her full £1bn refund.

In the end an agreement was reached which allowed Britain to receive two-thirds of what it asked for and the settlement was regarded as a good one.

There is little point holding to an inflexible stance and Britain may well have to compromise in the new discussions. - LD Wilson, Guisborough.


VERY few people of my generation - I am in my 84th year and served for six years in the Second World War - think the BBC gives value for money.

I think Terry Wogan was awarded his knighthood for defending the BBC's programme quality over a 20-year period.

Your newspaper would do a public service by printing views on giving such a person a knighthood, when most people are appalled at BBC programme quality.

My wife of 59 years shares my views that earning such an honour is a mockery. - Name and address supplied.

HAIL Swaledale

FEELING like the mole in the Wind in the Willows, who decided to quit his spring cleaning in favour of the spring up above, I journeyed to Muker in Swaledale.

It was a glorious June day and, as I arrived at Muker, the church clock was striking mid-day. The clock always reminds me of the Trumpton clock of the much loved children's television programme.

Leaving the village, I crossed the famed Muker hayfields, which were abundant with wild flowers, and made my way to Keld along the riverside path.

Keld is a curious place. As you sit in the little square you half expect a Victorian gentleman to come past on a penny-farthing bicycle. Yet, do not be fooled. A look at the war memorial will reveal that Keld played a part in the First World War. Four young men sacrificed their June days for our tomorrows.

Then it was on and upwards, along the corpse way to the top of Kisdon Hill. The climb is arduous but the end reward considerable. There before you is the full beauty of the Swaledale landscape.

I walked back into Muker and renewed my acquaintance with Eleanor from Dewsbury. There is on a seat in Muker an obituary to Eleanor which pays tribute to her profound love of Muker and the Dales. Well, Eleanor, you got it about right. - D Parker, Bishop Auckland.


I WOULD like to respond to comments made by B Scott about problems he experienced with the 30/31a bus service in Darlington.

Regrettably, there can be occasions when journeys fail to operate because of a vehicle breakdown and, in common with other road users, some of our services in Darlington are currently being adversely affected by roadworks.

We would like to apologise to any customers inconvenienced as a result. We were concerned by Mr Scott's claim that a bus was left standing with its engine running and, as a result, we have reminded all our drivers that engines should be switched off if the vehicle is not in use.

If Mr Scott, or any other customers, have any concerns about the reliability of our services, we would ask them to contact us direct on 08701 20 10 88 so that we can investigate for them. - Iain McInroy, Operations Director, Arriva North East.


DAVID Griffiths's letter (HAS, June 1) was wrong in saying that the Second World War was unavoidable. It was avoidable.

After the First World War, the allies allowed the Nazis to rearm, which made war unavoidable.

War could have been stopped before it started and 50 million lives would have been saved. - J Cook, Newton Aycliffe.

The School Closure Debate

So many questions: IT seems that far too many questions have failed to be asked of the people involved in attempting to push their agenda through without proper consideration of, and discussion with, the parents and taxpayers of Darlington, who are surely of some importance.

Surely the most important factor in all of this, are the pupils? What sort of message is this sending out to future employers/parents about Eastbourne? That all the children who attend this school are badly behaved and poor achievers? That all the teachers at Eastbourne are worthless? Surely not! Yes, the school has had its problems, but don't make it the scapegoat for all that is wrong in education in the town.

By announcing the closures and without public debate what will be the effects on the education of present pupils at the two schools earmarked for closure, especially the pupils at Eastbourne, who only a few months ago were being praised by all, including the head of the Hurworth/Eastbourne Federation, for coming out of special measures after a series of inspections by an independent team of experienced HMI Inspectors?

How objective was the team of local authority inspectors in its assessment of Eastbourne when it produced a report that resulted in the headteacher being suspended a short time before the closures were announced?

Can the acting headteacher at Eastbourne really be relied upon to act in the best interests of Eastbourne pupils and staff when he has such a conflict of loyalties and interests?

Has anybody putting these proposals forward tried to travel along Yarm Road and the bypass road at rush hour or when Cummins or Orange are starting or finishing a shift? The roads are jammed now.

Are larger schools the answer considering the continuing problems at the Middlesbrough City Academy?

Who thought calling a school next to Tommy Crook's Park should be named Hurworth? Not somebody who knows anything about local history or geography. Alderman Crooks must be spinning in his grave. - Mr G. Alexander, Darlington.

Cash comes first

AS a Hurworth mother never have I, or the other mothers with which 1 have spoken today, come across such a set of suspicious and badly thought out plans as the ones I have just found out about for Hurworth Comprehensive. Are there no longer people in the education system with common sense?

If Hurworth is too small and a bit run down then stop the children from town going to it, thus reducing class sizes, modernise it with some of the money put aside from the Government's £20m and then go ahead and build a new school on Yarm Road to replace Eastbourne out of the change, as this will now cater for less pupils, and therefore it will cost less as it can be smaller.

It will be interesting to see what new use the valuable Hurworth land will be put to and just who really is going to benefit financially. The way this matter is being rushed through there does appear to be someone benefiting and it certainly is not going to be the up and coming village children.

It is a disgrace and anyone who is associated with it should be ashamed of putting quantity before quality and cash before education standards. - M Edwards, Hurworth.

Trust no one

I HAVE read the so called answers from Darlington Borough Council on this issue and find the usual trick of answering your question with an answer to a question of their own. I have checked with the Freedom of Information Act and there is no doubt that the proposal has come from the council, not the governors and has been in the planning stages for far longer than the present officer has been in post.

Officers can only advise the elected members so which hiding councillor(s) made the decision to put forward the proposal. An example of their political tricks is shown in the question "Could the school playing fields be redeveloped as housing?". The answer would be true if the school had not already been closed.

If Hurworth School no longer exists where it is, the council is free to do what it likes with the land. As I said when I resigned from the governors over the federation issue - do not trust the LEA or the DFES. The sheer arrogance of this council (or its cabinet) is breathtaking. - Clive Bullock, Darlington.

We must complain

I THINK it is an absolute disgrace, the merging of Hurworth School and Eastbourne Comprehensive.

Apart from the fact plans have been stealthily held back until after the election, as Councillor Foster pointed out earlier this week, why does the council seem intent on squeezing everything into the Yarm Road area?

Who in their right minds thinks that mixing the best school with the worst school will pull the worst school up to the same achievement figures as Hurworth?

It did not work years ago when they merged all the schools around the town. It will merely lower the standards for Hurworth and its future generations. I strongly urge every resident in Hurworth, children or not, to write and complain to Tony Blair and back any plans to block this merger. No doubt the Hurworth site will be getting sold off for a massive council profit as development land. - Ian White, Hurworth.

Get building

I HAVE no kids myself but did go to Eastbourne years ago when it was a good school.

The new laws about no cane or slipper have a lot to do with the decline in discipline, pride in oneself, and determination to be better than other schools.

I say build the new one ASAP and get the kids competing to be the best in studies and results show all the town's schools how good they can all be. - David Swan, Darlington