CANAL HOLIDAYS: YOUR article (Echo, Feb 7) describing a canal holiday was accompanied by a photograph showing a very dangerous practice.

The caption described the boat as progressing up the River Severn and the picture showed two young people on the roof of the boat.

This is a common practice with hire boats but you will never see a private boat with crew on the roof. They are easily dislodged or may lose their balance. The crew in question are not wearing any lifejackets despite the Severn being very deep and wide with a strong current. If one of the crew fell off the roof they would be sucked into the propellor and killed. - John Wallace, Driffield.


AT a time when Durham County Council has come in for some criticism, some justified, I would like to congratulate it on the way it has performed the roadworks on the A167 junction at the Red Lion at Plawsworth. Although traffic was slowed during the works, to my knowledge no serious hold ups were encountered.

The work was done on time and a very dangerous, complicated crossover on a fast stretch of road has been made safer because of the new roundabout. Well done! - B. Wood, Edmondsley, Co Durham.


WHEN jobs go overseas, British people become unemployed. Some obtain work, some find temporary work at a reduced rate of pay, others live off savings or go onto benefits.

This reduces Treasury funds as well as people's ability to save, spend or afford a pension, while increasing personal debt and the black economy. This means less money for education, the NHS, the Armed Forces and councils, which combined with reduced incomes from rents caused by increased housing benefit claims causes increases in council tax.

Increases in council tax combined with reduced personal incomes reduce spending power. Reduced sales mean reduced profits for manufacturers and their suppliers, less money for growth resulting in fewer jobs being created.

In some cases jobs will be lost. As the cycle repeats itself, firms face pressure to put profits and shareholders first, forcing some to move overseas, causing the cycle to begin again.

So when Jack Straw (Echo, Feb 9) tells people that British jobs going overseas is good for Britain, I cannot help wondering what is more worrying - what he says or the fact that he believes it? - Clifford Riley, Spennymoor.


I WAS taken aback by your editorial (Echo, Feb 5) in which you seemed to give your approval to the broadcasting of the heavy and liberal foul language which is a prominent feature of ITV's celebrity jungle.

Although parents have a duty to decide what is right for their children and safeguard them from improper influence, there are a lot who are ineffectual, helpless, disinterested or unable to fulfil their responsibilities and allow their children to just get on with it.

The entertainment value is a poor reason for the Echo to give the programme the ok, especially as evidence on the streets and in schools suggests there are more than just a few parents who don't fulfil their responsibilities.

It is also a reflection on the state of things that the celebrities who are likely to get voted to stay in the longest will probably be those who do not exercise control of their language.

This may be what a section of the public wants, and particularly some tabloid readers, but I am surprised at you condoning these standards. - Cliff Holliday, West Auckland.

THANK goodness I'm A Celebrity... is over. No more animals will suffer in the hideous endurance tests known as 'bush tucker trials'. Over the last two weeks we have seen repeated acts of cruelty to animals: insects being eaten alive, a rat dropped head first into a tank of water, a visibly distressed eel tipped onto a pile of maggots, a baby crocodile thrown into a tank with snakes - even a goldfish dropped into a glass of champagne by a departing celebrity.

Unfortunately rats, insects, snakes and eels are not the usual candidates for public sympathy. But just because they aren't cute or cuddly it doesn't mean they don't experience pain and distress.

Being repeatedly handled, kept in confined spaces, trampled on - and, in the case of the eels, being kept out of water - is obviously stressful. The animals would not have understood what was happening to them and all have the instinct to protect themselves and fight for survival.

The RSPCA has already voiced concern and Animal Aid is urging viewers who found the programme offensive or upsetting to complain to the producers, Granada plc, and Ofcom, the TV regulators. Programme makers must realise that animal abuse does not make entertaining viewing. - Claudia Tarry, Animal Aid, Tonbridge.


COUNCIL TAX is rising at more than twice the level of inflation. Does this not suggest an urgent need to review the calibre of our elected representatives who are clearly failing to exercise control over expenditure?

Local government must move away from the belief that it is in order to simply take more money from residents when expenditure on additional projects is under consideration. Realistic scrutiny and commercial review of existing expenditure must be a constant prerequisite of any demand for additional funds.

Further and unjustified local tax increases will inevitably lead to serious and rebellious public response.

A matrix of cost reduction programmes, productivity and cutting back on unessential, non-statutory services should be the goal behind all local government decisions. - Jackson Taylor, Darlington.

WHILE the control of Durham City Council may have changed from Labour to Liberal Democrat, it's clear control over increasing council tax has not.

For those voters who switched from Labour to Lib Dem in 2003, the reality of Lib Dems running Durham could soon be a nine per cent council tax increase and job losses.

The party which in 2003 promised voters a £100 council tax refund now blames its Labour predecessor and the Labour Government for its own record. Promises made liberally have become promises broken by the Liberals.

It appears the only change for the people of Durham has been from Labour incompetence to Lib Dem arrogance. Perhaps it's time for a real change? - Mike Fishwick, City of Durham Conservatives.

motor insurance

THE average quote to renew my motor insurance has been around £275. About £20 of this is to cover for those drivers who do not bother to insure their vehicles.

Then I read in The Northern Echo that in two court cases the defendants have been fined £50 for driving without insurance.

Something is wrong. Surely the minimum fine should be at least twice the rate that they should have paid for motor insurance. The system as it stands encourages people to break the law. - George Blood, Bishop Auckland.