Sir, - Richmondshire District Council has won £46,000 for having acquired the status of a "Beacon Council".

Before anyone gets too excited about this, it has to be said that the award was made for the council's support of the rural economy only and does not reflect on its overall performance.

It is true that Pam Whittaker, who is in charge of tourism, has done a splendid job promoting this area for many years and she has worked closely with the population. That needs to be acknowledged.

As far as support for the rural economy is concerned, that is largely a matter of opinion but one has to accept that it is we council tax payers who have actually supported the rural economy.

The only item I detected in last year's accounts which gives any real credence to support for the rural economy is the council's contribution of £200,000 for the Colburn Trading Estate which remains empty but has served as an exercise area for dogs.

One may wonder what will happen to the £46,000. Perhaps it will be a contribution towards the £50,000-odd which the taxpayer has to fork out for the production of The Curlew and a public relations company, trying to convince us how wonderful the administration of Richmondshire District Council is.

Any councillor who knocks on my door, trying to canvas my vote, will be asked whether he or she is prepared to see a council tax reduction in the coming financial year.




The tax reality

Sir, - Now that the council tax bills from Richmondshire District Council for 2003/2004 are dropping on residents doormats the full reality of the 16.4pc increase will be being felt by all.

Like many others, for over 20 years I have paid my council tax on time and without complaint, but now I feel angry.

In the current financial climate, when many people live on fixed incomes which often only rise by a meagre 2pc annually to cover inflation, to be asked to pay 16.4pc extra is unreasonable. Even more so when this increase is set against the background of a dramatic fall in the stock market and vastly reduced interest rates on savings.

I know that there have been many factors which have led to this large rise, not least central Government devolving more expense to local authorities.

I also appreciate the good services that we have, but we will all need to tighten our belts as these levels of increase cannot continue.

I realise that I should have voiced my reservations when council tax budgets were being discussed many months ago.

However, my message here is to all those elected councillors and council officials who make financial decisions. You have served us well in the past, but now there are many of us here who are not happy.

Next year, increases in council tax need to be realistic and affordable and relate closely to the rate of inflation.




Life's not easier

Sir, - It was very ironic, that Richmondshire District Council's little newspaper The Curlew was delivered last week.

It says "Making Life Easier" in large type on the front page. In actual fact it is doing just the opposite.

Richmondshire's council tax is perhaps reasonable but the fact remains it is an overall increase of many times the rate of inflation.

Unless there is a stop to this year-on-year increase there will be active opposition - shades of the infamous poll tax. There is in fact already much anger and threats of direct action.


West Burton,


Who is to blame?

Sir, - Along with 35,000 other homesteads in the Vale of York constituency, I received a publication headed "Vale of York Report". It made interesting reading.

The name of Anne McIntosh appeared on no fewer than 47 occasions. She warmly welcomes news that the A1 in North Yorkshire is to be upgraded to motorway status, but regrets that the project will not start for six further years.

It would be more honest of the good lady to admit that her Conservative Government, in the mid-1990s, threw £15m or so down the drain in compulsory purchase orders, legal charges etc. and then decided that they could not afford to even start, let alone complete the project.

Her piece de resistance is without doubt, her concern regarding the closure of Post Offices. I am a partner in one such business and know quite a lot about the problems appertaining thereto. During 18 disastrous years of Tory rule, they divided the GPO into two parts, that which was profitable and that which was not.

The profitable part was privatised and became British Telecom. The unprofitable part continued as the post office and as such, was largely dependent upon association with shops.

The introduction of the Uniform Business Rate, the proliferation of super-stores, etc, all of which took place under the Tories, has brought about the virtual demise of the rural shop and post office, and it is the party to which Anne McIntosh belongs which is to blame.


Burneston Village Stores & Post