ORGANISERS of an appeal to create a lasting memorial to one of North Yorkshire's leading political figures have been given reason to celebrate.

The Joan Maynard Appeal has finally been awarded charitable status - a move that is expected to boost the fundraising.

The announcement comes as the appeal, which has a target of £100,000, has hit the £60,000 mark.

Originally, it was intended to create a small palliative unit at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, but that has been altered in the wake of changes at the hospital.

Instead, it will now provide palliative care units at two local community hospitals, the Rutson, in Northallerton, and the Lambert, in Thirsk.

The units will be run with a hospice philosophy, providing comfortable en-suite accommodation along with specialist nursing and professional and voluntary support for people with terminal illnesses.

"The very best care and conditions can make an immense difference to the quality of the last few weeks of life," said one of the appeal organisers, Eleanor Hooper, yesterday.

Mrs Hooper was a close friend of Miss Maynard, who lived in the same village, Sowerby, near Thirsk, and who died in 1998, aged 76, after a battle against cancer.

A leading socialist, she was for 13 years the Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and was also an active parish and county councillor in North Yorkshire.

For many years she was also deeply involved in agricultural and rural issues and how they affected working people.

Winning charitable status for the appeal means donations can attract gift aid and it will also give various tax advantages.

"We have had a real job to get it because I think there was a misunderstanding about what we were doing," said Mrs Hooper. "We are sure it will add extra impetus to the fundraising."

To celebrate winning charitable status a supper concert, featuring the Mowbray Sing-ers, will be held at Northallerton Methodist Church on Saturday, June 29, at 7.30pm.

Tickets, priced £6, are available from Greenslevees, in Northallerton, and Hambleton Books and White Rose Books, in Thirsk.

For further information, or to discuss making gifts to the appeal, contact Mrs Hooper on (01845) 522637.