Letters from The Northern Echo


IN reply to two of your correspondents on the proposals for regional government (HAS, Nov 10), perhaps it is time for a Royal Commission to frame a written constitution, but there is no need to wait for that.

The idea that a Regional Assembly would be "another" layer of government is quite mistaken because there is regional government already.

It consists of dispersed central government regional offices and appointed quangos. An elected assembly with equivalent powers and budget would simplify the system. It would also make it easier for North-Easterners to hold to account those who make decisions. It would remove any suspicion that ministers and civil servants do not give the North-East a fair hearing.

It would not affect local government, which struggles to maintain democratic credibility while performing limited centrally-controlled functions.

North-Eastern skills have not prevented us being on the wrong side of the North-South Divide for generations. Hopefully, our own assembly would do something to rectify this. Rules for the election system could be written to avoid "jobs for the boys".

Of course, if we are only offered a talking shop we should register our scorn in a way that would hurt at the next General Election. - E Shuttleworth, Darlington.


JL Thompson (HAS, Nov 14), like the Labour Party, simply wants his own way at every level of politics. From the Lords, council cabinets and the local mayoral elections, the Labour Party doesn't want any opposing view to challenge it. Tony Blair's yes men are appointed at every level.

The Lords is there to ensure the occasional nose is put out of joint. The House of Lords may want reforming, but people who enter should be there on merit and, at the very least, be educated and have seen a bit of the world, and not just be a big shouter from another failed lefty council.

Why do Labour men get hooked up on titles? The politics of envy at work again.

JL Thomson wants all titles to be abolished, but he strictly wants to be called Mr. What's wrong with John, Jim or "jolly good morning to you sir"?

Of course, Labour wants reform in the Lords. How on earth can you have a Socialist Lord? - J Tague, Bishop Auckland.


WE urge readers of The Northern Echo to sign a national petition demanding a full, independent inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis that has wrought such terrible consequences throughout the country.

The petition is being supported by the Countryside Alliance, British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the National Farmers Union (NFU). The organisers are the Foot-and-Mouth Truth Campaign.

It seems that, almost on a daily basis, new details are emerging of just how badly the foot-and-mouth outbreak has been mishandled by the Government.

The Government's refusal to hold a comprehensive independent inquiry betrays an arrogance which has underpinned this entire fiasco, and has brought the countryside and British tourism to its knees.

To deny people a proper inquiry, and instead to offer three vague alternatives chaired by Government place-men, is nothing short of an insult.

By collecting as many names as possible, this petition will deliver a clear message to the Government that people will not simply sit back and tolerate them brushing this fiasco under the carpet. Petitions are available throughout the country but, if anyone has trouble getting access to one, we would be happy to provide them with a copy by contacting either (01653) 648459 (Yorkshire and The Humber) or 0191-240 2600 (North East). - Martin Callanan MEP (Conservative, North East) and Robert Goodwill MEP (Conservative, Yorkshire and The Humber).


THERE is a great deal of speculation, half-truth and rumour about the closure of Arc in Stockton.

We write on behalf of Arc staff who were made redundant on Tuesday, to clarify some of the issues covered in your report (Echo, Nov 13).

The report you exclusively revealed was written by two London-based consultants who spent just two days in Stockton. We believe that the situation at Arc could not possibly have been fully analysed in such a short time and we consider the report to be seriously flawed, a view shared by most of the bodies who have had access to it.

We were subjected to a series of delays in the decision-making process and, at no time, were we ever consulted or given the opportunity to make an input to that process. The decision over funding by the Arts Council of England serves to perpetuate the idea that it is a body far removed from the real arts issues in areas such as Teesside.

The staff at Arc have struggled to overcome the hurdles of an out-of-date business plan, unrealistic targets and a building with inherent design faults. In spite of these difficulties, over the past 12 months, audiences have doubled and 100,000 people have enjoyed a huge range of events and activities. To claim that the current staff have performed poorly is simply not borne out by audience figures and improved public perception of the building.

Had we been given a few more years to continue, we believe the idea of Teesside losing a venue such as Arc would be unimaginable and would never have been allowed to happen.

Whatever the future of Arc, we sincerely hope it will remain a unique creative resource for all. - Alison Clark, Claire Munroe and Claire Frawley, ex-marketing team, Arc, Stockton.