Strategy needed

AS the summer ends, our thoughts turn to what kind of winter and autumn it might turn out to be. With the shadow of coronavirus still over us, we can only hope that the winter doesn’t turn out as bad as some predictions have it and that the predicted second wave of infections is not too serious and that better still it doesn’t materialise at all.

However, that would still leave us with three major problems connected to coronavirus which the government are simply not addressing in a competent manner; mental health, domestic violence and homelessness.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of people with mental health issues during the coronavirus crisis, with figures from the Office for National Statistics suggesting that nearly one in five were suffering during June, twice the usual number.

There has also been a sharp rise in domestic violence during this year especially during the most severe periods of the lockdown. It has been reported that Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, has reported a 700 per cent increase in calls to its helpline in a single day, while a separate helpline for perpetrators of domestic abuse seeking help to change their behaviour received 25 per cent more calls after the start of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Meanwhile the ending of the furlough scheme and the imminent ending of the evictions ban for tenants, puts thousands of people at risk of becoming homeless.

We need a proper, joined up and coherent strategy from the government regarding these issues, a strategy which will put compassion and caring for the people of this country at its heart. As yet there is no strategy at all.

We can only hope that the government improves its record of dealing with coronavirus and related issues.

Peter Sagar, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Proms frenzy

I'M writing in response to the letter from PA Aspinall ‘Proms disgrace’ (HAS, Aug 31) regarding the Proms. About a week ago the BBC said that they were suspending the vocal part of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory (for this year only) due to the fact that they couldn't fit enough socially distanced singers on the stage. In other words, the decision was driven solely by coronavirus concerns and was nothing to do with any attempt to suppress our history or culture.

At this point an anonymous source claimed that the conductor Dalia Stasevska was involved in the decision and would like these pieces to be dropped permanently. In fact, Dalia has no say over the format of the Proms, this year or any other. Despite this fact, either thoughtlessly or maliciously, various papers and media outlets began speculating that this might be official BBC policy.

Of course, people are entitled to disagree with the BBC's decision on the grounds that they could have tried harder to find a safe solution. However, any debate on that has been made harder by what can only be described as a concocted media frenzy, which some of our politicians seem to have endorsed.

Steve Beckett, Durham.

Mask wearing

IN response to "Mask confusion" (HAS, Aug 31) I have to respond by saying I have no fear of entering a supermarket where the staff are not wearing masks.

Isn't that why I am, reluctantly, wearing one? It would be horrendous for the staff to have to wear one for a full shift – I put mine on when I enter a shop and immediately I leave the premises the mask comes off.

As for the staff they are grown up and know the dangers of the coronavirus and I am sure they will continue to take precautions to protect themselves. However, if they wish to wear one I'm sure they will.

It would be interesting to know how many staff at Morrisons (North Road) have been affected by the virus. Only because that is the supermarket I attend every week. I am also very much aware that staff in hospitals have to wear masks continually but that is a different situation altogether and they very much have my sympathy.

Mike Taylor, Darlington.


THE chairman of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Jim Clark warns that unless North Yorkshire's county and district leaders stop their civil war over re-organisation, they will end up with "a council system fixed by Whitehall mandarins" to the ultimate dis-benefit of the area. (Echo, Sept 1).

He is spot-on. Can I suggest the elected members from both sides of the fence call a truce for a few days, and visit Teesside which arguably now has a governance system best described as a dog's dinner after the last round of politically inspired re-organisation which saw the end of the last vestige of Teesside wide government – Cleveland County Council.

We now have a plethora of agencies and a surfeit of quangos, crewed and skippered by a motley collection of placemen, to do the job that local government should be doing, which is to power the economic and social regeneration of a common economic area.

The people of Teesside suffered because of past crass decisions. We do not need to see any more; as the old saying goes "the first time as tragedy, then a second time as farce".

David Walsh, Redcar.

MP priorities

AS members of parliament "go back to school" at Westminster, we should be demanding all MPs remember that their loyalty lies first with their constituencies, and not with the interests of one Mr Boris Johnson.

He will be gone soon enough, no prime minister lasts for very long these days.

The local voters however are in for the long haul. So I would suggest to Mr Peter Gibson, current MP for Darlington, that he puts Darlington at the top of his agenda. He has everything to gain by doing so, and nothing to lose.

Alexandra Bailey, Darlington.

UK debt

THE UK’s £2 trillion debt borrowing is staggering. I find myself wondering which nation, or nations have sufficient spare cash to loan the UK such huge amounts.

Then we have USA’s even higher loans.

Could we have a breakdown of which nations loaned UK/USA this cash, or how much from each, the interest rate, over how many years?

I wonder at the creative accounting, given global worthless money coupled with never-ending devaluation. Does this loan cash actually exist, beyond electronic figures on a computer?

If the latter then at least we will not have to pay it back as it never existed.

G B Butler, Stockton-on-Tees.