Why counties must each have one voice

The issue of which system of government would best serve Northumberland and County Durham is both thorny and contentious, as your Voice of the North pages of late clearly illustrate.

The issue of which system of government would best serve Northumberland and County Durham is both thorny and contentious, as your Voice of the North pages of late clearly illustrate.

I feel it necessary to stress the concerns that businesses have with any push towards a diluted, split system of power in both counties.

The North-East Chamber of Commerce has already nailed its colours to the mast by coming out strongly in support of a single unitary in both Northumberland and Durham. This decision acknowledges that some individual members would disagree, but the greater weight lies with one voice for each county.

The simple truth is that neither county can afford not to have one, single unitary. To do so would mire them in constant in-fighting and navel gazing.

The Government is pushing for City Regions focusing on Tyne & Wear and the Tees Valley. This presents significant issues to both County Durham and to Northumberland. An inward-looking county would lose focus on the economic development progressing elsewhere.

I fully understand the concern at a local level that losing the grassroots identity will be a blow to residents, but this will pale in comparison to the impact that will be felt if the two counties do not play a full part in the economic growth of the North-East.

Add to this the concern by NECC that the two unitaries option will force businesses to leap through additional hoops of bureaucracy to achieve even the simplest of aims.

My greatest fear is that if the counties do not stand united at such a crucial time they will become marooned.

Businesses in the counties cannot afford for that to happen.

JAMES RAMSBOTHAM, Chief Executive, North-East Chamber of Commerce, Aykley Heads Business Centre, Aykley Heads, Durham DH1 5TS (tel: 0191 386-1133; email: information@necc.co.uk)

Organic farming is not free of pesticides

ORGANIC farming is not pesticide-free as suggested in your article (The Journal, June 20). Organic farmers are allowed to and do use a European Union-approved range of pesticides for pest and disease control, a fact that the Soil Association itself now acknowledges.

Whether organic or conventional methods are used, the key is for farmers to adopt best practice. Many conventional farmers are already doing this, with over 80% of the United Kingdom's arable area now covered by the Voluntary Initiative which promotes best practice to benefit the environment.

PETER SANGUINETTI, Chief Executive, Crop Protection Association, 20 Culley Court, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6WA

Way to know your own carbon footprint

IKNOW readers increasingly want to do their bit to help combat climate change and knowing about your carbon footprint is a good way to start.

That's why we have this week launched a new online carbon dioxide calculator, where people can find out their carbon footprint.

The calculator will also suggest the practical steps we can take to cut our emissions and often, save some money as well.

Things we do in our everyday lives have an effect, good or bad, on the environment. And more than 40% of the United Kingdom's carbon dioxide emissions come from our homes and travel.

Most of us have become a bit greener already - for example, nearly all of us are into recycling now - but there are lots of other things we can do to reduce our impact on climate change. Whatever your lifestyle, the Act on CO2 calculator will give you practical pointers about how to cut your emissions, tailored to the way you live.

To check out your carbon footprint, and find out what you can do about it, log on to: www.direct.gov.uk/actonCO2

DAVID MILLIBAND, Environment Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London SW1P 3JR

Why stop at castration of paedophiles?

WHAT a great idea it is to castrate paedophiles, but why stop with them? Why not rapists, murderers and terrorists? Also why should it be done humanely? If you cannot hang these menaces of society by the neck, why not the alternative?

They should be made to suffer in the same way their victims did. The lenient laws in this country deny this. Why?

G W McPHERSON, Bedlington, Northumberland

The wrong TV show

IBELIEVE Judith Holder is mistaken when she says in her column that Janice Nicholls appeared on the BBC's Juke Box Jury (The Journal, June 16). I'm sure she appeared on the ITV show, Thank Your Lucky Stars, hosted by Brian Matthew.

DAVID BENDELOW, Berwick, Northumberland

Good old letter writing still very much alive

I'VE always enjoyed putting pen to paper, but was beginning to wonder if letter writing was a dying art. I joined the International Pen Friends Club and was delighted to discover that, far from being dead and in spite of email, the good old letter is still very much alive and kicking around the world.

For a reasonable fee, the club supplied me with a list of contacts at home and abroad. In my age group and sharing similar interests to myself, all correspond in English so there are few language translation difficulties.

These days I write to people in many countries. I've exchanged news and views, recipes, souvenirs, tears and laughter. My knowledge of the ways of the world and its people is greater, my life richer, thanks to my wonderful friends with pens.

The club is open to people of all ages, from all walks of life. For further information please write to me enclosing a stamped, addressed envelope.

MRS E HARDY, PO Box 71, St Ives, Cambridgeshire PE27 5GL

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