The countryside could lead the way

IWAS interested in your report (July 6) on the Government’s plan to divert £20m from local government funding directly to communities for local spending.

IWAS interested in your report (July 6) on the Government’s plan to divert £20m from local government funding directly to communities for local spending.

You reported that Newcastle and Sunderland were pilot areas, and your editorial “Cutting out council middlemen” rightly highlighted the difficulties of setting up community forums and agreeing local needs.

There is no doubt that much of the money reallocated will be needed to put the necessary structures in place to make this idea work.

On the other hand, had Ms Blears chosen to pilot her scheme in rural Northumberland, she would have found a ready-made structure willing and able to take on this role.

Parish councils are the most local tier of local government, they are the only tier to receive no direct funding from central government, as their core finance is provided by taxing their residents through the parish precept.

It is understandable that most lack the funds to make meaningful improvements to their area.

Most importantly, many parish councils have in recent years consulted their communities and published their priorities in their parish plans.

Many would welcome direct funding to carry forward these wishes, and I am confident that the money would really go into providing the benefits, rather than disappearing into the black hole of bureaucracy at council offices.

So come on Hazel; if you want quick and measurable results, and value for money, pilot your scheme in rural areas where all the foundations are already in place to make your ideas work for the people.

DAVID LOCKIE, Berwick-upon-Tweed

Never mind the suits, we need cleaners

HOW can new Health Secretary Alan Johnson justify spending £50m to fight “superbugs” by doubling the number of infection inspectors? It’s cleaners that he needs to spend the money on.

There are more than enough managers in hospitals already. That is where all the money is going, not to the front line where it is needed. No wonder NHS morale is low: medical staff cannot get on with their jobs for tripping over managers.

Recently, after a spell in the Wansbeck in Ashington, the senior nurse gave me my tablets, filled in the chart at the end of my bed and three collar-and-tie-jobs came to check her work.

Get rid of the money-wasting middlemen and get the front line of the NHS up to strength. One would think that after all the money wasted on the NHS in the last 10 years this Government would have learned something.

ROBIN THOMPSON, Amble, Northumberland

These clubs are an affront to our city

DO most people in Newcastle really want more lap dancing venues?

Our city leaders profess to uphold family values. Yet we now have three such places operating, and an application being considered for a fourth. This will, as you reported, be very close to the Cathedral in a heritage area visited by school parties and visitors to Newcastle from abroad.

We ourselves and many others we know have written to the council protesting against these places, but we find that our letters are politely discounted because, according to current licensing legislation, we do not qualify as interested parties. This is because we do not live or work in the “vicinity” of the latest intended project.

We personally were both born and bred in this city, we love it, and we have a great interest in its welfare and reputation, as do many others who live outside the stated area. Those of us who are council tax payers believe our views should be considered.

We are really proud of so much that our council has done to make this a wonderful city, but do they really want to encourage more groups of men flying in to stag party here. Is this the sort of city we want?

DR AND MRS I LONGFIELD, Gosforth, Newcastle

This isn’t really building bridges

ON Tuesday you reported Nick Brown MP, the new Minister for the North-East, pledging to work across the political divide.

Just three days later you have reported him saying that the Liberal Democrats who run Newcastle City Council are “a pretty hopeless crew”.

When he used to write romances for teenage magazines Nick Brown doubtless filled his plot-lines with desperate teenagers who couldn’t work out their true feelings.

Before this week I didn’t see him as being one of them, but now I’m not so sure.


Vikings were far from romantic heroes

THE Vikings (who are about to be celebrated in an Exhibition on Lindisfarne, The Journal, June 30) are very popular with publishers, film-makers and tourist chiefs.

In fact they were an unmitigated disaster for English Northumbria. They destroyed the monastic-based civilisation which had made Northumbria a European Capital of Culture; they settled Northumbrian lands south of the Tees; and by weakening the Kingdom allowed the Scots to take English land north of the Tweed.

Celebrating this disaster for the English is about the same as the Poles making a Nazi museum in Warsaw. The real heroes were the Community of Saint Cuthbert who fled Lindisfarne with the body of their saint and Saint Cuthbert’s book (later called the Lindisfarne Gospels). They kept learning alive in those dark years, so when Alfred the Great said that there were hardly any men left in England who could understand Latin, there was one in Chester-le-Street, Aldred, who wrote between the lines of Latin in the Gospels a translation in Northumbrian English.

So the Lindisfarne Gospels are the oldest surviving gospel in English.

The other heroes were the English Earls of Bamburgh – and who can name one? They built the city and first cathedral at Durham to guard Cuthbert’s body, and they fought a 200 year-long rearguard action to preserve Northumbrian identity against Viking, Scot, West Saxon and Norman. It was due to them that Viking settlement in Northumberland and Durham was minimal, and the names of our villages and towns and our language itself is more English than most other places in the country.

CHRIS KILKENNY, Committee member of the Northumbrian Association, Sunniside, Newcastle.

Our money is already paying for rail service

WITH reference to The Journal (June 29, Page 5): Passengers to pay the price for better trains.

The privatised train operators get five times more Government hand-outs than British Rail got.

It is this hand-out that should be going to the providing of better trains. I ask the question – where is it going? Look no further than the directors’ salary.

TRM BELL, Hexham, Northumberland

A man of steel?

THEY have called him Stalin Brown. Is that Gordon’s middle name?

JM METCALF, Alnwick, Northumberland


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer