Does this forum really represent the people?

Mr Dalton, from the so-called Patient and Public Involvement Forum ("Funding decision will improve people's lives" Voice of the North, September 25) should concentrate on what he is supposed to do.

Mr Dalton, from the so-called Patient and Public Involvement Forum ("Funding decision will improve people's lives" Voice of the North, September 25) should concentrate on what he is supposed to do. That is, speak up for the public and not the health service bureaucrats.

He says the issue of where two rural ambulances stations are located is less important than the fact that £250,000 will be spent on extra staffing. Does Mr Dalton ever listen to the public? The threat of closure to the stations in St John's Chapel and Middleton-in-Teesdale provoked a huge reaction from the people who live in those remote Dales. They held packed public meetings and made their feelings very plain to Mr Dalton and his friends from the Ambulance Trust.

The Journal's reporting of the issue fairly reflected the strong feelings of people in the Dales.

Does his forum really represent the people? Or does Councillor Dalton, who is a Labour councillor on Sedgefield Council (although his letter didn't tell us that), represent the views of the Labour Party establishment which put him on the forum?

In think it's very obvious, don't you?

Coun JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH, Independent, Weardale Division, Durham County Council

Footbridge looks like being a casualty

FIRST of all, can I wish the revamped Woodhorn Colliery Museum the very best of luck when it reopens in October. Except that it isn't going to be called Woodhorn Colliery Museum. In their wisdom, the hierarchy overseeing the project have decided to drop the word "colliery" from its new identity.

In fact, they seem to want to distance themselves from the fact that there was ever a mine here in the first place and have ploughed all of their energy, and most of our money into providing new archive facilities. I fear the people running the new museum may not be familiar with either the area or the effect that coal mining has had on the local community for over one hundred years.

Another nail in the coffin was hammered in recently when a "variation to planning permission to replace a proposed footbridge (at Woodhorn Colliery) with a bus service" was placed in a local paper under the heading of "planning applications". When it was announced almost three years ago that Woodhorn had won a Heritage Lottery Grant, the Scottish architects were given the task of revamping the old colliery buildings. They then brought in former Woodhorn miners to "walk through" the route taken by miners when arriving to work. One of the first things stressed by the ex-Woodhorn miners (one of whom was a National Union of Mineworkers official), was the need for a footbridge to be put in place to cross the railway line to replace the previous one which had stood for almost a century.

Not only would a footbridge give authenticity to the whole project, but it would enable local residents to access the site without walking over a mile to get to the museum. Now we must assume that the footbridge is to be one of the first casualties from the original plans.

Is this because the scheme is over budget? And if so, who is going to pay for the overspend? Surely not the tax-paying residents of Wansbeck? Surely not the same folk who have been denied an easy access to the site? We are told the museum will be free to visit, but any hidden costs and overheads have to be borne by someone.

PAULINE THOMPSON, Ashington, Northumberland

Would neighbours be prepared to pay bill?

AMUSLIM leader shouts at the visiting Home Secretary, Dr John Reid, to get out of a Muslim area. But if the same leader had an emergency at home, would he refuse to call the public fire or police services, which are run by the same Home Secretary? If this leader prefers to organise and pay for his own Muslim emergency services, would his neighbours be prepared to pay the bill?

What next? When the Metro train arrives, are people to be left standing if that particular train is marked Atheists (or Buddhists) Only?

Lots of people of all groups want an open society without ghettoes of any type.


Search your social conscience, please

THERE is no doubt that the world of politics is both confusing and frustrating; perhaps it is meant to be so! Northumberland County Council's updated constitution, which was formed in 2001, has given unprecedented powers to a handful of people, 10 to be exact, who form the executive of the council. So much for the democracy that my father fought for in the Second World War.

The point is that the decision to close The Mount residential home in Morpeth appears to have been made by 10 people who the remaining members have entrusted to make that decision. I am hoping this letter will bring me some answers as to why this decision has been made. Let me first eliminate the obvious:

* It is not because The Mount is a poorly performing residential home. Far from it, recent inspection reports reveal its standards are often in excess of its competitors.

* It is not because The Mount is in decline as, despite the threat of closure, it has received many inquiries from families who wish to place their nearest and dearest in one of the best homes in the North-East.

* It is not because The Mount has poorly trained staff. Indeed, as the inspection reports also reveal and as residents' families have testified, the staff excel.

* It is not because The Mount has poor facilities. Indeed, its facilities are first class and meet the needs of the residents in every respect.

* It is not because The Mount is in a poor location. It is central to many areas of the borough and in the most delightful countryside, surrounded by rabbits, birds and, in the spring, a regular family of nesting ducks!

* It is not because the Churches' Group and Eothen Homes have no funds, as between them they have £4m in the bank which, I understand, is in excess of the funding required.

Fortunately, councillors Cassie and Tebbut not only have compassion, but also sound logic, and they have tried to highlight the important need to retain The Mount. Therefore I am appealing to the remaining 55 county councillors, especially to those Labour councillors who have not lifted a finger to help, to put aside their party politics and search their social conscience to examine what exactly is at stake here. My 94-year-old mother is one of those residents who will have her world turned upside down by this act of vandalism. Please, I beg you, at the meeting of the full council on November 8, don't rubber stamp the executive's decision which recommends closure.

MAURENN LEASK DMS, Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire

It seems Craig Bellamy flatters himself

SO Craig Bellamy thinks that there are people at Newcastle United FC who do not want him to be successful at Liverpool (The Journal, September 25). It seems Mr Bellamy flatters himself that staff or players at NUFC have the time or inclination to think about him, other than when they are playing against him.

BRIAN M ARCHER, Killingworth


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