Real test for arts in next spending review

It is a credit to The Journal that its front page should be asking questions about the future commitment of Gordon Brown's Government to funding for the arts and museums.

It is a credit to The Journal that its front page should be asking questions about the future commitment of Gordon Brown's Government to funding for the arts and museums. It demonstrates how important the sector has become to the social fabric of the North-East.

The success of the Arts Council Creative Partnership programme and the economic impact of the cultural regeneration of NewcastleGateshead are transforming opportunities for current and future generations of young people in the region.

Apart from reducing Lottery funding for the arts to benefit the Olympics and other new lottery streams, Tony Blair has done a great deal for the arts in his 10 years.

Extra Government funding for theatre has really benefited Live Theatre and Northern Stage in Newcastle, and has underpinned our ability as a region to deliver ambitious projects such as the Sage Gateshead, Baltic and Dance City. Gordon Brown has already shown some positive signs that he recognises the value of the arts with his investment in design and a national cultural leadership programme.

The NewcastleGateshead Initiative is helping to train the next generation of people to run our theatres and galleries. But the real test of whether they have anything to run will be the next public spending review.

The cost of even a 5% increase in arts and museums budgets is minimal in the national economy, but its impact on the sector and the North-East would be huge.

ANDREW DIXON, Chief Executive, NewcastleGateshead Initiative

Speculation on free transport premature

IWOULD like to respond to speculation in your report on the introduction of national free travel on buses for pensioners and disabled passengers (The Journal, June 27).

Free travel anywhere in England is a Government initiative starting in April 2008. It will be good news for millions of people, though it is difficult to calculate in advance the full cost and where that cost will fall, because that depends who travels where, which we just can't predict.

The Government has set aside £212m. For Nexus, as with all local authorities, our concern is not with the amount of money but how it will be distributed if the take-up of free transport varies widely.

We do not know how much money Tyne and Wear will receive from the overall amount or what local take-up will be.

It is therefore extremely premature to suggest there could be a shortfall in funding or any impact on other services as a result.

HUW LEWIS, Head of External Affairs, Nexus, Nexus House, St James' Boulevard, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4AX (tel: 0191 203 3333; fax 0191 203 3180; email: contactus@nexus.org)

Criminals, you have an open door

THIS morning, Tesco Online rang me up to ask me if I'd opened up a Tesco account with my credit card, as someone had ordered a telephone to be delivered to a different address to normal. Well done, Tesco, nipped in the bud, but sadly, from that point on it all went downhill.

Despite the account being in my name with my credit card, Tesco could not give me the intended delivery address of the telephone.

They did, kindly, ensure that the sale did not go through, but, hiding behind the Data Protection Act as people tend to do these days, would not release any more information.

I immediately contacted my bank and had the card cancelled. I then tried to report the fraud to the police so they could follow it up, but was taken aback when the officer pointed out that they could not do this: it had to go through the bank. I re-iterated that I was reporting a fraud and was looking for a crime number. Nope, through the bank, sir, on your bike.

The bank, of course, will not pursue such a small amount, so here we are with a police system that is supposed to be an alternative to taking the law into our own hands, totally refusing to accept a report of fraud.

If Barclays don't consider it worthwhile (after all, I managed to stop the sale going through in time, thanks to Tesco), then this crime will be simply buried.

This is not a job for CSI. Tesco know exactly where the telephone was to be delivered. It's a cut and dried case of deliberate fraud, but they're going to do no more than cancel the account, the police don't want to know unless the bank chooses to inform them and the amount is likely too trivial for the bank to even report it.

So there you have it. Criminals, you have an open door: get someone's credit card, spend the money wisely and nobody will do a thing about it.

That's law and order in the 21st Century. And it stinks.

PETER SCARGILL, Wark on Tyne, Northumberland

Problems if we focus solely on the cities

JOHN Evans' claims that we oppose city regions are wrong (Voice of the North, June 23).

Durham County Council has consistently argued that it is good for the county to see a prosperous Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, but not if it's to the detriment of surrounding rural areas such as County Durham.

The Regional Spatial Strategy shows what would be lost if we focus solely on the cities and forget the hinterlands which sustain them and are an essential part of a cohesive regional economy.

Mr Evans' comments reveal more about his and his former district councillor colleagues' views about where County Durham's destiny lies. Rather than seeing a strong county able to argue its case and contribute to regional initiatives, they would rather see County Durham split into two. That was the main thrust of their own (rejected) unitary submission and the argument presented by district leaders during their referendum.

A north-south split of County Durham has consistently been shown to be the least popular preference for reshaping local government here. Yet it is what underpins district council notions of improving the current two-tier arrangements.

Mr Evans makes some choice comments about the county council's disregard for the referendum results. If the district councils were genuinely interested in the views of the people, they would have conducted the poll properly and been open about what "improved" two-tier arrangements actually meant.

But with no real idea about how they will improve two-tier other than on a premise which they know will be unpopular, they had to resort to criticising and attacking the unitary proposal through a misleading and factually incorrect campaign, under the guise of a so-called "referendum".

The majority of electors in County Durham binned their ballot papers because they saw the one-sided referendum for what it was. I hope that the Government does the same.

COUN JOE ARMSTRONG, Labour, Esh Division, Durham County Council, County Hall, Durham DH1 5UL

Question over the many partners

THE reply from Gateshead Council leader Mick Henry concerning development in the town centre ("We are putting people at the centre", Voice of the North, June 25) was very welcome. All Gateshead residents would agree that the present situation is unacceptable and that revitalisation is paramount.

However, we would all like to know who, apart from Tesco, are the many partners they wish to work with?

D MITCHELL, Gateshead

New members sought for indoor bowls club

THE Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation is working with Age Concern Northumberland in a number of areas in the county running groups and in particular, we would like to invite you to join our Stakeford Bomarsund Indoor Bowls Group.

We run a variety of activities and have recently introduced indoor bowls at Stakeford Bomarsund for beginners and experienced men and women.

Stakeford & Bomarsund Miners Welfare has recently had a refurbishment inside and soon the outside will be done, which makes it an excellent venue for our new indoor bowls.

If you are looking for something different to do, why not come along and join us? We meet every week on Tuesdays from 7pm at Stakeford and Bomarsund Miners Welfare in West Gordon Terrace, Stakeford. We look forward to meeting you.

We are also looking for additional volunteers to help run our activities and groups. So, if you have any skills, which you feel you could share with other members of the group, we would also like to hear from you.

ELIZABETH SIMPSON, Age Concern, Northumberland, Wansbeck Business Centre, Wansbeck Business Park, Ashington NE63 8QZ (tel: 01670 528 220) & KATHRYNE LAMB, Group Development Worker, Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, 6 Bewick Road, Gateshead NE8 4DP (tel: 0191 477 7242)

Fund's healthy lifestyle initiative for children

IAM writing to let your readers know about World Cancer Research Fund's new healthy lifestyle website for children aged four to seven.

The Great Grub Club website is a great way of getting across the healthy lifestyle message to children in a fun way through things like competitions, games and activities.

It has been funded by the Department of Health and has been launched in response to the rising obesity levels in young people. We believe it is vital to get children into good habits early in life as the sooner people embrace healthy living habits the better.

This is so important because research shows that up to 40% of cancers could be prevented just by eating a healthy diet and being physically active.

I would urge all your readers with children around this age to get them to check out the site at www.greatgrubclub.com

LISA COONEY, Head of Education, World Cancer Research Fund, 19 Harley Street, London W1G 9QJ (tel: 020 7343 4200; website: www.wcrf-uk.org)

Britain cannot be in EU under a presidency

ONE of the fundamental changes proposed in the European Union constitution to which Mr Blair has now illegally agreed, is the creation of a European Union presidency.

Britain is a monarchy and the Queen is titular head of the government and so it follows, as night follows day, that Britain cannot continue to be a member of the European Union under a presidency, since the monarch cannot be subservient to an EU president.

There are six other monarchies in the EU, if one includes the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which are in the same situation. If the creation of an EU president goes ahead the monarchies have no alternative but to leave the EU.

Leaving the European Union is also probably the only way to stop the Foreign Office mandarins forging ever closer links with it.

PHILIP WARREN, Gosforth, Newcastle

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