Why have referendum results been ignored?

I refer to the letter you published from the Leader of Northumberland County Council, Peter Hillman, on Friday June 8, entitled "There's only one way forward".

I refer to the letter you published from the Leader of Northumberland County Council, Peter Hillman, on Friday June 8, entitled "There's only one way forward".

Councillor Hillman studiously ignores the motion that was passed by the county council in January to support both options for the future structure of local government in Northumberland, that for one unitary authority and the one proposed by the district councils for two unitary councils, being put forward to the minister for consideration.

The Government, in its proposals for consultation, lists a great number of organisations whose opinion they will take into account, many of which have little or no influence or interest in Northumberland. The one group of people whose views they appear to have no time for is the residents of Northumberland.

The Conservative and Independent Group, in an attempt to redress this balance, submitted a motion to the county council meeting in May that the people of Northumberland should be consulted and canvassed for their opinion. This was lost. What is the county council afraid of?

They have now commissioned an organisation, at a reputed cost of £60,000, to carry out consultations. It appears three focus groups consisting of a total of 85 people have met in Alnwick, Prudhoe and Cramlington. Is this representative of the people of Northumberland?

Why have the results of the referendum of two and a half years' ago, when the majority of those who voted supported two unitary councils for Northumberland, been so consistently ignored?

The great concern of the electorate is that, under the current system of political administration forced upon us by the Labour Government, nearly all the decisions of the county council are taken by eight people, seven men and one woman, all of one political party and all bar one from the same geographical area. As a result, the full council has been denied the right to debate the proposals put forward to the Government on their behalf for a single unitary council.

Should these proposals be accepted, most of the people of Northumberland will be further disenfranchised. On major issues, such as the reorganisation of schools, the county council has devolved the decisions as to the future arrangements for all the schools in the county to these eight people. This means that for a great swathe of Northumberland, from Hexham to Berwick, the people through their elected representatives have absolutely no say in the way in which education will be delivered in the future. This is far from democratic.

Two unitary councils, one representing the urban south-east of the county and the other the rural west, will truly represent the very different needs and service requirements of these two distinct parts of Northumberland. They can and will have a strong voice as the two councils will genuinely represent the aspirations of all Northumbrians and will therefore have greater credibility. They can and will be efficiently and effectively managed as the innovative proposals, put forward by the district councils and endorsed by their council members, demonstrate.

I will fight tirelessly to achieve a better and more appropriate representative local government structure for the people of Northumberland. In the interests of democracy, I urge all residents to make their views known to the Minister for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly, before June 22.

SUE BOLAM, Leader, Conservative and Independent Group, Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland NE61 2EF

We are becoming slaves to the system

I DETECT in Bill Weeks' letter (Voice of the North, June 8) the feelings of futility which disturb many people's minds. We are becoming slaves to the system.

Individual freedoms are being eroded by the day, but we cannot stem the flood of bureaucracy which threatens to overwhelm us because our politicians are out of control. The Labour think tank, the Fabians, together with the European Union, are continuing to shackle us completely. Federalists must be rubbing their hands in glee. There will come a point in time soon when protest will be impossible, the Euro-state will be too powerful.

The things we mention, Bill, are very important to all of us; but the fear of what the EU is about to achieve clouds everything. Those who say we have no constitution are wrong. It is called Magna Carta and it serves us well.

JOHN WARMINGHAM, Wetheral, Cumbria

Better to campaign for financial system reform

MALCOLM Scott (Voice of the North, June 8) labours under the misapprehension that science is subject to majority voting.

As Einstein remarked, referring to a pamphlet entitled One Hundred Authors Against Einstein: "If I were wrong, one would be enough."

The last time anyone declared "the science is settled" was in 1900, when Lord Kelvin stated: "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." That was before the theory of relativity. As yet, nobody has come close to proving whether the climate change we are now experiencing is cyclical or not. No matter how vehemently true believers abuse those who disagree with them, their assertions are, at present, supported only by faith.

There is a good deal of evidence to suggest the action recommended by Mr Scott will be quite ineffective against the forces of nature and may well cause hardship in developing countries. He would do better to channel his efforts into campaigning for world-wide reform of a financial system that traps both Third World and First World nations in unrepayable debts, and which causes widespread starvation, waste and pollution (see http://www.freewebs/whosemoney), than become obsessed with a problem which, even if it exists, is probably beyond the control of mere human beings.

GILLIAN SWANSON, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside

Research on risks that should be welcomed

DR Anne Buckenham of the Crop Protection Association seeks to downplay recent research into a possible link between pesticides and brain tumours (Voice of the North, June 9).

The research was carried out in France by a team led by Dr Isabelle Baldi. She found that certain tumours are more likely to occur in people who have been exposed to above normal amounts of pesticides. This elevated level of risk was particularly marked for people who sprayed house plants with pesticides. Dr Baldi's paper was published in a respected journal and peer reviewed.

I wonder what evidence for the possible harmful effects of pesticides Dr Buckenham would accept? Only two types of experiment are possible in this field. The first is the epidemiological type done by Dr Baldi. The other is to apply individual chemicals to specific human cells in the laboratory. This type of experiment is also often rejected by the agrochemical industry as being unrealistic.

The incidence of a range of human diseases is increasing. These diseases include some cancers (eg. prostate, breast), infertility, learning disorders in children and some neurological diseases.

Pesticides are suspected, by some biological scientists, to be a contributing causal factor in these trends. Any sound research that assists in helping to identify chemicals which may pose a risk to health should be welcomed.

I believe it is irresponsible for Dr Buckenham to seek to devalue Dr Baldi's research and to make sweeping claims for the safety of agricultural chemicals.

JOHN WILSON, Kingston Park, Newcastle.


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