August 4: Countryside criminals

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Fighting back against thieves

RURAL crime is a blight on the countryside, a costly menace that can jeopardise livelihoods and send insurance premiums soaring.

Farmers have a hard enough job as it is without it being made even more difficult by thieves who steal valuable equipment or even rustle flocks of sheep, with potentially devastating financial consequences for the victims.

There is good news in the latest Rural Crime Survey, revealing as it does that the cost to Yorkshire victims has fallen by a third from £3.6m to £2.5m.

The efforts of all those who have worked hard to crack down on rural crime deserve to be applauded, and their success should strengthen a resolve to do even more.

For £2.5m is still a huge sum to be lost to thieves by rural communities that can ill afford it. Whether it is fuel oil, vehicles or livestock, the losses have an extremely serious economic impact.

Policing the countryside has never been an easy task, and the isolated locations of many of the victims of crime can work in the thieves’ favour.

It is no surprise that North Yorkshire is high on the list of areas nationally where rural crime is a particular problem. 
The vastness of parts 
of the Dales and the North York Moors make them tempting targets for criminals.

Good security, electronic tagging of belongings so they can be traced, and intelligence-led police work are key factors in the fight against thieves who prey on those in the countryside.

Vigilance is also vital. Close-knit rural communities will more easily spot strangers acting suspiciously than their counterparts in urban areas, and should not hesitate to report anything they see.

Partnerships between police, farmers and residents of rural Yorkshire hold out the hope that the cost of crime in the countryside can be driven down still farther.

Bank charges

RBS sale must benefit public

THERE must be a single thought uppermost in the Government’s mind as it contemplates the imminent sell-off of its stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland.

That is to secure the best possible deal for taxpayers, whose money was used to bail out the bank in the midst of the financial crash of 2008 to the tune of £45.5bn.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in June his plan to sell the bank back to private investors and the coming weeks are seen as a good time for a sale.

But there is much at stake. Under the coalition government, the sell-off of the Royal Mail was botched, and taxpayers did not receive as much benefit as they should have, whilst large investors made a handsome profit.

There must be no repeat of this clumsiness in the handling of RBS.

As if to underline that, the Government should have been put on its mettle by the report by investment bank Rothschild that the taxpayer could face a loss of £7bn if RBS is sold at too low a share price.

Such a hit on the public purse would be unacceptable, and mindful of that, the Government appears to have given itself some room for manoeuvre on when the sale will take place in order to get the best price.

If that means postponing a sale until later in the year, then so be it. RBS’s operating figures leave much to be desired, and the Government’s approach to when the sale takes place needs to be tempered with caution.

It is in both the interest of the bank and the country for taxpayers to get their investment back, provided that in doing so the public is not short-changed.

Bird’s perch

Dickie’s gift to cricket

THE sun shone on Headingley yesterday, and one of Yorkshire cricket’s favourite sons was on hand to spread a little more cheer to the game he has given so much.

Harold “Dickie” Bird’s donation of £125,000 to create a new players’ balcony at the stadium is a characteristically generous gesture.

Equally characteristic was his concern in funding the new development that the players should be able to perch outside and enjoy the best possible view of play.

Mr Bird, now in his second term as president of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, never misses a game, and there surely cannot be a more familiar nor welcome figure at Headingley on match days.

The greatest sporting figures enhance the sports to which they have devoted their lives long after leaving the arena of play for the last time.

So it has been with Mr Bird. At the age of 82, he continues to contribute to cricket. He deserves both our gratitude and applause.