Fuel for thought in rural areas

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THE DROP in fuel prices is welcome news for the motorists who have been paying over the odds at the pumps for a number of years. However it is important that a couple of caveats are added to today’s analysis, by the AA motoring organisation, about the impact of the supermarket “price wars” driving down the cost of petrol and diesel.

These reductions stem from a fall in global wholesale prices rather than any benevolence on the part of the supermarkets and they could be reversed if the “Islamic State” insurgency in Syria and Iraq begins to further threaten the stability of the wider Middle East. There are also wide disparities between the prices in major cities such as Leeds and Sheffield, and the increased charges being levied by independent retailers, and also the supermarkets, in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

This did prompt the Government to seek EU permission to introduce a fuel rebate scheme in Hawes following the success of a similar initiative in Scotland, but progress remains painfully slow and there is a danger that Ministers will now let the issue pass by.

This would be short-sighted. If the true potential of the rural economy is to be harnessed, and in particular by younger generations, the cost of living has to be affordable. And Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh, chairman of Parliament’s environment select committee, makes an important point when she says that higher prices have an adverse impact on the cost of delivering key public services.

As such, today’s report is another reminder that governments do, in fact, have a duty to represent the whole country. This includes those rural areas where levels of social deprivation are comparable to the hardship experienced in urban communities, and which is already exercising the minds of politicians ahead of the 2015 election.

Police priorities

Changing role of detective work

THE LATEST fall in crime is another vindication of Home Secretary Theresa May’s belief that efficiency savings need not compromise public safety. It is also a repudiation of Labour’s view that spending more money is the answer to every policy conundrum.

As the data from the Office for National Statistics is analysed, it is important that crime figures are not viewed solely through the prism of police numbers. Many of the greatest challenges facing Yorkshire’s four constabularies have little to do with the frequency of police patrols in local high streets and so on.

This is borne out by the 22 per cent increase in rape allegations, which has been attributed to a growing willingness on the part of victims to come forward to prevent the degradation of women, and the increased emphasis on the investigation of historic sex crimes following the Jimmy Savile scandal.

If the police are to command the confidence of victims, it is important that they have sufficient officers trained to handle such sensitive matters. This needs to be remembered in any political debate about police numbers prior to the next election.

The same also applies to the investigation of internet-related crimes. Whether it be the radicalisation of young Muslims or the threats posted by Twitter trolls, this is a new phenomenon which requires a totally different set of detective skills in order to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice. It is, therefore, important that the ONS data is used by police to highlight future priorities so they can keep lawbreakers within their sights at all times.

Poppy poignancy

Sea of red’s perspective on WW1

THE POIGNANCY was palpable as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh made a symbolic visit to the Tower of London. They appeared lost in their own thoughts as they walked with dignity, heads bowed, through a sea of 888,246 ceramic poppies that are being erected in a former moat to honour each and every British and Colonial service person who perished a century ago in World War One.

The visit could not have been a more respectful or sombre start to this year’s remembrance commemorations when the sacrifices of 100 years ago will be paramount in the nation’s thoughts. For, while there has been immense interest in the story behind each name which has been etched onto war memorials across the country, the evocative Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red tribute puts into perspective the sheer number of young men whose lives were lost in the name of freedom and liberty. A rekindled interest in family history means that these acts of selflessness will never be forgotten.