Growth must be Tour legacy

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AS UNIVERSITY of Leeds graduate Sir Peter Hendy followed the Tour de France peloton through Knaresborough, the Transport Commissioner for London made a profound point – Yorkshire’s organisation was even more meritorious because there was no structure in place to bring town halls and other public sector bodies together.

Sir Peter, the man who oversaw the organisation behind London’s Grand Départ in 2007 and also Monday’s stage three which finished on The Mall, said the contrast could not have been greater with the capital where local authorities ignore artificial boundaries and work together under a framework set by the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson.

“If you can replicate this in economic development, you can take Yorkshire in a whole new direction,” he said. This argument goes to the crux of today’s report on the transfer of financial powers from London to the English regions and the call by Sheffield MP Clive Betts, the chairman of Parliament’s communities and local government select committee, for economic growth must be the Tour’s defining legacy.

Both men are right. The Grand Départ has shown what is possible when the whole region unites behind a common objective – and Yorkshire must not allow local differences to stand in the way of job-creation initiatives. And Mr Betts goes further; he suggests that the English regions receive the kind of financial freedoms enjoyed by New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo.

Many will concur, especially if it helps Yorkshire win jobs and investment ahead of Scotland and Wales. The challenge is delivering this when City Deals and other newly-created structures are so fragmented – and when the notion of regional assemblies was rejected by voters 10 years ago. Now that taxpayers have a better idea of the opportunities, has there not been a better time to revisit this debate?

Society’s duty: Don’t view loneliness in isolation

THE risks associated with loneliness are only now being fully recognised – with isolation seen to have a profound effect on health, particularly among the elderly.

As such, it is imperative that those who could be vulnerable in this regard are identified as quickly as possible in order to provide them with the support and contact they need and are currently lacking.

The first survey of social isolation has revealed the problem to be particularly acute in parts of this region, with 70 per cent of those questioned in Leeds saying they do not have as much social contact as they would like, the highest figure in the country.

Yet, while the Government does deserve credit for attempting to gauge the scale of social isolation, it is concerning that its means of measurement are so rudimentary.

By merely restricting its remit to those who are in receipt of social care, the Department of Health risks excluding scores of pensioners who could easily slip through the net.

Adults using social care are undoubtedly among those most at risk of suffering from loneliness and isolation, but loneliness poses a significant health risk to people long before they enter the social care system.

Norman Lamb, the Care and Support Minister, is right to call on people to step forward as volunteers to provide the extra layer of contact and support that is needed to make a difference to people’s lives.

However, if the data being used is too patchy for those co-ordinating the war on loneliness to know exactly where this need lies, then it surely follows that efforts to meet it will be hamstrung from the start.

Minster’s marvels: Priceless value of craftspeople

AS a tribute to the Tour de France, the yellow jersey on the roof of York Minster proclaiming “Allez, Alleluia” could not have been more inspired and was almost certainly the result of

Dr John Sentamu’s handiwork.

Yet this powerful sentiment is equally applicable to the events of 30 years ago today when a devastating fire ripped through the Minster – the picture of the inferno, under the headline “God’s house in flames”, led to one of the most memorable front pages in The Yorkshire Post’s 260-year history.

Without the priceless skills of those craftspeople who restored this defining symbol of Yorkshire history with so much pride and professionalism after firefighters battled heroically to minimise the damage, the Minster would not have been able to rise from the ashes. This is expertise which must not be lost to the country if Britain’s great places of worship and historic monuments are to continue to be preserved for time immemorial.