March 27: Charles and his right to privacy

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THE Prince of Wales finds himself in an invidious position when it comes to his personal correspondence with Ministers – and whether the contents of these “black spider” letters, so called because of the author’s squiggly handwriting, should be placed in the public domain or not.

If Charles chose not to become immersed in the affairs of state, and champion those causes that are close to his heart like his Prince’s Trust charity, the environment and the future of farming, critics would have started to question the role of His Royal Highness in public life.

Yet the consequence of the Supreme Court’s ruling, which paves the way for the Prince’s missives to be published following a decade-long campaign by the Guardian, could deter Charles – or the Duke of Cambridge for that matter – from becoming better informed on those issues which could be pertinent to their respective reigns.

The regret is that it has cost so much time – and money – to reach such a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion, one which prompted David Cameron to suggest that a revision might need to be made to Britain’s freedom of information laws which have done so much to enhance the accountability of public servants.

However, there is a difference. The Prince of Wales is not standing for public office, he is in a unique role as the heir to the throne, and recipients of his letters have welcomed the exchange of correspondence – even the SNP’s Alex Salmond, the politician who would most like to see the United Kingdom broken up, remarked in his latest diaries about the constructive comments that Charles invariably makes in his letters. Given his current and future role, it would, therefore, be regrettable if this ruling made it more difficult for the Prince of Wales to prepare himself, and his office, for the eventual day when he is enthroned as 
King Charles III.

Children first

Lessons learned from failings

IT IS only proper to acknowledge the turnaround in children’s services in Leeds – and the improvements that have been highlighted by Ofsted. Today’s report, and its contents, offer a complete contrast to those exposés that have highlighted chronic shortcomings in the oversight of vulnerable young people, not least the sexual grooming of at least 1,400 young girls in Rotherham.

Like Rotherham and those councils accused of negligence bordering upon the criminal, Leeds does have a chequered history of its own – an unannounced Ofsted inspection, carried out in the aftermath of the rape and murder of two-year-old Casey Mullen by the toddler’s psychopathic uncle in 2007, revealed systemic failings which left scores of vulnerable children at risk of abuse

and neglect.

Most damning of all was the fact that social services staff missed several opportunities to spare little Casey from the abuse that would claim her life at such a tragically young age, a failing which led to children’s services director Rosemary Archer bringing forward to her retirement.

As such, today’s report is testament to the leadership shown by Ms Archer’s successor Nigel Richardson and also his staff who now work far more closely with other agencies. They have also been among the first to embrace Leeds Council’s desire to become one of the world’s first “child friendly cities”. Not only should such progress be lauded, but it also shows what is possible when spending pressures are compelling town halls to achieve more with less. The challenge now is to maintain these high standards – the children of Leeds deserve nothing less.

Club v country

Gas fitter puts North Ferriby first

UNLIKE THOSE England international footballers who struggle to be inspired or motivated by the prospect of a Wembley appearance – several have cried off from tonight’s Euro 2016 qualifier against lowly Lithuania with indifference – trainee gas fitter Jason St Juste will have no such qualms when he runs out onto the hallowed turf this weekend.

This 29-year-old, whose lifelong love affair with the beautiful game began on the streets of his home city of Leeds, has turned down an international call-up from St Kitts & Nevis to play in a World Cup qualifying match in order to play for North Ferriby United in the FA Trophy final.

The biggest game in the East Yorkshire side’s history, the wing wizard’s decision shows what the club means to him – and what the team means to its fans. This is one instance when the player had every right to put club before country – this unlikely hero might not get a better chance to become a Wembley winner. We wish him, and North Ferriby, all the luck in the world.

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