DAVID Cameron’s reticence towards new tax-raising powers for the North’s major cities is understandable. Unlike Labour, the Prime Minister is aware that families do not have a bottomless pit of money and that the public sector – and the local government apparatus in particular – needs to offer far greater value for money in the future.
That is why the Tory leader challenged Labour’s Clive Betts, the Sheffield MP and chairman of the communities and local government select committee, to include the concept in his party’s manifesto – Mr Cameron believes there is not the political appetite in the North for the additional spending powers enjoyed by Scotland and Wales.
However the Prime Minister’s dismissive tone neglected two key issues. First regions like Yorkshire do not enjoy the financial benefits that Scotland receives as a consequence of the Barnett Formula. This region remains the nation’s poor relation. Second, his comments appear at odds with his commitment to localism.
Belatedly, progress is being made on regional policy – George Osborne recognises that the North is a sleeping giant from an economic standpoint – but clarity has still emerge on the most advantageous way of delivering the Government’s economic growth agenda at a regional level in order to avoid a duplication of effort. Questions of funding and scrutiny are also outstanding.
As such, it is imperative that the Chancellor’s forthcoming Autumn Statement lives up to expectations and provides the necessary clarity and framework. It could not be more important. For, the sooner the Government addresses how best to empower Yorkshire, the quicker this region’s business, political and civic leaders can put in place the necessary infrastructure so this region can become the economic powerhouse envisaged by Mr Osborne.
NHS staff must be respected
DOCTORS AND nurses already face an onerous job without having to worry about their personal safety while treating patients. Yet, regrettably, the risk of physical assault is a constant threat, with 68,683 NHS staff attacked in the past 12 months according to newly-released statistics – a rise of 8.7 per cent. To put this figure into context, it is just marginally shy of the capacity of the iconic Millennium Stadium in Cardiff – or Manchester United’s Old Trafford football ground.
Though some comfort can be derived from the fact that there has been a corresponding increase in the number of offenders who have been prosecuted, many will be disturbed that the majority of cases do still go unpunished and that NHS trusts need to be seen to be enforcing a “zero tolerance” mantra in order to send out the strongest possible message that the physical and verbal abuse of staff will not be tolerated.
Inevitably there will be occurrences where a prosecution may not be in the public interest – incidents involving dementia sufferers or mental health patients do fall into this category and need to be handled sensitively for understandable reasons – but this does not excuse those drunks who mete out abuse in A&E units or threaten the safety and wellbeing of ambulance paramedics because of their inebriated state.
Not only should such irresponsible individuals feel the full force of the law rather than escaping with a slapped wrist, but the courts also need to be encouraged to use the sentencing powers at their disposal in order to reinforce the importance of the notion of respect.
Best of the very best
Yorkshire’s 2014 young achievers
THE inspiring individuals honoured at a glittering ceremony last night to celebrate Yorkshire’s Young Achievers of 2014 could not be more deserving of their accolades. They are the best of the best and the deeds of the winners will go a long way to reassuring those who have become intolerant of younger people because of the irresponsibility of a feckless minority.
This is mistaken. The awards, sponsored by McCormicks Solicitors, have repeatedly shown that Yorkshire can be very proud of the number of youngsters whose actions speak louder than their words.
Two other points also became salient last night. Role models matter, as typified by the awards presented to Emmerdale stars Verity Rushworth, Amelia Flanagan and Kelvin Fletcher as well as Leeds-born footballer James Milner. And this county would be much the poorer without the benevolence shown by those who make it possible for younger people to make a difference. Long may this continue.