County’s wheel of good fortune

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WITH JUST 100 days to go until the Grand Départ, it is timely that this landmark coincides with today’s Y14 conference which will highlight the importance of tourism to Yorkshire’s economy.

WITH JUST 100 days to go until the Grand Départ, it is timely that this landmark coincides with today’s Y14 conference which will highlight the importance of tourism to Yorkshire’s economy.

For the staging of the Tour de France, the third largest sporting event in the world after the Olympics and football World Cup, provides an unique opportunity to showcase Yorkshire – and its stunning scenery – to a global audience.

It must not be squandered. As Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity will point out to his audience at Harrogate International Centre, and at a gala dinner in Ripon tonight, this needs to be the “no regrets” Tour – he does not want people complaining after the event that the county did not do more to encourage cycling.

As such, the likelihood of Yorkshire hosting international road-racing events for the foreseeable future can only be beneficial if the Tour’s legacy is more people embracing cycling as a mode of transport or form of exercise. In many respects, the Grand Départ is just the beginning of a far longer journey.

Yet there is also no reason why cycling should not be an intrinsic part of VisitBritain’s long-overdue plan to put the British countryside at the fulcrum of its latest marketing campaign that aims to attract more international visitors to these shores.

That they are doing so is largely down to Mr Verity bringing the Grand Départ to Yorkshire – and VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues acknowledged this when he spoke about “the elegance of Harrogate” and the fearsome race up Holme Moss which will take place on day two of the Tour.

With this region accruing £600m a year from foreign visitors, there is absolutely no reason why this significant sum will not increase still further as a result of Yorkshire being promoted as one of the world’s cycling capitals.

Fuel for thought

Energy price freeze row heats up

IN A particularly heated Prime Minister’s Questions, both David Cameron and Ed Miliband sought to claim the credit for “Big Six” energy supplier SSE’s welcome decision to freeze household gas and electricity prices until 2016. Their battle of political wills over the cost of living is only going to intensify ahead of the next election.

A more plausible explanation is that the supplier, which will pay for the policy by cutting 500 jobs, wanted to pre-empt today’s long-awaited report by the energy industry regulator that is likely to recommended a two-year inquiry into the pricing policies of the major suppliers – and whether their practices thwarted competition or not.

As such, SSE and its major rivals only have themselves to blame for presiding over a flawed system that appeared to put their own interests before those of their consumers who found it increasingly difficult to switch suppliers – the mechanism that was supposed to help keep prices down.

Yet SSE managing director William Morris did raise a philosophical point that was overlooked in the Commons as the main party leaders traded insults. He attributed recent price rises to Government schemes “to support good things like energy efficiency and low-carbon electricity”, and that it might be preferable if these were paid out of general taxation in the future.

However, Mr Morris needs to remember that no government – Conservative or Labour – is likely to accede to this until the energy industry has cleaned up its own act. It can begin to do so by proving total transparency, at all times, on bills.

Lest we forget

Facing facts over First World War

THE UPCOMING First World War commemorations will be particularly poignant to those who lost ancestors in the 1914-18 conflict.

Yet, while most of these families will be well-informed about those battles that changed the course of history, there are still shocking levels of ignorance about the war.

Just one in five people questioned in a recent survey knew that it was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which triggered the chain of tumultuous events which led to the outbreak of war – and two-thirds of respondents did not know the fate of War Secretary Lord Kitchener whose face had appeared on the iconic “Your Country Needs You” posters.

As such, it can only be hoped that the memorial events lead to a greater understanding about the battles of 100 years ago.

For, without the sacrifices made by so many in two world wars, Britain would not be the great country – and beacon of liberty – that it is today.