Not a time for complacency

There is no room for complacency, despite Chancellor George Osborne declaring that Britain’s economy is finally “on the mend” after the latest growth figures exceeded expectations.

Even though it would be churlish not to begrudge a 0.6 per cent rise in economic output in the second quarter of 2013, compared to a tentative 0.3 per cent between January and March, these figures confirm the sluggishness of the upturn.

These modest improvements, further confirmation that Britain’s recovery is still the slowest in history, will do little to help those all families 
whose finances are being hit by an abrupt rise in motoring costs.

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Yet, while the return to growth provides Mr Osborne with further bragging rights over Labour’s Ed Balls, the Forum of Private Business was not alone when it said that far more needs to be done to provide equity to those firms that have a viable expansion plan.

Despite their taxpayer-funded bailout, the banks are still not doing enough to help those companies looking to invest in the future. Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury, himself a former banker, can address as part of his new crusade against payday lenders.

That said, Mr Osborne also needs to recognise that London’s recent resurgence has not been replicated across the country and that considerable investment is still needed in Yorkshire’s infrastructure if the region is to prosper.

The Chancellor will point to the Government’s resolution over the HS2 high speed rail revolution and the devolution of powers to local enterprise partnerships as evidence that the coalition is committed to narrowing the North-South divide.

However a word of warning is required. It will take at least two decades for HS2 to be built and the LEPs still have to scrap for any money made available by Whitehall. This process also means opportunities for match funding from the European Union can be lost.

As such, Mr Osborne needs to continue working morning, noon and night, the mantra of Lord Heseltine, and ensure that every decision maximises all opportunities to create new jobs and build on the slow economic progress which is now being made.

Management mess

IT is understandable that Dewsbury residents feel aggrieved about the downgrading of NHS services in the town which will mean them travelling to Wakefield in future for treatment.

They are paying the price for the chronic financial difficulties that have enveloped Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, and which has resulted in a succession of managerial changes. Take Jules Preston MBE, the current Trust chairman. He is the fifth person to fill this role since the late Lord Lofthouse retired in November 2004.

Yet, while there will always be a turnover of staff amongst NHS managers, there does need to be some continuity – after all one of the primary roles of Trust members is to ensure that its local residents receive a standard of care that is in line with their expectations.

Of course, any loss of service will inevitably be accompanied by some resentment; it is the same in North Yorkshire where a consultation exercise will begin on September 2 into proposals to downgrade maternity services at Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, which have been opposed by Foreign Secretary William Hague amongst others.

That said, the impasse that so often accompanies painful decision in the NHS has remained for so long that there is every likelihood that services, such as those in Dewsbury, will be transferred to larger hospitals where more specialist care can be provided.

If this is so, it is even more essential that health chiefs – both locally and nationally – tell patients how they might benefit from the amalgamation of services. For too long, the needs of NHS users have played second fiddle to the whims of managers who have not remained in post long enough to be held to account for their decision-making – or inaction.

Yorkshire’s finest

THE poignancy was palpable yesterday as the Duke of York, the Yorkshire Regiment’s colonel-in-chief, oversaw a ceremonial Exchange of Colours parade as part of the Government’s reorganisation of the Army.

Inevitably, it was a day of reflection for those who believe that the Ministry of Defence stands guilty of riding roughshod over centuries of tradition as it attempts to remodel the Armed Forces following the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, as well as the continuing need to control its operational costs.

However, it is testament to the enduring professionalism and bravery of the Yorkshire Regiment that its soldiers will continue to serve Queen and country with the utmost distinction.

As demonstrated by the warmth of the public’s acclaim whenever the Yorkshire Regiment takes part in parades around the region, its troops will always be infinitely more popular than their political masters at the Ministry of Defence bunker, who never appear to understand – or grasp – the significance of the lifelong bonds which are forged when individual battalions go to war.