WHEN DAVID Cameron finally responded to The Yorkshire Post’s open letter on flooding, he rejected any suggestion of a North-South divide over the allocation of Government money for new defences.
Even though the Prime Minister was criticised for pulling the plug on a scheme for Leeds first proposed after the 2007 floods before sanctioning a £300m programme to enhance flood defences in the Thames Valley, Mr Cameron wrote that £54 per person was being invested across Yorkshire and the rest of the North in comparison to just £42 in the South East. “It is wrong to suggest that more financial help is going to those in the South,” he added.
Yet this argument does not quite hold water. The areas included in the Prime Minister’s definition of the North – Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Northumbria and the East Midlands – covers a far greater geographical expanse than the South East and, therefore, have a far greater number of rivers to protect.
Furthermore new analysis of those infrastructure schemes to be included in the Government’s six year investment programme point to a significant spending bias in favour of the South East – the precise opposite of Mr Cameron’s stance. This is refuted by Defra which says money is spent “where it is needed most, whether that’s north, south, east or west” and that regional comparisons are flawed because “rainfall does not respect man-made regional boundaries”.
A point highlighted by this newspaper in its call for future policy to be based on the whole catchment areas of rivers, rather than building defences in one area which, in turn, increases the threat to homes and businesses further downstream, the Government – and Mr Cameron – clearly has much still to do before it can regain the confidence of all those who believe that Yorkshire and the North are still the poor relations on this critical issue.
Given Mr Cameron chose to ignore his own advice and spend Easter in Lanzarote rather than in a flood-hit community because he needed some time to think, his response will be awaited with interest when he does return to these shores after his recuperation.
Broad horizons. Priceless value of school trips
THE threat to the Yorkshire Schools Exploring Society, set up in 1964 to facilitate school trips around the world, brings into focus the future of extra curricular activities as the relationship between the Government and teaching profession becomes more strained.
Teachers jeered Nicky Morgan when the Education Secretary accused them of exaggerating the day-to-day difficulties, a state of affairs which is hardly likely to motivate them to run those lessons that enable pupils to broaden their horizons.
Yet, with Chancellor George Osborne using his Budget to call for the school-day to be extended and Dame Judith Hackitt, the chairwoman of the Health and Safety Executive, saying that children were suffering from an “excessive risk-averse” culture in schools which, in turn, was stifling their readiness for the real world, what will be the status of school expeditions in the future?
Leaving aside those Yorkshire schools that have come under fire for expecting parents to pay for sports trips to far-flung places like Barbados, visits to museums – or a chance to explore the great outdoors as part of geography lessons – should be integral to the curriculum, and irrespective of whether schools are academies or LEA-controlled. Perhaps Ms Morgan will consider this before she next vilifies teachers.
A hard won peace. Ireland remembers Easter Rising
IN CONTRAST to the events in Dublin to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising which the Nobel Prize-winning politician David Trimble says inflamed the Troubles, yesterday’s centenary commemoration was more mindful of current Anglo-Irish relations following the peace process. A peace hard-won on both sides of the Irish Sea, the clock must not be turned back if this rapprochement, illustrated by the Queen’s historic and symbolic state visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, is to prevail over extremism.
As such, diplomacy and dialogue remain critical, not least in honouring the memory of victims like those returning soldiers and their families blown up in the 1974 coach bomb on the M62 near Hartshead Moor services; Glenn Goodman, the special constable gunned down by IRA terrorists near Tadcaster, or those Yorkshire politicians – like the late Roy Mason and Merlyn Rees – who worked so tirelessly to bring peace to Northern Ireland.