There’s no place like Yorkshire

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THE only surprise about the annual Halifax Quality of Life Survey is that Harrogate and Ryedale are the only two local districts to creep into Britain’s 50 most desirable locations.

This, after all, is God’s own county and it is a source of regret that this list appears to be skewed in favour of the South rather than Yorkshire’s bustling cities which also have the good fortune to be surrounded by such stunning countryside.

To some, this will offer further evidence that Yorkshire continues to find itself on the wrong side of the North-South divide despite David Cameron pledging before, and after, the 2010 election to buck this trend.

Perhaps the reason that Hart, a district which straddles the M3 in North East Hampshire, has topped the poll for a third consecutive year is its transport links to and from London as well as sound health services – life expectancy rates are longer here than anywhere else because of the quality of NHS provision.

Health and transport are two areas of policy where Yorkshire councils receive a disproportionate amount of funding in contrast to London, and the prosperous shire districts surrounding the capital, which have already bounced back from the recession.

But it is not all bad news. The best school results in England were recorded in Craven where 94.6 per cent of pupils achieved five or more GCSE passes at Grade C or better while petrol and diesel prices in these parts remain the cheapest in Britain – a small consolation to all those filling up their cars ahead of the Christmas getaway.

And there are other reasons to be cheerful. Hull will be the 2017 City of Culture while work is finally resuming on Bradford’s mothballed shopping centre.

These announcements mean that Yorkshire can approach 2014 – and prepare for the Tour de France’s Grand Depart – with far more confidence than could have been envisaged 12 months ago.

The challenge, however, remains a formidable one, despite GDP rising faster than expected. Unemployment remains above the national average – and some parts of the region are over-dependent on the public sector in terms of both jobs and benefit entitlements. This needs reversing.

However change – whether it be political or personal – will only happen with a strong work ethic and positive outlook on life. And, while hard graft may not have been one of the criteria used by the Halifax in its survey, this characteristic remains Yorkshire’s greatest attribute, and that can only bode well for the future.

Red alert over A&E admissions

THAT hospitals failed to hit their A&E waiting time target by just 0.2 per cent for a second consecutive week does not sound significant at face value.

The reality, however, is very different. It still means that thousands of patients were not treated within four hours of arriving at casualty – the Government’s benchmark.

And this is before the traditional Christmas surge in admissions which puts hospitals under even greater strain, and struggling to see 95 per cent of casualty arrivals within four hours.

This should not be regarded as a criticism of those NHS staff whose dedication will be taken for granted by many over the holiday season.

Yet it still shows that the reality at hospitals across Yorkshire is slightly at odds with the bullishness expressed by David Cameron who promised to accept full responsibility for A&E services this winter.

The Prime Minister may have found the time to offer some football predictions to the nation, including a Hull victory because his wife’s family hail from Scunthorpe on the opposite bank of the Humber, but others will contend that he should have been rolling up his sleeves and ensuring that the country’s care contingencies are robust enough.

It also means ensuring that the working relationship between hospitals and local authorities is fit for purpose so the elderly receive the best possible care and are not left at the mercy of a dysfunctional system for days on end.

The modesty of a golfing great

MATT Fitzpatrick’s modesty marks him out as a deserving victor of the race to become the Yorkshire Post’s sports hero of 2013, pipping, amongst others, the Grand National-winning duo of Sue and Harvey Smith who are 50 years senior to the talented teenager in terms of age.

Yet, like the Smiths after Auroras Encore conquered Aintree, the 19-year-old golfer has kept his feet firmly on the ground after a remarkable run of success which saw him win the silver medal in the British Open before becoming the first English player in a century to win the prestigious US Amateur tournament. And then there was his heroics in the Walker Cup, amateur golf’s Ryder Cup.

That Fitzpatrick chose not to turn professional straight away, preferring to continue learning his trade at a leading American university, is testament to his work ethic and readiness to learn from the mistakes made by Justin Rose and others.

And then there was his response when asked to name his best round of golf in 2013.

“The next one,” he said with the humility and enthusiasm that will endear him to golf devotees for the foreseeable future.