Improvement under the Conservatives – it depends on your point of view
21 December 2023
For many years now, the Conservative government has been – and still is – damaging the country. Ministers claim that they have been making improvements. But (almost) everybody knows that they have done exactly the opposite: austerity, Brexit, Covid handling, mini-budget, inflation, Rwanda – you name it.
But why can’t they see what they are doing? Some, I am sure, can see it. But because they are personally benefiting from it, they pretend that everything is perfect. Or, if it is not yet perfect, then it will be in the near future, they say. For all others it is just a result of the angle in which they look at the events.
Take, for example, a normal statistical graph which clearly shows a downward trend. It doesn’t matter what it is about. It will look like this:
But these particular Conservatives, of course, don’t look at it like this. They see everything with their heads held to the right. And seen from the (politically) right the same graph looks like this:
“This is not too bad” they will say. Or “everything is more or less normal”.
(You can try it. It does not hurt, and in most cases it will not cause any permanent damage.)
The hard-right Conservatives, who form the government, are bending their heads so far to the right that they are almost falling over. To them the same graph will look like this:
That means that to them everything is in excellent condition. There is no downward trend; everything is going upward.
The big problem is that they are not only cheating themselves. They are trying to cheat the whole country. No wonder that in recent years the ability to lie has become one of the main qualifications (apart from incompetence) to get a job in the government.
And after their ‘career’ in government they (or at least most of them – sorry, Nadine) will become members of the House of Lords and will continue doing the same damage there.
Conclusion: do not trust any statistic that you have not ‘doctored’ yourself.
A genuine Brexit upside
13 December 2023
In the spirit of your article ‘The search goes on for Brexit upsides’ I have a wonderful upside to share: I have just been charged €9 customs duty to receive a Christmas card from a UK relative sent to my address in France. Finally a definitive reason to call a halt to this obsolete and planet-warming custom! At last a Brexit upside beyond dispute.
I remain your Obedient Servant, Bah Humbug, etc etc.
The Lib Dems in North Yorkshire seemingly want to forget the “independent, straight-talking Yorkshire woman”
27 November 2023
The repeated claim by the LibDem candidate in the North Yorkshire Council by-election in Sowerby and Topcliffe, suggesting that “Labour has never had a councillor anywhere in the Thirsk & Malton constituency” is inaccurate and should be withdrawn.
Jan Marshall was the Labour councillor representing the people of Thirsk as the ward member on Hambleton District Council 1991–2007. She spent four years as a North Yorkshire county councillor (2001–2005), has been mayor of Thirsk twice and in addition she served on Thirsk Town Council for many years.
Many projects embedded in Thirsk today were promoted during Ms Marshall’s time in office such as the volunteer-run Ritz Cinema, Thirsk’s Blue Plaque trail, the relocation of the tourist information centre, the establishment of Thirsk Clock youth facility, East Thirsk Community Hall and the re-siting of the livestock centre.
Marshall is currently chair of North Yorkshire County Labour Party and continues to take a very active role in community and political life here in Sowerby, Topcliffe and Thirsk. Her work as a Labour councillor followed the success of other local politicians such as Joan Maynard, Cliff Megson and Bert Craig.
Jan Marshall is a distinguished veteran campaigner who has served her community well for many years. She is rightly upset by the claim and the failure for it to be corrected as soon as it was known to be false.
The LibDem candidate has refused to retract or publicly apologise for the error he privately acknowledges.
B A Southwell
It is a privilege to look away
22 November 2023
In the face of the world’s greatest challenges, it is our shared responsibility to stand up and make a difference. Today, I write to you with a heavy heart, fuelled by the knowledge that UK foreign aid cuts have cast a dark shadow over the lives of thousands of families to bear the terrible brunt of extreme poverty.
On a crowded mattress in a small mud-plastered room, sat a mother slowly wiping her tears. Grief and love coursed through her. Surrounded by her children, reminded her of the three who were missing. The three she had to give away. Silent tears coursed down her cheeks. It was like there were two people in her head: one screaming the unthinkable, telling her to quit on life, and the other whispering to her to persevere.
Abiyot clung to the voice of life.
She awoke the next morning. There was still nothing in the house to feed her children. She didn’t have the money for bread. The youngest ones looked at her expectantly for breakfast. Their older siblings looked away. They understood.
Abiyot’s story is an unimaginable one. Your support can be a turning point for millions of people like Abiyot transforming their story from one of despair to one of hope. The Borgen project is an advocate for global change, and we urge you to reach out to your local politicians to let our voices be heard that enough is enough. More information on Abiyot’s story can be seen here.
Prior to 2016 there was a smoothly functioning parcels delivery service between the UK and the Irish Republic. Brexit has upset all that, introducing new forms and additional bureaucracy.
An Post, the Republic’s postal service reports over 10,000 items per week are having to be returned to Great Britain because of incorrect data on the parcels. Dave McRedmond, the CEO of An Post, reports even having to send back cremated ashes.
The parcel post, previously used by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has seen a 58% drop in activity in the last two years as firms give up on trying to import or export small items.
“The whole thing is a nonsense” McRedmond is reported as saying. “I am amazed there isn’t more fuss in your media and your politics about the damage being done”.
Letters to Yorkshire Bylines are one attempt to flag up these Brexit downsides.
Chair, Bradford for Europe
Freeport threat to North Yorkshire Moors
17 November 2023
In regional politics, the Yorkshire Party stands as a staunch advocate for the interests of Yorkshire folk. As the debate surrounding freeports gains momentum across the country, the party is grappling with the potential consequences these economic zones may bring to the picturesque landscapes of North Yorkshire, particularly the North Yorkshire Moors.
Freeports are designated areas where goods can be imported and exported without incurring customary customs duties and where planning regulations are relaxed, prompting concern that the environment is at risk. Despite ongoing issues at Teesport, one thing remains clear: freeports are here to stay. However, the Yorkshire Party’s primary concern lies in the potential devastation these zones may wreak on the North Yorkshire Moors, a landscape of unparalleled beauty.
The party adamantly opposes the geographical expansion of the freeport area that encroaches upon the Yorkshire Moors. The delicate balance between economic growth and environmental preservation has been disrupted elsewhere, such as the ongoing problems at Teesport, where the clash between industrial expansion and environmental conservation has become palpable.
The North Yorkshire Moors, a haven for biodiversity and a sanctuary for flora and wildlife faces an existential threat. The Yorkshire Party emphasises the crucial role the Moors play in mitigating climate change and the concerns voiced by various environmental groups regarding the potential consequences of freeports on this delicate ecosystem.
The danger to the environment extends beyond the immediate ecological impact. The allure of the North Yorkshire Moors has made it a tourism hotspot, attracting visitors from near and far. The Yorkshire Party recognises the potential negative consequences freeports might have on this vital industry, as environmental degradation diminishes the region’s appeal to tourists.
In light of these concerns, the Yorkshire Party firmly asserts the need to protect this extraordinary space for future generations. Emphasis should be on responsible development that safeguards the unique landscapes and ecosystems that define Yorkshire.
As the debate continues, the party is a vigilant guardian of Yorkshire’s interests, advocating for a sustainable and harmonious future for the people and the land they call home.
We believe the Levelling up Minister Dehenna Davison MP should exclude National Parks from freeport zones to ensure their protection and preservation. Implement sustainable development practices that safeguard the environment and the long-term wellbeing over short-term economic gain.
for a stronger Yorkshire in a fairer United Kingdom
Have a deaf aware Christmas
15 November 2023
Christmas is a time when families and friends look forward to getting together, but for the one in five adults with hearing loss, crowded dinner tables full of people laughing and shouting over each other can be a nightmare to follow. Not to mention softly lit rooms and the blaring notes of Rocking around the Christmas Tree. This is no Christmas cracker joke.
You may have family or friends who struggle with hearing loss? Or perhaps you’re the one who often feels left out of conversations? RNID’s Christmas Dinner Game was created to ensure that everyone at your dinner table can have fun together whilst being deaf aware to make sure that everybody feels included and no one misses that joke you’ve been practising!
Visit rnid.org.uk/game and we’ll send you a game pack in the post which will include everything you need to have a festive, fun filled dinner, at the same time as also learning a bit of BSL on the side!
You’ll also find tips for being deaf aware on our website. This Christmas let’s make sure no one is left out.
Director of inclusion and employment at RNID
Public call out for memories of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike from National Coal Mining Museum
10 November 2023
2024 marks the 40th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike. To commemorate this, National Coal Mining Museum for England is presenting a year-long exhibition, 84-85 – The Longest Year, and an events programme focusing on the memories and stories of those who lived through it.
With an emphasis on the experiences of individuals, the museum is asking members of the public across the country to contribute their own memories and stories from the Miners’ Strike. The call out is to anyone who experienced the strike at the time, whether this is as a mineworker, relative of a miner or someone who lived within the mining communities during 1984/85.
The exhibition will focus on the miners who were on strike for the full year, those that went back early and those who did not strike at all. The latter two categories are underrepresented in the Museum’s collection, so this call out is an invaluable opportunity to collect these stories whilst they are still in living memory.
The museum is looking for:
- Miners and their families who wish to be interviewed.
These interviews will form part of the museum’s audio collection and will feed into the content of the project.
- Objects related to the strike.
If individuals own objects that relate to the strike, that they wish to donate to the museum, curatorial would be delighted to consider them for the permanent collection.
- Memories of the strike.
This is the public’s chance to add a memory to the museum’s collection and share personal experiences of the strike.
A form has been set-up on the museum’s website allowing members of the public to submit their memories in the form of text, photographs, video or audio. To express interest in being interviewed or donating an object to the collection, emails can be sent to [email protected]. Contributions and participation will be treated in the strictest confidence; recordings and memories can also be anonymised if preferred.
Anne Bradley, curator (social & oral history) said:
“We want to look at the strike in its broadest context and that includes the stories of those who went back to work early and those who chose not to strike, but we do not have the objects to support this. By contributing memories, members of the public have the chance to have their say while also committing their own story to the permanent collection for future generations to learn from.”
Re-establish the priority of a service in the interests of the public and not purely the market
6 November 2023
It has been reported that one of Britain’s largest train and bus operators, Arriva, owned by the German Deutsche Bahn company, is to be bought by US infrastructure investor 1 Squared.
Margaret Thatcher and her government initiated and encouraged the privatisation of much of Britain’s state-owned infrastructure and utilities. In 1986 there was the British Gas promotional campaign in which characters urged each other to “tell Sid” about the chance to buy shares at “affordable” prices? No one told Sid that, as a state-owned public utility, British Gas was already owned by him. Sid’s personal shares were rapidly gobbled up by big investors. How ironic that Thatcher, the arch-nationalist and EU sceptic, started the process whereby so much of this infrastructure is now owned by foreign, and sometimes state owned, companies.
Was this the law of unexpected consequences? No, it was the predictable consequence of unbridled market forces.
In terms of investment and modernisation, it is true that considerable industrial progress has been made through the process of privatisation in a country where successive governments clearly lacked the ability or desire to invest. Despite investing in schools and hospitals, even Tony Blair’s Labour government made no change to the privatisation of utilities and never reinstated social housing.
However, we were told that privatisation would relieve the public purse from its burden. It was a con. The taxpayer has continued to enormously subsidise the fossil fuel industry, the train operators, and the energy utilities. Water companies have prioritised share-holder dividends over investment, and now have the cheek to request public funds for the investment required to halt the dumping of raw sewage into the sea and rivers. Furthermore, when train operators fail, the public purse has to pick up the pieces, as with LNER.
People now realise that market forces will always prioritise profit over public service. But is the tide beginning to turn? Andy Burnham, as Mayor of Greater Manchester, is reversing the trend. After nearly 40 years of Thatcherite deregulation and privatisation, the change to Bee Network electric buses, under public control, has started and full rollout is scheduled to be completed by January 2025. It does not need to be a question of market forces versus total renationalisation. Burnham’s model re-establishes the priority of a service in the interests of the public and not purely the market.
With best wishes,
Why is Yorkshire so poorly served by public transport?
29 September 2023
This letter is written against the presently noisy foreground of the latest HS2 rumoured cancellation/axing/mutilation.
A recent study found Huddersfield station, an important point on our East to West line, to be the national leader in cancelled services. According to On Time Trains 13% of services were cancelled, in second place was Manchester Victoria with 10%. I’ve often witnessed very crowded platforms at Dewsbury station ‘relieved’ by an equally overloaded two-car train with many ‘passengers’ unable to board.
Manchester Airport now has a super railway station that takes one right into the airport. Such a pity that recently no train could reliably get us there for a reasonable 11.10am departure or home from a 9.30pm arrival.
In summary, we are terribly badly served here in the former West Riding of Yorkshire with public transport.
Leeds had a tram system schemed in recent years. Some enabling roadworks were carried out but it was abandoned through cost. As one can see, for instance with the Sheffield tram system, our UK tram systems are hugely over-engineered and needlessly costly with full-height ‘railwayish’ platforms, viaducts above road junctions and other expensive specifications. The track laying and associated works caused pandemonium in Sheffield for quite a long time.
Far cheaper, quicker and less disruptive to construct would be a trolleybus system that gives the same capacity, speed of installation and ecological benefits at greatly reduced cost over trams.
In Wakefield and other Yorkshire towns and cities, there are many wider roads where the central section could be given over to a ‘tidal flow’ bus way. Into town buses only in morning, the reverse at night out of town. Imagine how attractive the bus would then be over queuing in your idle car!
As I’ve said before on these pages, if this retired plasterer can see how serious our problems are and is able to propose some solutions, why on earth can’t they be solved? Perhaps we’re not sufficiently important.
Host a bake sale for RNID for deaf awareness month
27 September 2023
To celebrate Deaf Awareness Month and the start of the baking season, RNID are encouraging everyone to support people who are deaf or have hearing loss by hosting a bake sale. Whether you’re a seasoned baker, enjoy eating the cookie dough when no one is looking, or just like watching baking on tv, hosting a bake sale is a great way to have fun and make a difference.
87,000 Deaf people across the UK use British Sign Language (BSL), a rich and visual language which involves hand shapes and movements, lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements. BSL was legally recognised in 2022 but deaf people still face many barriers in society, and we need your help to break them down.
You don’t need to be a baking expert to make your event a success, and we’ll support you along the way. You can download lots of free materials from RNID’s website, plus top tips for running a great event.
So grab your apron, get some friends together and bake for RNID.
Teri Devine, director for inclusion and employment at RNID
Ivo Graham calls on people in Yorkshire to nominate volunteers who have made an impact on people affected by MS
26 September 2023
I’m delighted to be helping the MS Society celebrate the amazing volunteers who help the charity support people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) across the UK. We’re looking for people in Yorkshire to nominate volunteers who have made an impact on people affected by MS. Whether that’s through outstanding support, adventurous fundraising or tackling injustice on behalf of the whole MS community – we want to hear from you!
Around 10,500 people live with MS in Yorkshire and symptoms are different for everyone. MS can affect how a person moves, thinks and feels. Without volunteers’ time and energy, it would be impossible for the MS Society to deliver the services and support that it does.
I became an MS Society ambassador in 2022 but have been a lifelong supporter of the charity as my mum lives with MS. And I’m thrilled to say I’ll be hosting the virtual Volunteer Impact Awards ceremony on Thursday 30 November at 7pm to shine a light on the inspiring people who have done incredible things to support the MS community.
If readers know a volunteer in Yorkshire who they’d like to see get one of six special awards, please visit www.mssociety.org.uk/VolunteerAwards. Nominations close on Saturday 30 September 2023.
MS Society ambassador and comedian
Call a general election now
24 October 2023
Whilst the mainstream media is full of the latest celebrity scandals and Sunak’s kneejerk policy announcements it would be worth reflecting on the issues that matter to most people. Our public services continue to be ground down; the number of schools affected by crumbling concrete has risen sharply, more than 7 million people are waiting for treatment on the NHS, the underlying recruitment crises in schools and hospitals continues to get worse, 4.2 million children are living in poverty (according to DWP figures) and there are more than 100000 families living in temporary accommodation. To say nothing of the HS2 fiasco, sewage in rivers, corruption and cronyism, the precarious state of the economy, etc, etc.
The Conservative government has largely given up trying to do anything constructive, preferring to play to their traditional support base with incoherent announcements about net zero targets and an absolute refusal to take any kind of responsibility for their many failures over the last 13 years.
One thing the Tories have always been good at is hanging on to power, so we are stuck with them for probably another year. They should cut their losses and call a general election now and allow a Labour government to clear up the mess.
Chair – Skipton and Ripon Labour party
Proms and flags: who’s the moaner now?
13 September 2023
During the EU referendum, Remainers were regularly denounced as “moaners” by the Brexiteers who wanted to lead us to a brave new world. The former Conservative MP, Harvey Proctor, and other Brexiteers are reported as being incensed that there were many EU flags, as well as the traditional Union Jacks, at the Last Night of the Proms on Saturday.
The ever-beleaguered BBC is now criticised for allowing this to happen and for not, presumably, confiscating these flags. We seem to hear little from the Brexiteers about how improved the UK is now that it is free of the shackles of Brussels, but we are certainly hearing more and more moaning. How things have changed. I am sure Mr Proctor was further incensed to hear Rule Britania sung by the marvellous soprano Lise Davidsen who is Norwegian!
With best wishes,
ULEZ compliance and election strategies
30 August 2023
Dear editor (cc Sir Keir Starmer),
There was considerable concern among the motorists of the Uxbridge and South Ruislip during the recent by-election, which may have been stoked by blatant political and populist electioneering, reinforced later by comments from Rishi Sunak. A charge of £12.50 a day for entering the extended zone with a more polluting vehicle is a significant additional cost for a lower- paid worker.
What motorists or vehicles would be affected? Not most, as suggested during the by-election campaign, or indeed many. My family currently run two older cars: a 2001 registered ‘compact crossover sports utility vehicle’ (SUV) whatever that means – it looks like a 4-wheel-drive vehicle but is in fact front-wheel drive only – and a 2003 registered mid-sized 5-door hatchback. Both are for their age relatively low mileage at around 100k miles.
In keeping with my recent article, we don’t drive a high mileage, nor do we drive rapidly. As a pensioner, meeting the cost of a new EV is not a remote possibility and in our rural area, unlike London, public transport is not a realistic option. If a scrappage scheme allowed the purchase of an electric assist cargo bike and if local cycling provision were safer that would be my preferred option.
I am not likely to enter the new ULEZ but, out of curiosity, I plugged the registrations of both 20-year-old vehicles into the rather helpful TFL website. Both our cars would be exempt from the ULEZ charge.
How many motorists and vehicles then could possibly be liable for the ULEZ charge? The electorate of Uxbridge and South Ruislip will shortly be able to review their decision at the next general election. I hope many will check whether their vehicle is liable or exempt from the ULEZ charge before deciding whether or not what is in fact a pollution, health and climate initiative is worth accepting!
Condemned never to be believed
4 August 2023
Cassandra was a supposedly a mythological Greek prophetess, whose prophesies were correct, but she was condemned by Apollo never to be believed.
Yesterday, Greenpeace activists climbed on to the roof of Sunak’s ‘palace’ in Wensleydale to protest against his so-called ‘pragmatic’ granting of North Sea fossil fuel exploration licenses. There have been several such changes in policy by this PM, in particular. Let’s forget Paris, Glasgow and COP in general.
In the mainstream media little mention is made of the reason behind the Greenpeace ‘assault’ on the vastly expensive mansion. The PM is away on holiday in the USA. Only the failure of security is mentioned. Oh, la, la! That’ll never do!
The only other important item of news was about a former president of the USA, who like Johnson, manufactures ‘alternative facts’ to suit himself. Winston Churchill, much loved by Boris Johnson, used the term “terminological inexactitude” over a century ago. Politics doesn’t change! Neither do, it seems, we?
What is really concerning, though is how we, the electorate, continue to be fooled. Sunak has given the reason for more fossil fuel exploration as the need for energy to cover us, here in Britain, until 2050. The facts supporting his claim were demolished on Channel 4 News, hated by the Tory Party.
We don’t need more exploration. And we’re not focusing on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, meaning NOW. Antonio Gutteres, the secretary general of the UN, has pointed to this need for urgent action – which is not happening. Business as usual?
Why do we, the electorate, keep being fooled by these peddlers of terminological inexactitudes? Carpet bagging is back. I’m sure Petit Bretagne is not alone in this.
Stop investing in fossil fuel companies
2 August 2023
As holidaymakers and residents fled from the devastation caused by wildfires which hit at least nine countries across the Mediterranean, few can doubt that our weather systems are increasingly and more frequently being disrupted by the effects of the climate crisis. As calls for urgent action to counter global emissions, grow louder by the day, North Yorkshire Council has recently released its Climate Change Strategy with the ambition for the region to be net zero by 2034 and carbon negative by 2040. It has also set a target for the council to be net zero in its operational emissions by 2030.
Their report says that embedding climate change into every (council) service and into policy and decision-making processes so that taking climate responsible action becomes ‘business as usual’. Given that the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of current climate change, Fossil Free North Yorkshire has been pressing the council’s pension fund committee to stop investing in fossil fuel companies and reinvest in renewable energy projects such as solar, and wind.
Although limited progress has been made they still repeat the old mantra that engaging and investing in these polluting companies will achieve a quicker transition away from fossil fuels by the very same companies. However, according to a recent Reuters report: “Oil and gas companies have intensified the hunt for new deposits in a long-term bet on demand, as they reinvest some of the record profits from the fossil fuel price surge driven by the Ukraine war, according to data and industry executives.”
Recently the Church of England decided to divest from fossil fuels, slamming oil and gas companies for failing on climate and accusing fossil fuel companies of ‘stalling on net zero plans’. Their separate £10.3bn Church Commissioners fund will also divest from all remaining oil and gas companies in its portfolio. The Church pensions board said in its statement it would no longer prioritise engagement with the oil and gas sector on climate change and would instead refocus its efforts on reshaping the demand for oil and gas from sectors such as the auto industry. Seemingly the Church has tired of changing these companies ‘from within’ – without success!
We call on NYC Pension Fund to do the same – get out of fossil fuels investments and into renewables now if they want to help make a difference; a serious attempt to counter global emissions and halt the world-wide disruption to our climate and weather systems which is bringing so much human misery.
Dr Margaret Jackson
Co-ordinator Fossil Free North Yorkshire, Whitby
Time for a change of political colour in Skipton and Ripon
30 July 2023
“What’s the point, they will always win?”
“You could stick a blue rosette on a sheep, and they would win!”
Phrases I am sure we have all heard across the Skipton and Ripon constituency for many years, rhetoric that is embedded in the local political landscape and culture.
When I first became involved in the local Labour party, I was of the view that nothing is impossible and it was essential that we ended this belief, though recognising that of course it would take time.
Whilst the primary reason for this was to show people they do have a choice at the ballot box, it was also important to expose the deep-rooted complacency and at times, the arrogance, the local Conservative party had, which can only be detrimental to the progress and growth of our communities and its people.
The recent by-election result in Selby and Ainsty caused many surprises nationally due to the massive swing in votes to achieve a Labour victory. This is a constituency like Skipton and Ripon in its urban and rural make-up and in the result at the general election in 2019. If a swing of 20,000 votes can happen there, it can certainly happen here.
The recent polling on www.electoralcalculus.co.uk shows that Labour has a 54% chance of winning in Skipton and Ripon, whilst the Conservatives have a 45% chance.
The local Labour party has worked hard over the last few years to increase our visibility and show people they do have a choice. This has resulted in recent successes where now, we have more Labour councillors than any other represented party on Skipton Town Council for the first time ever – which in the recent past, was unimaginable and being a few votes (and a straw) away from having two councillors sitting on the new North Yorkshire Council, for the first time too.
Nationally, this Conservative government has been a disaster through their financial mismanagement of the economy, the dismantling of our valuable public services and the consistent lies and corruption through some of their own self-serving desires.
Locally, we have an MP who prefers the photo opportunities of positive things for them, rather than admitting and being accountable to the reality of their party’s failures. This has even resulted in our MP omitting all reference to what political party they stand for on all their social media pages. The question on this is, why?
With the result in Selby and Ainsty, it has given us further inspiration and motivation to deliver what our local communities need and deserve, so we will be increasing our campaigning even further from now until the next general election, whilst also selecting the right parliamentary candidate.
I have no doubt that the by-election result close-by to Skipton and Ripon will bring some nervousness to the Conservatives here, but it will also bring hope to voters within the constituency, that another sheep on the same field as the one with the blue rosette, can wear a different coloured one and have a chance of bringing change – and that colour is red.
On behalf of the Skipton and Ripon Labour Party.
Halt ticket office closures
13 July 2023
We are local groups of blind and partially sighted people, known as Sight Loss Councils, calling for a halt on the proposed mass closures of rail ticket offices which would have a devastating impact on our community.
Without ticket offices, blind and partially sighted people will have to purchase tickets through online booking or through ticket vending machines at stations. But existing alternatives, such as ticket machines and many online booking apps, are inaccessible to our community. Ticket office staff are also often our first point of contact at stations. They provide assistance, information, advice and not just tickets. For blind and partially sighted people this support is vital. Roaming staff are not an acceptable alternative – especially if you cannot see them.
There is much more that needs to be done first to increase accessibility. Poor station design, failing audio announcements, outdated wayfinding, inaccessible technology, inconsistent tactile navigation and Victorian platforms, already make navigating rail travel a challenge for blind and partially sighted people. Ticket office closures will simply add an extra barrier and this must stop now.
Help us challenge these closures now at
Sight Loss Councils
Lack of investment in sport facilities has long-term consequences
3 July 2023
In a recent article, Mark Ramprakash, one of English cricket’s most prolific batters, reflected on the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket’s (ICEC) report on equality in the game and the need for radical improvement. The commission reported on inequality by gender, race and class.
Ramprakash is well placed to comment, being the child of mixed-race parents who benefited from moving, at the age of eight, from an urban environment to Hatch End, in the outer reaches of north west London, where there was a cricket club and a park. He is now director of cricket at Harrow School with its marvellous playing fields and indoor facilities. But he remains well aware of the inequality of opportunity that exists in schools as a whole.
To quote Ramprakash:
“The report makes clear that the over-representation of privately educated people in the England team is an issue, which is unlikely to surprise many in the game. But it feels inevitable when private schools are able to invest in their facilities while those in state schools fall into ruin.
“But you can’t criticise schools for producing fantastic environments – the challenge is to narrow that gap not by lowering the ceiling, but by raising the floor.”
As he implies, a lack of investment causes existing facilities to ‘fall in to ruin’ and hinders the essential development of the game leaving the sentiments of the ICEC’s report as empty words and nothing more. Remember the great legacy that was promised after the 2012 London Olympics? And remember how the former minister of education, Margaret Thatcher, encouraged local education authorities to sell off their playing fields to raise funds?
You might call it the ‘law of unforeseen consequences’ but many at the time saw it clearly as detrimental to both sport in state schools and the fitness of our children.