SIR - I grew up in government housing, specifically housing built for the Ministry of Defense.
It was well designed, solidly built and spacious, set in a good amount of greenery.
Looking to make a quick buck, the Tory government sold all 55,000 houses off in 1996, another public asset distributed to the private sector for way below market value.
The National Audit Office now reckons the MoD lost up to £4.2 billion. 
I bring this up in the context of housing and second homes in the Dales National Park for two reasons (‘Ambitious campaign to breathe new life into Dales’, Craven Herald, January 4).
Firstly, the housing “market” is not subject to the laws of supply and demand (if that were so there wouldn’t be a shortage of housing since demand is very high) but the object of manipulation, speculation and profiteering by developers, investors, and government policy. 
There has to be intervention by the state or councils in order to tackle the shortage (which keeps prices high), especially of affordable homes.
Secondly, I am fortunate enough to live in the National Park and without lifting a finger have seen my property triple in value over the last two decades due to the over-heated and blatantly unfair housing market. 
Given the gross inequality built into the system, I believe the council tax on second homes should be increased. 
But why stop there? Why not extend the council tax valuation band beyond H (oddly still stuck at a 1993 evaluation of £320,000 and above)?
Why not get a little more of the alphabet involved?
Let’s support community rather than property values; that is the only way to ensure a more equitable and sustainable future. 
Bruce McLeod, Otterburn

SIR - It remains to be seen what will become of the suggestion from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and others in local government that a higher council tax should be imposed on second homes in a bid to create more ‘affordable housing’ in Dales villages.
However, though available housing is clearly very important, there are other factors which affect whether Dales communities can attract younger people with families.
I live in a village which has seen a noticeable change in recent years, with more residents of working age and particularly children of school age than it had only a relatively short time ago.
The numbers are small, but if the pattern were repeated across the Dales it is possible that many of the issues that have prompted the second homes tax proposal might be addressed.
The trouble is, if people need to get to work and children need to get to school, living in these villages can become a struggle if local schools have closed, public transport is limited and some roads, particularly those linking the villages to more major routes, are rarely ploughed or gritted in winter.
Such circumstances may make Dales settlements less attractive to younger families and make them more likely to be characterised by second homes and holiday lets, and also more likely to be inhabited by relatively well-off retired people for whom such issues are less important. 
In these straitened times it is easy to see the attraction of a proposal such as the one for extra council tax on second homes, as it would involve little cost to local authorities and may even bring in some cash.
However, if our representatives really want to see more vibrant Dales villages I would suggest they also need to address other issues, which will involve tough decisions about how to prioritise scarce resources.
JA Hitchon, C/O High Street, Skipton

SIR - In his ‘open letter’ to owners of second homes in the Dales and whilst he responded to the charge that the proposed rates increase for second homes would constitute social engineering (‘We must take action’, Craven Herald, February 1), Councillor Carl Lis quotes Craven District Council leader, Councillor Richard Foster, as having said cutting a bus service is social engineering, shutting a school is social engineering, and leaving a village centre home empty for much of the year is social engineering.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines engineering as ‘the application of science for directly useful purposes’.
Wikipedia defines social engineering as ‘efforts to influence particular attitudes and social behaviours on a large scale’.
When a bus service is cut and when a school is shut, is it social engineering or a reaction to economics?
When a village centre home is left empty for much of the year, is someone seeking to bring about that home’s emptiness because it has a ‘directly useful purpose’? 
As a retired engineer (structural, not social), I know that all too often a supposed solution to a problem fails because in the first place the problem was not correctly understood and not correctly defined.
I suggest the councillors improve their game. 
Richard Sykes, Park View, Skipton

SIR - May I, as a conclusion to the exchange of views on Brexit between Mr Bradley and myself, be allowed to make a final comment on a point he raises (‘Most patriotic thing we can do is remain’, Craven Herald Letters, January 11)? 
Mr Bradley states ‘….our patriotic self- interest is best served by remaining in the EU. After all, even Churchill as long ago as 1946 said: “We must build a kind of United States of Europe.” 
Yes, indeed Churchill did say this but Mr Bradley fails to inform us that in the same speech Churchill said: “Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America - and, I trust, Soviet Russia must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live”.
He did not talk of the UK becoming a member itself.
Sixteen years earlier in February 1930, for the American Evening Post he wrote: “We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed”.
Shortly before the D Day landings Churchill told de Gaulle: “Every time we have to decide between Europe and the open sea, it is always the open sea we shall choose. Every time I have to choose between you and Roosevelt, I will always choose Roosevelt.”
And finally, Hansard reports that in Parliament on 11 May, 1953, Churchill said the following: “Where do we stand? We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a Federal European system. We feel we have a special relation to both…………. we are with them, but not of them”.
The reader may now better decide if, as Mr Bradley infers, Churchill intended the UK to be part of a federalising European Superstate.
A J A Smith, Cowling 

SIR - Monday 29th January saw the last of three meetings at the Victoria Hall in Settle over this long running saga.
It is clear that at least one firm of builders has been sizing up Castleberg Hospital and who can blame them? This is a prime site.
If it is sold then NHS Properties will make a killing.
Be under no illusion, the proceeds of such a sale go into a central pot, possibly to be used south of the demarcation line which splits this country.
On this occasion the Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group produced their big guns and had clearly gone to a deal of trouble in mounting a public relations exercise.
Included in this were several display boards purporting to spread the thoughts of staff once employed at Castleberg Hospital and also explain what had caused the closure, describing in graphic detail its failings with particular reference to power failures and the ingress of sewage.
Mention was made in the public consultation document of closing Castleberg Hospital and taking three places at Limestone View, the retirement complex in Settle.
This excellent facility is not in any sense a care home. The units are for purchase or rental and there is a waiting list.
I understand they intend developing one unit for respite care for one person. The mention of three is put down to ‘Chinese whispers’.
Listening to the quite heated discussions taking place, one thing became clear to me - the preoccupation with money.
For twenty years I was a building society branch manager with one of the then ‘big five’ societies and developed a simple mantra - ‘people matter’.
I did not always get it right but did try as taking out the wrong type of mortgage can land folk in huge expense which may prove life changing.
Of course money comes into the Castleberg equation, yet people - and we oldies at that - come first in my book.
The repercussions of the decision over Castleberg will affect not just our generation but our children and grand children.
If you have not already made your views known you have until February 27th to do so, either by completing the questionnaire in the booklet provided at the meetings, copies of which are available at Townhead Surgery, Settle, or alternatively complete one on line at, or by email to
Remember, ‘for evil to triumph requires only that good men or women do nothing’.
People matter.
Bob Swallow, Townhead Avenue, Settle

SIR - Following recent articles in the Craven Herald concerning the privatisation plans at Airedale Hospital, I am writing to comment further about this contentious issue of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust creating a private ‘wholly owned subsidiary’ company to run much of the non-clinical services.
The services affected are Estates, Facilities and Procurement and many of the 380 staff being transferred to this new company include porters, domestic cleaners and maintenance workers who are some of the lowest paid staff in the NHS.
As a former employee at Airedale Hospital I know many of the staff affected by this and they are not happy about these plans.
They are extremely worried about their future and are angered that their jobs are being privatised as a means to exploit tax loopholes and potentially worsen their terms and conditions of employment in order to boost Trust coffers.
These low paid staff feel it is immoral for them to be treated in this way by the Airedale Trust Board.
They say they are equally as important as ‘clinical’ staff at the hospital, because without them the hospital could not function safely and patients would be at risk.
The Trust are very quick to highlight and make great play of their ‘Right Care Values’ and how they value each and every member of staff – yet these staff do not feel valued at all by this decision.
These are dedicated, caring and hard-working staff, some of whom have given more than 30 years’ loyal service to Airedale, yet now feel as though they are just being discarded... so much for ‘Right Care Values’!
The staff affected also feel these plans have been rushed through with little or no consultation about other options available.
The plans include the transfer of all hospital buildings, land and equipment to the private company. But, these are publicly owned assets and the Trust has a duty of care to the community to ensure there is a wider consultation and discussion about the disposal of these public assets.
This was a scandalous decision by Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, but, sadly, reflects an increasing trend nationally across the NHS. 
Over the past five years we have seen more and more ‘for profit’ companies win contracts to run NHS services or facilities.
This has risen from 34% of the total value of contracts awarded in 2015/16 to 43% of the total value awarded in 2016/17 which amounted to £3.1 billion.
If we want to see the NHS survive as a fully publicly funded service, we all need to speak out loudly now and lobby our elected representatives to stop the scandal of increasing privatisation in the NHS.
Ralph Quigley, Crosshills Road, Cononley 

SIR - Regarding library volunteers, there are two contradictory items of interest in the February 1 issue of the Craven Herald which must have left readers in a state of confusion. Whom can they believe? 
In the article on page 14 entitled ‘Library volunteers are thanked for their efforts’, the leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Helen Swiers, not only praises the library volunteers for keeping up the service, but for taking it in new exciting directions.
Her confidence and enthusiasm are undermined thoroughly by the tone of Bob Adamson’s letter on page 12 (‘So what’s the future for library services?’). He has no confidence that libraries run by mainly volunteers with some professional help can maintain their present, and I quote, “slightly second-hand service”. 
Certainly the facts concerning whether the library volunteers can maintain the present standard is in question, as indeed it must be for other cash-strapped service agents to the community who also appeal for volunteers to fill their employee gaps
Library volunteers cannot achieve the same length of experience and levels of specialised expertise as can full-time professionals.
Most volunteers are elderly, even ancient (but often well-read).
We come to the library service with experience in other jobs and professions and with different gifts to offer.
Because of the age of some of us, our period of service cannot be one of longevity.
Can there be continuity in such a situation? I have served as a library volunteer and as a member of the management committee since the Settle branch became a Community library in April 2017.
Library volunteers are continually learning, not only from our professional staff, but from one another. 
Bob Adamson’s letter assumes that that library volunteers are permanently stuck at the same level of beginner ignorance. The opposite is true.
We are building up between us a store of composite knowledge and expertise which we are so willing to share with others and, indeed, with the new volunteers who are now being trained.
We are also helped by the support of our borrowers and library users who are so patient on the occasions when we don’t get it quite right and our service is less than even “second-hand”.
As in other North Yorkshire branch libraries, we in Settle, based in Limestone View Care Home, are developing a range of extra activities run by volunteers.
We already have a Family History and a Knit and Natter craft group.
Last year, in the library I gave three public talks (twice) on the History and Development of the English Novel.
Since these were well received, I am giving three more talks, this time on the popular genre of crime fiction. The title of the talks is Murder, Mystery and Thrillers. These will take place on Monday mornings, February 19, 26 and March 5 from 10.00am-12.00pm.
There will be refreshments and a time for questions and discussion. Admission is free.
Donations may be offered for Settle Community library.
This year, by kind permission, we meet in the larger space of the lounge in Limestone View. 
Kathleen Kinder, Northfields Avenue, Settle

SIR - Over the years many of your readers have joined us to visit a cemetery or memorial of a family member.
Each year the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Battlefield Tours organise pilgrimmages to the battle areas of the First World War.
The tours are in August and September.
This year is the centenary of the end of the First World War. This year we plan to visit the Somme battlefields the Ypres Salient, Arras, Vimy Ridge and Loos Battlefield.
The trips specialise in visiting specific cemeteries or memorials on the above mentioned battlefields as and when they are requested, and an experienced battlefields guide will accompany each trip, to commentate on the various battles and the many historic events that occurred in the areas that we visit.
We can also assist people in the tracing of war graves from the First World War.
The KOYLI battlefield pilgrimmages was formed as a charitable hobby in 1990 by ex-servicemen who have many years of practical experience in conducting visits to the First World War battlefield areas of France and Flanders, and we support the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
For further information, write to: John Battye, 32 Rhodes Street, Hightown, Castleford, West Yorkshire WF10 5LL, or call 01977 734614. Please enclose a medium-sized SAE.
John Battye