Sir – In response to council leader Chris Knowles-Fitton’s full statement to a meeting of the full council held on Wednesday October, 22, a statement printed in full in the Craven Herald two days later, I make the following response.

His accusation that I did, at every opportunity, quite deliberately obscure the facts by making reference to Leeds, never to the Leeds City Region, is totally incorrect.

The Leeds City Region Growth Point was an agenda item at Sutton Parish Council, to which I was invited to explain its meaning. I produced the Leeds City Region’s own glossy brochure and fully explained the region’s makeup, naming all 10 composite authorities. I further made full response to its publicised aims and ambitions.

Confirmation of this can be obtained by talking with the parish council, members of the public in attendance, or my colleagues, Coun Ken Hart and County Coun Philip Barrett who were there.

Similarly, I always gave a full and correct description of the Leeds City Region to all individual members of the public consulting with me and again during my television interviews with Calendar. Coun Knowles-Fitton must retract this accusation now.

Coun Knowles-Fitton also accuses local members of Craven District Council, myself included, of “quite deliberately encouraging the belief that approval of the growth point would lead to hundreds, nay thousands, of new homes being built down there”(South Craven). He states that the growth bid “would have added a further 50 houses each year within the whole of Craven and that, as the core strategy stands, would have meant an extra 13 houses each year in South Craven”.

Coun Knowles-Fitton needs either a new abacus or reading glasses. The official papers and supporting slide show presented to a members seminar held on October 1 in the council chamber clearly and unequivocally state that the additional 50 new homes, year on year until 2016, shall be directed solely into Cross Hills and Sutton, over and above our allocation of 26 per cent of the 250 homes agreed in the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS).

At this meeting, a number of councillors asked the Strategic Director of Environmental Services, Colin Walker, if this growth point allocation of an additional 50 homes could be distributed more widely across the whole of Craven. His response was that it could not, and would weaken our bid for grant funding. So, Coun Knowles-Fitton, you are wrong again.

Finally, with regard to his remarks about my pleas for more housing for our indigenous young folk at more affordable prices, he is partly correct. I have striven for over three years to ensure that an element of all new housing built through the normal applicant/planning processes was earmarked for local need, ie Thompson Woodturners and Greenroyd Mill in Sutton. All these homes would have been built anyway, and my insistence that a percentage of them should be discounted for local need was both legitimate and supportive of my needs of my local community.

Unlike some, I will not spit out my soother in a fit of pique. I will continue to serve the people who elect me to the best of my ability at all times.

Coun Stephen Place (Ind), Main Street,Sutton

Cheap tirade

Sir – Chris Knowles-Fitton’s full statement to the meeting (Craven Herald, October 24) amounts to a poorly-disguised personal attack against “some council members from South Craven”. Coun Stephen Place, in particular, falls foul of the council leader’s tirade.

It is disappointing that, in an attempt to arouse sympathy, the council leader feels the need to resort to cheap statements, implying opposition to the proposed Leeds City Region link stems mainly from the pursuit of popularity, rather than any genuine and passionate belief.

Coun Place has worked tirelessly and, yes, passionately for South Craven causes for many years, so for Coun Knowles-Fitton to imply that any “popularity” gained from encouraging rejection of the scheme may be short-term makes little sense. Instead, it comes across as a case of dummy-spitting, rather than the intelligent and impersonal response that might be expected from one occupying the position of council leader.

As for the residents”down here” in South Craven, perhaps if Coun Knowles-Fitton were to find the beauty, peace and tranquillity of his own idyllic ivory tower under threat from even one proposed new development, we are all certain that his protestations would be both loud and heartfelt.

Mrs CA Myers, Victoria Street, Sutton-in-Craven

Left in the lurch

Sir – This letter is intended to clarify for the benefit of council tax payers in Craven what is going on at Craven District Council as there appears to be some doubt.

For a number of years the council has been run by an alliance of Liberal Democrats (leader Coun P English) and Independents (leader Coun C Lis). They formed the administration and the Conservative group was in opposition.

In May this year, as a result of the council elections, the Conservative group took control. They inherited a budget (which they had abstained from voting for) set by the outgoing alliance, which cleverly called for a “zero” increase in council tax, but disguised the fact they were going for a 14 per cent growth in expenditure.

This apparently was to be financed by a £500,000 projected underspend in 2007/8 and by using reserves of £1,200,000. In the event, there was no “underspend” and, in fact, there was a considerable “overspend”.

However as the alliance had exercised no budgetary control in 2007/8, no one was aware of the true position, including the Conservative opposition.

The then finance director resigned, followed quickly by the chief executive. The new interim chief executive, Brian Dinsdale, told the Conservative group in June of the true picture, which was about as bad as it could be. He pointed out that the auditor could not sign off the accounts for 2007/8 and the budget set by the alliance for 2008/9 was effectively cancelled. He further advised that the new Conservative administration should stop all recruitment and all non-essential expenditure amounting to £700,000.

As soon as possible they should establish a new budget for 2008/9 – now expected by November 2008 – after the accounts had been made up for 2007/8 and signed off by the auditor. Meanwhile, he advised, the administration had no cash to speak of.

The administration has had no alternative but to take his advice and this has led to the cancelling of the considerable expenditure envisaged by the alliance when they set the budget for 2008/9. In addition, the global financial crisis is not helping. Income is well down on car parks, land search charges and planning application fees.

To make matters even worse, the cost of gas, electricity and fuel are going through the roof. Even allowing for a maximum increase of council tax of five per cent in May 2009, the administration will have to find savings of at least £1,000,000 annually.

A plan is being drawn up and will be available by Christmas to achieve this. Unfortunately for the Conservative administration, many painful decisions, which cannot be revealed because of their sensitive nature, have had to be made in the interests of financial prudence. However, progress is being made. A new chief executive has been appointed and full budgetary control is now in place. By the financial year 2010/11 hopefully, the authority will be fitter, leaner and more efficient. I hope this makes the position clear.

Coun David Crawford, Lead Member for a Prosperous Craven, Mill Bridge, Bell Busk

Good news week

Sir - It’s good news week.

1: The chief executive of North Yorkshire & York Primary Care Trust is leaving. The hatchet bearer preferred by Government to recover the reckless overspends on health incurred elsewhere across North Yorkshire has been no friend to Craven. The Healthcheck outcome (Herald, October 17) is an accurate assessment of the PCT’s failure to serve Craven’s needs, but it is beyond human capability to properly manage a geographical area the size of Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Greater London, irrespective of the disparity in population numbers with equitable performance across the whole county and York. The chief executive has presided over failure – she will not be missed.

2: The Leeds Growth Point plan will not be going forward. The opinion of local people has been heeded. The idea to grab a small amount of cash to provide cheap accommodation for workers in Leeds city centre was never going to be accepted, but the 11th-hour consultations have highlighted the need for a visionary exercise to establish a cunning plan for South Craven to build a fitting legacy for future generations in 20 to 50 years – even 100 years time.

To be worthwhile to implement, such a plan will cost £100 million over 20 to 50 years. The £20 million Growth Point pot of cash was a cheap “trick” to satisfy a short-term urge for the benefit of economic growth in Leeds. A long-term initiative which will benefit South Craven should now be the one objective of ongoing consideration.

Local people have clearly identified what is not wanted, but have yet to fully consider what legacy should be established for future generations of Craven residents.

Ian Fulton, Bucklar Hill, Farnhill

A rare treat

Sir – I recently attended a performance at Skipton’s Plaza Cinema of the 2005 Glyndebourne production of Handel’s opera Giulio Cesare. It was a one-off presentation of a superlative event.

The singing, playing and production were all of the highest standard, as one would hope for at Glyndebourne. Add to that the quality of sound and vision now available at the Plaza and it can be seen that this was a rare treat.

The point of my letter is to observe that the audience was pitifully small and I do therefore urge all opera lovers to look out for the next two offerings from Glyndebourne – Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Rossini’s La Cenerentola – in November and December.

It may not match the experience of being there for a live event, but it comes very near and is the best way most of us will be able to enjoy Glyndebourne.

Chris Balaam, Otley Road, Skipton


Sir – What a disappointment the handing over of the freedom of Craven to the Yorkshire Regiment was, or should I say just another cock up by Craven District Council. I was ashamed that they shoved them into a back street when it should have been outside the town hall.

Just listening to the remarks from visitors was enough to make any man feel that they were not important enough to be given that honour. I can’t think of anyone that would have objected to the High Street being shut to traffic for the event.

But no doubt they will have the excuses already to go to print.

Stewart Newhouse, Ex Royal Artillery Regiment Rectory Lane, Skipton.

Right move

Sir – It looks like Craven Council are having doubts about moving to a new site on Gargrave Road. That could be a good move.

Why can they not take over one wing of the old Dewhurst Mill? It would be more central to Skipton and easier to get to than the present offices or the new planned one.

Judging by the condition of the old mill and the condition of their present offices, it would appear that the old mill will be standing long after the new ones have fallen into disrepair.

Bernard Robinson Midland Terrace, Hellifield

Thanks for the help

Sir – Please allow me, through your newspaper, to register my gratitude to those kind people who assisted me when I fell outside the Superdrug store in Skipton on Monday last.

My sincere thanks to Barbara and the gentleman who helped me up, and the lady from Superdrug who kindly took me in and offered me a chair until I recovered sufficiently to continue on my way. Fortunately, my injury turned out to be nothing worse than a badly sprained ankle!

Dorothy Coote South Parade, Settle

Kind concern

Sir – I would like to thank the lady who offered assistance when I was injured on the 9.30am bus to Harrogate on October 10. I returned on the same bus and was able to contact my daughter for medical help. Thank you once again for your kind concern.

Mrs J Needham, Overdale Park, Skipton.