SIR - The Government has, for many years, stressed that local authorities should involve their constituents in decision-making while acknowledging that the ultimate outcome must rest with the elected members.

An excellent example of how this can work in practice has been provided by the Primary Care Trust for this area: In response to views forcefully expressed at various levels the trust has abandoned its proposals for North Craven, which involved the closure of Harden Ward, and is to go back to the drawing board in order to solve the problems which have to be solved (the temporary reduction in beds there is a quite separate issue).

What was crucial in those consultations was the genuine involvement of the chairman of the trust and of all the heads of departments concerned.

I make this point because it is in stark contrast to the way in which the area forums of Craven District Council are conducted.

The attendance at these meetings - albeit whipped up by sending out reminders by post to everyone who has attended previously - should deserve a reciprocal interest from the elected members responsible for whatever matters are on the agenda.

At the Settle meeting recently, the proposal to make charges for Hellifield's car park (along with three others) was scheduled for discussion. But, although the officer responsible for this did his best, he could not quell the feeling that the decision had already been taken and that "consultation" to satisfy those bodies which assess the performance of local authorities was simply going through the motions.

A paper handed out at the meeting gave the reasons for the proposals, but it was not possible to challenge the chairman of the committee concerned on such blatantly absurd arguments as that which says charges are necessary to be fair to those (19 per cent they say) who do not have cars. This is an argument which could apply to any public service - notably to education and health.

There was, of course, no opportunity for the meeting to express its views by a show of hands - letting off steam is clearly all that is expected by the council.

The council will no doubt claim, in any submissions they make, to involve the people through area forums and their attempt to increase the numbers of those attending will play a part in those submissions. But they should understand that the people at large are becoming more sophisticated and more unwilling to be told what has been decided, regardless of the feelings which may be expressed.

And unless they make a determined effort to defend their proposals' by confronting their critics in person, then ultimately those cynics who see the process as crumbs dropped from the table of power will have been proved right.

Frank Pedley, Gisburn Road, Hellifield.

Problems persist

SIR - In my recent letter bemoaning the problem we were (and still are) experiencing in the Bold Venture area of Keighley Road, in no way did I intend being disrespectful in any way to our police force.

In the main they do a good job with what resources they have and we all know you can't get a quart into a pint pot and, like all government controlled organisations, cutbacks are made, but we the public still expect help when we ask for it and what we most think about the police force is that there were two enormous rises in the North Yorkshire police tax demand and yet police stations such as Skipton close at night.

I have been told of several instances recently. In one, two cars had their mirrors knocked off and when calls were made to the non-urgent number there were then delays in getting through. In another young girls shouted obscenities from the Foundation Housing property and other lewd suggestions were being made and yet when it was reported to the police, the answer was, more or less, we are busy, we come if we can.

Surely this doesn't give people confidence that help is there when needed - or should we revert to 999 which would not be appropriate and should certainly be left for proper cries for help?

I assume that in response to my previous letter published in the Craven Herald I had a visit from a police sergeant and constable on Tuesday, September 12, and we had quite a reasonable discussion when we both said what was what and what was trying to be done.

Afterwards the police went to talk to the youth in the Foundation house but it couldn't have done much good because that was the same night I have mentioned earlier in my letter, and where little girls of eight years old are concerned, I think that is serious.

I realise we cannot go back (or wish to) to the Dixon of Dock Green type of policing and with all the modern communication and technical equipment police vehicles are fitted with, we should be well protected from ill doers but in my very old fashioned brain, community policing is seeing a bobby walk past my window now and again instead of it being a rare occasion.

I understand that a lot of the town centre and Sackville Street troubles are under control now, perhaps that's why we have them down here at present, but what will happen when the orders run out?

I acknowledge all the points that Chief Inspector Chelton (Craven Herald Letters September 15) is making and I sympathise with him because of the problems he has, not only here, trying to look after Skipton and its many problems with the present attitude of today's youth who misbehave, but elsewhere in Craven.

And while I realise that my answer to it is not legal or acceptable, unfortunately in today's society, I hope and pray salvation can soon be found and we can all come back to the better Skipton which we veterans knew in the past.

People have got to realise it's no good moaning when something happens; they have got to report it to the police and hope they can deal with it or contact their local councillor for that area.

Stanley Phillips, Keighley Road, Skipton.

Chav gangs

SIR - I am writing with regard to the awful Chav gangs in Skipton.

I too am fed up with all their anti-social behaviour every Friday and Saturday night. Last Friday there were at least 30 of these Chavs outside Tesco.

The older Chavs are going into Tesco and buying alcohol for the younger Chavs, who are under age. This is also happening at the Skol shop on Sackville Street.

These Chavs are drinking, smoking (not just cigs) every Friday and Saturday night; they are causing nothing more than public nuisance not only to Skipton residents but also to the decent teenagers of Skipton. They are literally making everybody's life a misery.

These Chavs, who attend local schools, seem to be a law unto themselves. The schools seem to turn a blind eye with regard to these gangs and the police seem powerless, they can only disperse these gangs who then move on to another street corner. Only the other week these thugs were spitting on customers as they were going into Tesco.

Surely it is not just up to the police to deal with these thugs, these gangs need stopping in school. The police should take these Chavs home and the parents should be made to pay for all the damage that is being caused in Skipton, or better still let them go and collect all the rubbish that these thugs are leaving behind.

Let's hope the law changes soon and that the police can be given more power to deal with these thugs.

If these are the future of tomorrow then God help us.

Mrs MK Ideson, Skipton.

Disgusting yobs

SIR - One wonders what the police reaction would have been if the disgusting yobs near the Cenotaph in Skipton for the RAF Parade (Craven Herald September 15) had been acting the way they did at a Muslim parade. Quite a few arrests, I think.

Peter Cassidy Holbeck Lane, Leeds. Editor's note: As we report on page 3, the police subsequently made three arrests in regard to the incident and imposed fix penalty fines.

Patience please

SIR - May I appeal to the residents of Skipton for tolerance to disabled people, especially when crossing the road.

There are the zebra crossings that do not work and so we have to throw caution to the winds and hope we don't get knocked down because some motorist can't wait a few seconds for us to get out of the road.

I was on a zebra crossing the other day when a car went past with the signal on red, of course. There were no policemen about at the time.

I could go on, so please motorists, please slow down or we will be writing to the Craven Herald from our beds in Airedale.

Mr D Chapman, Duckett Street, Skipton.

Costs cut

SIR - Would you publish a small piece regarding the charges for lip-reading classes.

In a recent schedule of adult education classes beginning this month the lip-reading was advertised as £40 per term. This should now read £5 per term.

North Yorkshire County Council has reviewed the situation and agreed that it is a "life skill" and consequently adjusted the fee.

The course is open to anyone with a hearing loss, slight to profound.

Carol A Riley, Lip-reading tutor, Chatburn Road, Clitheroe.

Sweetness and light

SIR - The article "Market towns face threat from big city rivals" in your Rural Life supplement last week was excellent reading; that is, until the paragraph beginning "And after two years of bitter acrimony over the doomed Renaissance projects in Skipton and Settle."

There may have been acrimony in Skipton but Settle is forging ahead, working with our many partners, this especially applies to the projects that are in the Renaissance Business Plan document and that are now actively being progressed.

Settle Town Council, neighbouring parish councils, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, the Ribble Catchment Conservation Trust, Settle District Chamber of Trade and many organisations within our Settle Area Regeneration Team (StART) area are working with us on projects that can only be of benefit to the community and visitors in order to improve the economic sustainability of our town and its hinterland.

Our monthly team meetings are attended by officers from Yorkshire Forward, who are very supportive taking forward, where possible, our vision for the future of the area recognising the importance of Renaissance market town teams.

We also work with officers from Craven District Council, North Yorkshire County Council; three Settle town councillors are on the team, two as members of the community, and one on behalf of the Council.

StART has strong links with the newly formed Settle District Chamber of Trade, which see, as we do, that partnerships are important. Any of these organisations can be contacted for advice and support and this is warmly and freely given to us.

We here in Settle have no bitter acrimony, nor are our projects doomed and certainly we have no poisoned relationships, we may not all agree with all that is attempted 100 per cent of the time but this, I believe, is called democracy.

StART is a volunteer group, the team work together alongside democratically elected bodies because they want to see their environment prosper and to leave a legacy of a thriving town and villages for future generations.

Deirdre Cokell Chairman Settle Area Regeneration Team, (StART).

Post office fears

SIR - Rural post offices are an essential lifeline for many older people in Craven, yet their future is at risk unless the Government acts quickly.

The Government will decide whether to extend its current subsidy to rural post offices this autumn. If it decides not to, thousands of post offices across the country could face closure, leaving large numbers of older people struggling to manage.

Rural post offices provide much more than just a postal service to many older people. They also offer important services including access to cash, benefits and information, as well as somewhere to meet and socialise with other people.

Closures must be prevented to protect vulnerable older people from becoming more isolated from their local community.

As the heaviest users of post offices, older people must have their say in what happens to them. That's why we are launching our Stamped out?' campaign, to encourage people to get involved in the debate and support their local post office. Visit or contact your local Age Concern for more details.

Christine Broadhead, Chief Officer, Age Concern North Craven, Cheapside, Settle.

Fine food at a price

SIR - With reference to last week's Dining Out review column by Eilis Bottomley at the Hipping Hall, I feel I must respond to the so called "fine dining" which included the starter of Lincolnshire rabbit, fois gras and cabbage.

Although the literal translation from French is "fat liver," foie gras is the term generally used for goose liver. The enlarged liver is from a goose, or duck, that has been force-fed by repeatingly cramming metal pipes down the throats of ducks and geese and force-feeding them to the point that their livers become painfully diseased and enlarged, sometimes their organs rupture.

These fowl are subjected to this painful and cruel process of fattening in constant pain and torture for about a month or so and most of these specially bred fowl are not permitted to exercise, which, combined with the overeating, creates a huge (up to three pounds), fatty liver. Many birds become too sick to stand up and are kept in horrific, often filthy, conditions, which of course is unnatural to these birds.

I know I will probably receive criticism of being totally wrong and that in modern production the bird is fed a controlled amount of feed depending on the stage of the fattening process, its weight and the amount of feed the birds last ingested.

OK, but why has the production been banned in several countries, including the UK, and that now the leading producer is France?

It is indeed in my opinion a cruel and un-necessary practice, so next time you tuck into your "delicacy of despair" I would like you to think about the dark side of this industry.

Jane Perry, Castle Street, Skipton.