From the things that were said by the Theatres Trust, I had gained the impression that the 125 year lease on the two theatres was signed, sealed and delivered, so it was quite a shock to learn that, far from being a done deal, the Trust was manoeuvring to get a very much lesser deal.
As to what I had been hearing: Mr Purchase this, Mr Purchase that, Mr Purchase has plans to extend the Landmark, Mr Purchase has offered the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) a fabulous deal, Mr Purchase would like to cooperate with the Museum, Mr Purchase …. And so on. All this was second, third, ninth hand, but I got the impression that some fabulously wealthy person had stepped in, was offering his own money and was going to improve our theatres out of all recognition. How wrong could I be!
In retrospect, it appears to me that Mr Purchase had grandiose ideas, beyond his ability to implement, and beyond his or the theatres’ ability to pay for, and, having got rid of the theatres’ CEO and taken on the mantle of that job, he took his eye off the most fundamental task of management, keeping control of finances, in pursuit of pie in the sky. I can imagine someone so carried away with his own cleverness that this could happen. What I find difficult to imagine is what the other trustees were doing when, it appears, Mr Purchase was busy running the trust into the ground.
I will await the administrator’s report with interest. Meanwhile, I just hope that it will find that the cause was simple incompetence and nothing worse.
Last week, I said I hesitated to comment on court cases, and then promptly broke my own rule. I’m afraid I am going to do so again.
There are so many things wrong with this sentence that it is difficult to know where to begin. It tells a young woman facing a serious charge “get pregnant and you will be let off lightly”. It devalues Mr Platt’s life. Mr Platt was 20 years old, just barely a man and on the threshold of his life. Think of someone you know well of a similar age and imagine how you would feel if he were killed and the killer were let off with no more than a slap on the wrist. This is not about seeking vengeance, but an appropriate and proportionate response to an awful event.
People stealing food because they are starving have been punished worse.
I have long thought that the law can be ridiculously lenient towards those who kill when driving. Of course, the matter is not as simple as “lock up anyone who kills while driving”. There are such things as accidents. We are all human and a momentary loss of concentration can be fatal. On the other hand, there are “accidents” which are no such thing, where the driver embarks on a course of action heedless of the consequences and leading to a fatality. One should be treated with compassion and the other not. But that is why we have human judges and not machines to hand out sentences. A judge can use his discretion to determine when an accident is really accidental.
However, someone who drives a car when unfit because of drink, drugs, tiredness or other reasons is a potential murderer and should be treated as such.
There are two issues.
First, North Devon has historically been underfunded for decades. This is not simply the fault of the current government. It has been the case under governments of all complexions for as long as I can remember. If we had the same level of funding as Cumbria, the closest region to us in demographics etc., we would not be in deficit, we would be in surplus, and people would be coming to us to see how we achieved such remarkable results.
Second, the NHS as a whole is underfunded. We spend less, as a proportion of GDP, on health than any other Western democracy, and that proportion is not increasing – it is decreasing, despite an increasing population, an aging population and developments in medicine which can keep people living longer or keep them with a higher quality of life. Ms Pedder admitted that funding has kept pace with inflation but not with increasing population, aging population or other increased demands.
In addition, an enormous amount is being spent on parasites feeding off the internal market, a cost that did not exist 20 years ago. It is difficult to estimate the sums involved but the lowest estimate I have seen was 9 billion pounds – the highest was 30 billion – out of a total NHS budget of £130 billion. Without those, much of the financial pressure would disappear.
What I fear is that the government, blinkered by an instinctive belief that private is better than public, will gradually force us closer to the American model of health care. Now, I have seen from the inside what that is like and believe me we do not want it here. It costs the Americans twice as much, as a proportion of GDP, as our health care costs us, yet it is virtually non-existent for a substantial part of the population. It drives over 600,000 people into bankruptcy every year, and, remember this is just the number of bankrupts – if we take their families into account, it affects millions every year. And it forces people to keep working long after they should have retired. I have personally met people affected by all of these issues. It is an awful system – if it comes over here, I implore you don’t fall ill, don’t get old, don’t be too young and don’t ever, ever have an accident.
And finally every cloud has a silver lining. The temporary (I hope) closure of the theatres has brought out the best in our townsfolk. Paul Crabb has asked various organisations for funds to help support the educational efforts that were being run in the theatres and everyone has come up trumps. Carol Turner deserves all our thanks for her efforts in keeping things going. I don’t know how she does it, but I am jolly glad she does.