For far too long the Southwest generally, and North Devon in particular, have been the poor relation of the UK, treated less favourably than almost anywhere else. In part, this is because the high house prices in the region lead to a false impression of wealth. In fact, of course, high house prices merely add to the misery of many of our people, as incomes are relatively low. The few years between now and the general election we expect in 2020 could be the last best chance of rectifying this unfairness, and I do not think our people will forgive any MP or party that fails to grasp that opportunity.
In recent years, some attention has been given to the poor old North which has been unfairly neglected. In fact, the truth is that the London-based and London-centric government has neglected the whole periphery of England, other than the Southeast!
On the subject of issues that affect the whole of the Southwest, it is worth noting that, should Barnstaple Hospital lose any services, this will put more stress on other hospitals in the region, and maybe even beyond, as patients who would have been seen there are moved further afield, thus putting pressure on nearby hospitals, and potentially leading to a domino effect of collapsing services. Remember, in this relatively mild winter, Exeter was on red alert last week and Cornwall has been on black alert. It would not take much to push the whole lot over the edge. It is simply unfair, not only to the general public, but also to the hard working men and women, nurses, doctors and support staff, who work in these hospitals, to contemplate reducing services anywhere in the region.
Whilst I do not advocate a witch hunt, it is important to find out why the theatre trust went belly up. I cannot believe that, were it properly run, the claimed 20% reduction in ticket sales in itself could have caused it. After all, only a few months before the trust went into administration, the chairman was talking of spending over half a million pounds to buy a 129 year lease from NDDC. What is more, ticket sales are not the only source of income for the trust. There were the various membership offers, and, as a charity, the trust attracted donations from business and the public. Probably many of you, like me, had donated in recent years.
One thing I knew was that the experienced fund raiser employed by the trust was, at the beginning of last year taken off the job of seeking grants, and that job was given to an unqualified and inexperienced member of staff. Did that result in a reduction in grant income? I don’t know, but I do know, from my other interests, that applying for and obtaining grants is nowadays a herculean task, and not one easily done without considerable experience.
Last week, I commented on the killer of young Aiden Platt. You remember that his killer, disgracefully, escaped with a suspended sentence, a 4 month curfew and a 4 year driving ban, on the basis that, between his killing and her appearance in court, she had become pregnant and given birth. This week, I read that a drug user, who ran down and killed a 10 year old boy and his aunt in South London, was charged with and convicted of manslaughter and potentially could face life imprisonment. That seems a more appropriate response than a suspended sentence. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when the killer has no intention of committing murder, but caused the death of another through recklessness or criminal negligence. What can be more reckless than to get into a drive a car when you are incapacitated through drink or drugs?
There is, of course, another issue. Why did it take 18 months to bring her to court? Had she been brought to court more quickly, at least she could have been sentenced without the distraction of her newly born child.
And finally. I went to the last performance of this year’s Croyde Players pantomime, “Beauty and the Snow Beast”. This year, the show was written and directed by Helen and Philip Milton, both of whom appeared in the play. Helen was the evil Queen Griselda, a part into which she threw herself with relish. Philip played the older Prince Boris/the Abominable Snow Beast. I hope he will not mind me saying that he was much more convincing as the Beast than he was as the 18 year old Prince! Other notable performances were Sam Chellew as the young Prince – a star in the making – Tony Meeds as the Dame (Nurse Niggles) and Tony Parker as the airline steward and the hotel manager. In the latter role, Mr Parker seems to have taken lessons from the Nazi officers in ‘Allo, ‘Allo!
As always, Croyde Village Hall was packed, and everyone had a good time.