SIR, - The directors of 'Space to Grow' (STG) make the following points in response to Councillor Francis' attack, published in the Wharfedale Observer on May 11.

First, Coun Francis was nominated by Otley Town Council last year to work with STG. The purpose of this nomination was to enable Coun Francis to monitor STG's activities and to offer advice and support . He received agendas and minutes for all committee meetings.He attended none, and he offered no comment.

He had every opportunity to monitor the financial probity of STG, but evidently chose not to. Its affairs have always been open to Coun Francis, and they still are. Instead of mounting a savage, public attack in the press, he had every opportunity and a responsibility to contact representatives from Space to Grow to raise his concerns and to offer advice and support to the project.

Secondly, STG has always organised its outdoor activities in line with stringent national safety procedures. Two highly-skilled and experienced outdoor workers were therefore appointed.The directors pay tribute to them. They have provided challenging, exciting, and enjoyable activities for many local young people. In addition, and in order to finance the running of free activities for local young people, they set up a business known as a 'social enterprise'.

STG's workers achieved a fair degree of success in securing commercial contracts, but funding cuts in some of their clients' organisations resulted in a slowdown in STG's income. STG did apply for interim funding, but was unsuccessful. Had the bids been successful there is a chance that the social enterprise could have continued.

Coun Campbell is right to say both that STG provided 'a useful service' and that this service should be continued. Unfortunately, without secure funding, it cannot.

Thirdly, a number of STG's directors have been working for nearly ten years - beginning with the building of the skate park - to provide well-funded outdoor activities for local young people. They are still working to ensure that some provision is in place.

The directors obviously regret that the present enterprise has foundered. The company's dissolution follows established procedures and it will take some time before everything is settled satisfactorily.

Fourthly, and despite the failure of the enterprise, the directors are proud to have attempted to supply local young people with excitement and challenge. There are hundreds of young people who will have lasting, positive memories of the times they spent with STG. Many people have supported Space to Grow in many ways, since 1997. They will have been as shocked as we were by the report in last week's paper. Thank you to everyone who has given their time and skills to STG.

Our original aim to provide outdoor activities for local young people arose out of our concern at the loss of freedom to enjoy the outdoors that most young people experience. STG's aims are still valid and the needs are still there. They should not be ignored.

Lastly, If anyone, or any organisation, has any ideas about securing STG's future, the directors will be very happy to hear from them. Equally, if anybody has any queries about the current situation, including matters of financial probity, they can contact us. The chairwoman is Betty Bevan (tel: 01943 465564).

THE DIRECTORS Space To Grow, Otley.

Pensions justice

SIR, - On the same day the assisted death Bill was blocked by the House of Lords, the Blair-Brown coalition delayed the restoration of the pension link to earnings until 2012. Was this a coincidence?

There are already three million pensioners below the poverty threshold and by 2012 there will be many more. Many will not live long enough if it ever materialises. Brown has already declared it will only happen if it is affordable!

The Establishment is doing everything it can to keep pensioners in poverty and shorten our lives. Although we created the present prosperity, when our productive lives are over we are to be disposed of as cheaply as possible.

Before pensioners rejoice they should understand this proposal would increase their pension by only £1.30 per week in real terms and still be means tested. That is if they are lucky enough to live long enough to enjoy this princely sum.

It will be delayed as long as possible to minimise costs but when it comes to taxing pension funds, trust funds and inheritance tax, tax is applied retrospectively. There is only one thing to say about this proposal. Rubbish. Pensioners want justice now not when they are in their coffins.

Blair, Brown and all Establishment politicians are interested only in themselves and pensioners must oust these scoundrels before they do any more damage.

Malcolm Naylor 21 Grange View, Otley.

Acorns and trees

SIR, - I was also about to respond to comments made by MP Greg Mulholland on the Child Trust Voucher, but refrained from doing so during the election period, leaving room for the politicians to debate.

I appreciate Greg Mulholland's determined effort to make the point of wasting tax payers money by the Government. Many will, of course, agree with me that our biggest waste our good resources today must be the supporting of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Returning his Child Trust Voucher is unlikely to touch the hearts of many mums and dads, as my youngest daughter has pointed out.

As a mother of three, having give up her highly remunerated job as electronic engineer, she is now a full time housewife, and welcomes these vouchers as a source of early investment for her children.

An 'acorn' that is looked after well will grow to a healthy tree - and this is true for most of young families. I wonder our MP will agree with her ?

Dr M Thakur Majentta Farm, Mall Lane, West Carlton.

Figures challenged

SIR, - Greg Mulholland creates a smokescreen in order to avoid the fact that his sums don't add up. (Letters, May 11) He introduces all sorts of nonsense to try to avoid the real question. How does £250 million a year pay for an additional 21,000 primary school teachers? And where do we get them from?

Can I firstly deal with his assertion about the timing of my letter. He must be forgetful. It was he who put out a press release on April 13 announcing this political stunt. Your paper covered the event on April 20 and I wrote in response to that coverage. It was you who decided when and if it should be printed. If he doesn't want people to comment on things he does in the run-up to elections then he should stop doing them!

Mr Mulholland continues to mislead your readers. In his press release of April 13 he says: "I want to see the money spent on early years and primary education. The huge costs involved could be used to recruit 21,000 more teachers, would cut infant class sizes from the present maximum of 30 to an average of 20."

His argument is breathtakingly innumerate. He now says we would use the Child Trust Fund to employ 21,000 teachers . would cost £1.165 billion including training and employing those extra teachers over five years'. This is just fantasy land. He is making up the figures as he goes along.

You simply cannot employ an additional 21,000 teachers over five years for £1.165 billion. Even if the money were solely used to pay their salaries this would equate to £11,095 per teacher per year. You cannot employ teachers for these sums. You would need to more than double that to start with.

Then there are the training costs, building costs (current schools could not cope without major extensions to their buildings), and all other employment costs. It is not as simple nor as painless as Mr. Mulholland would like to make out. He would have to increase taxes as well or cut public services elsewhere.

Mr. Mulholland can give me all the unsolicited advice he wants, but it will not distract me from commenting on such political gimmickry. He even went further than I thought and actually used his daughter as part of the gimmick.

I leave Mr. Mulholland with one final point. In my own Ward the Labour vote increased by 3.4% despite the national difficulties, which I acknowledge. The Liberals vote fell by 2.5%.

Thank you to all those electors who supported me at the election.

Mike King Renton Avenue, Guiseley.

Election thanks

SIR, - My thanks are due to all the residents of Guiseley and Rawdon Ward who helped to secure my re-election to Leeds City Council.

I am particularly grateful to the Conservative Party members and supporters who devoted so much time and effort to getting our message out to voters.

Now that the election is over, my role in helping to represent all the residents of the ward, irrespective of their political views, continues as before. I shall do it to the best of my ability, in partnership with my colleagues, Stuart Andrew and Graham Latty.

Coun John Bale

Guiseley and Rawdon Ward, Leeds City Council.

14, Balmoral Way, Yeadon,

The nearly town'

SIR, - Otley might well be described as the nearly town'.

It nearly has a bypass, it nearly has a Sainsbury's and it nearly has a riverside development.

It once had a railway station, boats on the river and, not so long ago, a magistrates' court. Nowadays it almost has a police station of sorts.

The town once boasted seven primary schools - now it has four.

So what Otley got to offset all these losses. True, it has a new hospital, but this is not nearly what we thought it was going to be. There is also the fear that its already watered down services could be further reduced.

But wait a minute. Otley recently opened its spanking new library, complete with internet facilities. This could turn out to be a major success story. There is nothing to say, also, that Otley will not eventually get its Sainsbury store, or that the bypass might one day get finished.

Yes, it is a nearly town' . But it wouldn't take a lot of effort to turn it into a town of some substance. Less political squabbling in the town council, some interest in Otley's development shown by Leeds City Council and a will from within to make things happen would be a start. It's time something was done to put Otley back on the road to its former glory.


Name and address supplied.

Show delight

SIR, - I would really like to thank your newspaper for the tickets for Spirit of The Horse, which I won in a competition in the Wharfedale Observer.

Having seen the show two years ago, I knew what to expect and it was brilliant. Three nine-year-old girls accompanied me (Abbie, Jenny and Emma), and we had a fabulous afternoon. Once again, many thanks and I will keep entering the competitions,. This is the best one yet that I have won.

Judith Brown, Abbie, Jenny and Emma, Cemetery Road, Yeadon.

No intimidation

SIR, - Following this week's focus on animal rights extremism, the RSPCA would like to make one thing absolutely clear: we undeservedly condemn the action of those who take part in intimidation and violence in the name of bringing laboratory experiments on animals to an end.

In our view, campaigns to intimidate shareholders, or the one carried out by the four guinea pig farm activists who were sentenced after admitting charges of conspiracy to blackmail, have only succeeded in damaging the animal welfare cause.

Whilst we welcome discussion surrounding the moral status of animals in society, the use of intimidation and violence is completely unacceptable and has absolutely no place in this or any other debate.

The public debate about animal testing has become nothing more than a slanging match between someone in a lab coat and someone in a balaclava. All this does is entrench views so such an extent that legitimate concerns about animal suffering and justification for individual experiments are lost.

The RSPCA is deeply concerned about the suffering of animals in experiments and believes there should be much more commitment to replacing animals with humane alternatives.

Until this can be achieved, the society works in a constructive way to ensure the numbers of animals used and the levels of suffering are reduced as much as possible.

This way of working delivers the animal welfare message exactly where it is needed with most chance of it being taken up.

Alan Wolinski

Regional manager for the North, RSPCA