As a group of business people, passionate about Yorkshire and the Humber, we have made a commitment to support the region’s business community in whatever way we can.

Having successfully survived a number of recessions, we have pooled our experiences to identify what we believe are priorities for Yorkshire’s businesses.

A big issue for many businesses right now is cost cutting – and training budgets are often the first to go. But it is a false economy.

Even in these difficult times, there are real opportunities we should seize. In many businesses, it may be easier now to release staff for training. Larger businesses could strengthen their supply chains by developing training in partnership with suppliers.

Marketing needs to be more focused and with it the pursuit of excellent customer service. Good and timely financial information is vital, particularly daily cash reporting.

All of us recognise that there are businesses doing well and still new opportunities even in difficult times. There is funding and support to help innovate and develop products and services, as well as find new export markets.

We would urge businesses to make use of the free and flexible support available to help them.

The initiative, Train to Gain has been extended to cover most employees in job-related skills and Apprenticeships are a cost-effective way to train people.

Business Link can help you with all the above, from skills and financial health checks to innovation and increasing sales - or 08456 048 048.

We all need to maximise every opportunity.

John Anderson, Regional Director, Yorkshire & Humber, BT Mark Andrews,Chief Executive, NG Bailey Ltd Alan Blackwell, Principal,Craven College, Andy Bond, President & CEO, ASDA Stores Ltd, Gordon Bridge, Chief Executive, Aesseal plc, Nick Cragg, Chairman, Nicholas Associates Ltd, Jan Fletcher, Chairman, Montpellier Estates Ltd, John Foster, Managing Director, Fosters Bakery, Richard Gregory, Chairman,Yorkshire Bank, Julie Hanson, joint Managing Director, Brahm, Julie Kenny,Managing Director, Pyronix Ltd, Ian McIntosh, President, AAK UK, Michael Oughtred, Senior Vice President, Yorkshire & Humber Chambers of Commerce, Andrew Palmer, Regional Director, CBI Yorkshire & Humber, Nimble Thompson, Regional Chairman, Institute of Directors,Neil Turton,Chief Executive Officer, Nisa-Today’s, Graham Ward, Chief Executive, Stockbridge Technology Centre Ltd, Brian Whittington,Dean of Leeds Business School, Leeds Met University,Margaret Wood, Managing Director,ICW (UK) Ltd

Shooting from the hip

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth takes the easy way out when it is reported that she blames animal rights campaigners as those responsible for damaging her cars. She also unjustly links the damage to the jailing of seven members of SHAC who were found guilty of intimidation, violence and criminal damage in connection with Huntingdon Life Science. This sort of knee-jerk firing from the hip does her as little credit as it does to the committed peaceful animal rights movement which holds no truck with such methods.

There is considerable opposition to killing-for-sport on Ilkley Moor but before Anne Hawkesworth picks up her tar brush again she should produce some very good evidence of who the perpetrators are. As well as her support for shooting on Ilkley Moor, I am sure she is involved in other controversial issues as a Bradford environmental executive.

Perhaps she could check on whose bin has not been emptied.

Kit Davidson, Shooting Consultant,Animal Aid The Old Chapel,Bradford Street,Tonbridge TN9 1AW

Support for Coun Hawkesworth

I completely denounce the cowardly actions of the individuals who have damaged the property of Councillor Anne Hawkesworth.

I urge the community, if anybody has any evidence to assist the police in capturing the individuals concerned to come forward.

Finally, can I offer my support to Coun Hawkesworth for the excellent work that she does, not only as a member of the council executive, but also as a committed councillor of Ilkley.

Coun Kris Hopkins, Leader of Bradford Council and leader of the Conservative Group

Bistro will be back!

Firstly, we would like to thank everyone in Addingham and the local area for their kind words of support during what has been the most traumatic seven days in the Good Food Shop bistro’s short history.

We are still trying to piece together what happened to our wonderful little bistro last Wednesday night.

We would also like to thank the residents, businesses, bus companies and all the people who have been affected by the incident.

We wish we could write here what went on with regards to the collapse of the building. However, as tenants of the building, we currently do not know. We were simply asked to close for three weeks for some building works to be carried out by our landlord and expected to be re-open for the first week of February. We do intend to be back as soon as possible, this time bigger, better and most definitely stronger.

The GFS Bistro

Insight into ECT

With regard to your article, Former patient briefs actors on the shocking truth of life aylum (Wharfedale & Airedale Observer, January 22), some of the information offered by ex-patient Derek Hutchinson to the actor appearing in The Housing of David Oluwale is, in my view, inaccurate.

During the period Derek Hutchinson was receiving in-patient treatment, I was training at High Royds to become a psychiatrist – I was there for about four years. During this particular period, High Royds was a place for all forms of professional training, approved by all governing bodies for doctors and the nurses. The hospital was upgraded from West Riding Asylum to an “open door” hospital, staffed by three very well qualified consultants from the Royal Colleges around the UK. The entire team were working relentlessly to remove the stigma of the asylum which was considered to be detrimental to patients and the health workers.

I assume that the same principle should apply when a report is published in your paper as it is does not appear to be fair on those who had good treatment and are still very well, living normal lives in the community.

I agree with Derek – patients appeared ‘junked’ primarily due to, in some cases, their long-term illness rather than drugs alone. Unlike today, there were only three primary drugs available for treatment of the psychotic patients. All had sedating adverse reaction, but were greatly beneficial when patients were allowed to stop after recovery. There was a choice of treatment by ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) for highly selected patients, those who did not respond to other forms of therapy. Two consultants had to see the patients, one of them a physician, and all needed to agree. On the day of treatment, someone like myself would give the treatment, with an anesthetist. This used to cause slight amnesia for the day. There was never any minor operation or electrode insertion.

I emphasise the point that ECT is still a treatment (not punitive) of choice only in certain cases. I do not wish that the public should be misinformed. High Royds, in those days, provided all short and long-term care, protected the chronically ill to be at risk, if detained, only under the Mental Health Act by two psychiatrist, one independent, and reviewed regularly by the scrutiny board. The term asylum did not apply as the residents were almost all voluntary, were given a warm home, shelter for those with nowhere to go or get addicted to drugs or commit crime to survive or end up in the prison through no fault of their own. Derek’s statements cannot be good for those who are still waiting to have ECT.

I sincerely hope this letter will provide more insight and remove some of the myth when the play is performed.

Dr Makhan Thakur Mall Lane,West Carlton,Leeds

Ilkley sets an example

Why are Leeds City Council planners getting so hot under the collar about Sainsbury’s signage when they allow such vulgarities as Captain Value (Kirkgate) and Yeadon and Otley Labour Club (Walkergate). Maybe they should take a walk around Ilkley to check out signage that befits the local architecture.

Graham McGee, Riverside Crescent Otley

Churches growing in popularity

I’ve not always been a Christian – in fact I didn’t become one until I was in my 20s. This has helped me to see life both from a believer’s perspective and a non-believer’s. I spent many years thinking that church was just for people who had nothing better to do – how wrong I was. I also thought that church was just a declining institution – again, how wrong I was!

Coming to All saints’ in Ilkley I have found a church that is not only growing in numbers but is also vibrant, friendly and is welcoming for everyone.

During my time as a vicar in Kent, before coming to All Saints’, we also had considerable growth in our church numbers. I put this down to many things but not least something called the Alpha course. Our church numbers grew from around 50 people to over 150 as a result, in part, of the Alpha Course.

I have been involved with Alpha for about ten years and my experience is that everyone who goes on an Alpha course gains in so many different ways.

Guests on the Alpha course attend for a wide variety of reasons – some want to investigate whether God exists; others are concerned about what happens after death. Some people have particular questions that they would like to discuss; others want to understand other people’s beliefs or would like to explore what the purpose of life is or why we have to endure things like the current credit crunch. Many guests have never been to church, others may already go to church but feel they want to gain more from the Christian faith.

Each session begins with refreshments - a chance to get to know others on the course. There is then a short talk on DVD, which looks at a different aspect of the Christian faith each week. This is followed by a time of discussion in small groups, where everyone is welcome to contribute their opinion, ask questions and discuss with the rest of the group. The emphasis is upon exploration and discovery in a relaxed and informal environment.

The whole course usually lasts for ten weeks, with a day or weekend away in the middle. It is a free course.

All Saints’ in Ilkley are to begin a new course at the end of February. If anyone is interested in joining our group at All Saints’ church, please ring me on 01943 430693 or email

REV LEE TOWNEND,Priest-in-Charge All Saints Parish Church,Ilkley