Dear Reader: How Pateley stunned Britain + North Yorks crisis in social care
If I had said a year ago that Pateley Bridge would win a national contest to find the best high street in Britain, scarcely anyone would have agreed, save for fans of pork pies, perhaps.
But that’s what came to pass this week in the heady surroundings of Lancaster House in London.
Thanks to quite extraordinary efforts led by Nidderdale Chamber of Trade, this cobble-stoned, traditional Dales town beat the entire nation in the Great British High Street competition.
As well as public votes, the town's stunning victory depended on the decision of the judges.
What seems to have impressed them was, well, everything: the filling of empty shop units, the great community support, the dynamic marketing campaign.
But I have another theory to explain Pateley Bridge’s incredible triumph.
I was there on the red, vintage 1940s bus when the judges enjoyed a slow tour round the middle of the town last month.
Some of the patter from our guide and current Nidderdale Chamber of Trade chairman Keith Tordoff was more stand-up comedy than business speak, though he certainly knew his facts and figures about Pateley high street’s amazing revival.
Rollicking laughter rolled through the bus, much of it coming from the direction of the judges themselves.
That’s when I realised Pateley Bridge was in with a chance.
In these troubled times, our distinguished visitors from the competitive world of retail were actually having fun.
Social care is in crisis in North Yorkshire but, as national headlines this week show, it’s far from alone in this situation.
As to the causes, politics aside, a comprehensive feature by our reporter Dan Windham last week spelt out the main reasons in some detail.
It will have come as little surprise to anyone in an era dominated by the false claim and the sleight of hand, that the current mess seems to be the result of that old British favourite - re-structuring.
In the guise of efficiency, North Yorkshire County Council had decided to reduce the number of companies providing care from 20 to three.
This new slimline system faltered because not all the staff from the previous providers had been transferred to the new providers.
And the reason for that? The right of members of the public to source their own social care in the same sector.
At this point I could drone on about the inherent contradictions of the public-private mix and individual rights that is the welfare state in the 21st century.
But, in a way, that isn’t really the point either.
For the root cause of all such problems these days is the simple fact that there’s not enough money going around. Not nearly enough.
Everything else is just a case of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.