News George Osborne is said to have paid £100 an hour to be trained by a Harley Street vocal specialist during his days as shadow Chancellor

George Osborne is said to have paid £100 an hour to be trained by a Harley Street vocal specialist during his days as shadow Chancellor, to help him sound weighty and authoritative. But did he get his money’s worth? After listening to the Chancellor’s speech on Monday, the Labour MP Jamie Reed seemed to think not. He tweeted: “Can someone please reintroduce Osborne to ‘t’ as a consonant? Cos I godda dell ya, that speech made me wanna scream.”

RJB may have to close two mines

Letter: Bank note bridge

Sir: I am afraid that Mr Atkinson is wrong in his letter about the Skerne bridge (letter, 21 December). The bridge on which he played is on the main line, but the one which was taken as a model for that on the pounds 5 note was on the now-abandoned Stockton & Darlington line from the present North Road station to Fighting Cocks.

Letter: `Failing' services

Sir: It is encouraging that Councillor Peter Arnold in his letter of 30 November acknowledges the usefulness of publishing comparative information about social services.

Letter: Unfair tables

Sir: The social services league tables (report, 24 November) pose as many questions as they answer.

Three Dinners

Three dinners are scheduled for the next three months.

Letter: Just the ticket

JANET STREET-PORTER is correct in thinking that bus tickets usually don't need editing. (After the jokes, it's down to the real business of editing, 4 July). However, they do need editing here in Middlesbrough, a town plagued by misspellings of its name. On a bus journey, I happened to glance at my ticket. There was that supernumerary "O" again: "MIDDLESBOROUGH". And perpetrated by a Middlesbrough bus company, to compound the felony.

Rugby Union: Va'a bangs another nail into Hartlepool coffin

West Hartlepool 35 Richmond 36

Budget 1999: Budget Thought for the Day

"Forty thousand pounds a year is a moderate income -

Letter: Millennium cards

Sir: I hope Hugh Rogers' friends have noted that he is not sending millennium cards on 1 January 2000 (letter, 6 January) and has thereby counted himself out of party invitations. Away with such pedantry! Life is for living, and is fragile enough without allowing mathematical fundamentalists to intimidate us out of our generally accepted usages.

Football: Problem pitch threatens Darlington hopes

DARLINGTON'S money-spinning FA Cup second-round tie against Manchester City could be called off because the Feethams pitch has been branded as dangerous, writes Alan Nixon.

Letter: Goats in peril

Sir: Your recent article entitled "Moorland scarred by tracks for shooting" (28 September) concerned the Northumberland National Park, where there is a herd of feral goats. This herd, generally known as the College Valley group, has a history that illustrates only too well the plight of our national native breed of goat - the British native goat.

North-south divide lives on

THE NORTH-SOUTH divide refuses to die away, according to a new survey on lifestyle habits in the UK.

Letter: Mitfords at home

MITFORD Hall, in Northumberland, was not the house "immortalised in Jessica [Mitford's] Hons and Rebels" ("Talk of the Toon", 21 March). The relevant house in her book was the newly built one at Swinbrook, near Burford, Oxfordshire.

Letter: Angelic challenge

HOW long will it be, I wonder, before an attempt is made to climb the Angel of the North? Will the wings end up being painted in the black and white stripes of Newcastle or the red and white of Sunderland? It seems an awfully inviting challenge.

You might think this Roman is stark raving mad. But no. It's New Year's Day, the whole world over

First wave: An Italian dives into the Tiber from Rome's Cavour Bridge (top) and bather flee the sea at Scheveningen beach in The
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