I WAS bewildered to read your article naming North Lanarkshire as the “most broken local authority in Scotland” ("Scots area is most ‘broken’, study finds", The Herald, December 19).

The source came from a supposed "think tank" that used 13 indicators to come to this conclusion, from which council figures comprised just four.

It appears the motivation behind its desk research was to take a pop at the Scottish Government when in reality, it shamed a thriving council area in a bid to grab a headline on budget day.

How disappointing that this think tank effectively created a demoralising council "league table" from selective data without taking account of relative levels of poverty and deprivation across the country and utilising more meaningful, readily-available information to reflect the council’s improved picture.

North Lanarkshire Council recently received an extremely positive report from Audit Scotland, the independent watchdog for local government in Scotland, which picked out the council’s commitment to reducing inequalities and tackling poverty.

Undoubtedly, North Lanarkshire has its challenges with one in four children living in child poverty but significant inroads have been made this year to improve the lives of people living and working in the region. The percentage of school pupils entering higher education and employment is higher than the national average, latest figures show combined primary school pupils are above the national average for reading, writing, literacy and numeracy and breastfeeding figures have infinitely improved. Wages, for the first time ever, are higher than the national average, and we have a thriving economy with record levels of inward investment, helping to create more jobs and training opportunities. We have one of the largest council-house building programmes in Scotland and three multi-purpose community hubs opened their doors this year, with integrated educational facilities, public services and community space. We’re investing in our town centre projects, country parks and green spaces and a 10-year active travel strategy is creating a range of routes connecting communities across the region. An enhanced digital infrastructure that will unlock digital exclusion - which is vital in areas of deprivation - is currently rolling out across the region with schools already benefiting from vastly increased internet bandwidth.

Our ambitious programme is improving social conditions and putting people’s health at the centre of investment; linking communities and investment to open up access to new jobs and opportunities for all.

It’s those factors and achievements that help to realise positive outcomes and really do make a tangible difference for children, businesses, communities and the local economy. So just how can North Lanarkshire be the "most broken" local authority in Scotland? Independently substantiated figures show otherwise.

Councillor Jim Logue, Leader of North Lanarkshire Council, Motherwell.

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Reduce health boards to four

 THE SNP Government clearly prefers to tax the better-off to seeking savings in the public sector budget. We do not need the 15-plus health boards to run the Scottish NHS with all the attendant costs. Scotland has a smaller population than some regional authorities in England.

A reduction to four direct clinical regional health boards, for example Glasgow and south-west, Edinburgh and south-east, Tayside and Grampian, and Western Isles and Highland, with incorporation of the Northern Isles into one of the latter, would surely produce significant cost savings. The NHS needs reform to survive and this would be a start.

Dr Nigel McMillan, Glasgow.

Read more: Glasgow's Subway is merely a grown-up toy and must be expanded

Put SPOTY out of its misery

AGAINST my better judgment, having chosen to give the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) yet another chance, what unfolded was an unmitigated example of a cloying, cheesy and self-congratulatory stagger down memory lane, exhuming what little remains of the rotting corpse of BBC Sport ("Lifetime achievement award for Dalglish", Herald Sport, December 20).

There was precious little to remember, let alone celebrate, with the entire charade presided over by Gary Lineker, Alex Scott, Gabby Logan and the obsequious, schmaltzy Clare Balding.

Grim viewing it most certainly was, sticking with it, not in any vain hope that matters might improve but to witness just how deep the depths this one-time sporting highlight had plummeted.

The six short-listed contenders for the once-venerated SPOTY trophy could well have been compiled by an English diversity focus group; four English athletes, two women, one disabled athlete, Irish superstar golfer Rory McIlroy, who had decided not to grace the occasion and an Italian jockey who had been banned in 2012 for cocaine use.

Meanwhile, voting was restricted to a period of 15-20 minutes and with the vast majority of the eligible electorate being English, it can hardly have come as a surprise that the first three places were occupied by representatives of England.

And given that World Championship gold medal winner Katarina Johnson-Thompson was shortlisted on merit, why then was the same status not accorded to Scottish athlete Jake Kerr, who won the gold medal in the blue-riband 1,500m at those self-same World Championships in Budapest in August?

I am a steadfast advocate for women’s sport in general and women’s football in particular, but 2023 SPOTY winner, Lionesses goalkeeper Mary Earps, won absolutely nothing last year for either club or country, her elevation wholly unjustified and swayed mightily I suspect by her potty-mouthed response to saving a penalty in defeat against Spain in the recent Women’s World Cup.

With BBC Sport having lost many of its meaningful TV rights, including the Open Championship, the Masters, the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup, F1, and exclusivity of rugby’s iconic Six Nations Championship, and clinging onto Wimbledon like grim death, surely it’s high time an increasingly irrelevant SPOTY was put out of its excruciating agony once and for all?

Michael Wilson, Longniddry.

The Herald: BBC Sports Personality of the Year Mary Earps with the show's presentersBBC Sports Personality of the Year Mary Earps with the show's presenters (Image: BBC)

Poly theme

WITH the sad decline in language provision in Scotland ("Scottish university will no longer offer modern language degrees", The Herald, December 14), we cannot be described as a nation of polyglots. With the obesity in evidence on the streets of Glasgow however, a nation of polygluts might be more appropriate.

Catherine Griffin, Glasgow.