This month, 315 MPs – including my own, Paul Maynard – voted to reduce the numbers of children who are entitled to free school meals.The income threshold for children entitled to free meals goes down to £7,400 yearly.
The Children’s Society believes as many as one million children could lose out, compared to those entitled to free meals under the previous system.
The new legislation is a disgrace and will harm vulnerable children, some of whom find this hot meal the only hot meal they get that day. Reports of poverty are everywhere, giving rise to food banks and the homeless sleeping rough.
There are also some double standards here – the 10 Democratic Unionist MPs voted with the government, but the Tories exempted Northern Ireland, and the threshold there is about £14,000, almost double ourlimit.
Labour, in contrast, promises to fund free school meals for primary children once in power.
Brilliant,for now though,this is a vicious attack on the most vulnerable. The Government looks after themselves and protect the privileged – MPs continue to benefit from subsidised meals and drinks.
Back in July last year, we learnt that the taxpayer was footing a £2.7 million bill to subsidise the bars and restaurants in the House of Commons where costs had risen by £200,000, with MPs enjoying three-course lunches for £10.30 with a small bottle of wine at £2.25!
Beryl Avenue Anchorsholme
Referendums are not way forward
The first ever UK referendum took place in June 1975. It was a ballot to decide whether or not we were to remain in the then European Community, and was due to the provisions of Harold Wilson’s 1974 manifesto – he had stated that the public would decide and the Government would accept the vote.
Turnout was 64 per cent with remain at 67 per cent and leave at 33 per cent. The referendum had the same legal basis as the recent one on our membership within the EU, ie it had no legal basis at all and could have been ignored by David Cameron. He chose not to do this and plunged us into uncertainty, passing the buck to his successor.
Unfortunately, referendums are usually limited to yes/no questions with no recourse to future complications. The only way around a country split on this issue is for MPs to vote with their hearts and heads on the final deal.
If this results in a no deal, we should have a General Election with interested parties publishing a binding commitment on the best way forward with our relationship with the EU within their manifesto.
I’m afraid referendums are not the way forward in respect of something so important to generations to come.
School budgets at breaking point
We may be reaching a tipping point on school funding. In recent days reports have been coming in thick and fast proving what school leaders already know – that budgets are at breaking point.
The influential Education Policy Institute reported that the proportion of local authority maintained secondary schools in deficit has nearly trebled, with more than 60 per cent spending more than their income in 2016-17.
The 2018 Academies Benchmark Report revealed that 55 per cent of the 450 academy trusts audited up to August 2017 were in deficit.
No school is immune. Primary and secondary, academy and local authority, mainstream and specialist; the entire state-funded school system is rapidly heading towards insolvency.
And the cuts are beginning to have an impact on children and education. Horrifyingly, 65 per cent of school leaders ‘strongly agree’ that cut backs have already had a negative impact on the performance of their school.
In the last General Election campaign, school funding was a key issue on the doorstep. It is clear that parents will not tolerate school standards slipping and that they are concerned for their children’s future.
The government’s only option now is to find more money for schools.
General secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT
We do we not get plastics-only bins?
If plastics pollution is as serious a threat as we are told, then surely we should urgently be supplied with ‘plastics only’ bins? The contents of these will then be burned, whilst we gradually learn to wean ourselves away from plastics materials generally.