Child poverty

FOLLOWING Kevin Hollinrake’s crass comments on child poverty in his recent public exchange with Marcus Rashford (D&S Times, Sept 11), I question whether he is aware of the realities facing children within his constituency. Within Ryedale alone the index of deprivation used by North Yorkshire’s Children’s Trust identifies one in five children aged 0-16 living in poverty. Within areas such as Pickering West, Rillington and Sherburn this number is increasing to one in four and, in the Wolds the figure is one in three.

To find that under the stewardship of Mr Hollinrake and his Tory government the district of Ryedale has now become the second highest area for child poverty within North Yorkshire, replacing Selby, is alarming in the extreme. Even more alarming is that one suspects that if Mr Hollinrake had been aware of poverty levels in his constituency, he would have been far more careful before making such insulting comments about parents.

The combination of rocketing house prices, high rents due to the lack of affordable homes within the private or rented sectors, the lowest regional average wages and poor if non-existent public transport making car ownership essential, all comes together to create a daily struggle for too many local residents. The wage reductions and job losses resulting from Covid-19 have added enormously to those burdens.

Not content with dismissing Marcus Rashford’s fight to support children in poverty, yet again I feel dismayed and let down to find out that on Wednesday, October 21 Mr Hollinrake voted against a Labour motion to ensure that hungry, impoverished children in Ryedale would be sure of a meal every day through the school holidays. In response to my letter of protest, he affirmed, “I stand by my comments”.

During his contribution to the debate in parliament Mr Hollinrake said that his constituents would be “appalled by the prospect of the government intervening in their daily lives to make sure that their children don’t go hungry”. I don’t believe that we, his constituents are appalled by the prospect that the government might help hungry children this winter. Indeed, I think that it is entirely typical of a rural Conservative MP with a large majority to make such sweeping generalisations without bothering to find out what his constituents think. Perhaps we should all think again before casting a vote for him at the next election.

Dr John R Gibbins, Sowerby.

Meal vouchers

RYEDALE’S MP Kevin Hollinrake is an exceptional person. Of more than 300 MPs who recently voted against funding free meals for disadvantaged children over the school holidays, he has topped the expenses league table.

Meanwhile, poor children in deprived communities hit by growing unemployment will go hungry over the Christmas holidays. Providing free school meals in the summer holiday cost £20m per week, so extending this over Christmas would be less than half a per cent of what was spent on a private Test and Trace system that doesn’t work.

Dr Peter Williams, Malton.

Support schemes

I HAVE a great deal of admiration for the footballer Marcus Rashford who defies the stereotype of the typical Premier League star. But I have to say there is one person in this country who has done more than anyone else to put food in front of vulnerable children over the past six months and that is Richmond MP and Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

His various support schemes for the economy have protected millions of deprived families from the full impact of the virus and he deserves a great deal of credit for his compassion and bravery.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak

Some of the craven, opportunistic, political posturing we have seen this week around the business of extending free school meals during the half-term break has sickened me.

Jennifer Woodward, Osmotherley.

School dinners

WHEN one is retired and is able to look over one’s working life, it is to be hoped that any changes that have taken place in society over the years have all been for the better.

In my young days, it was a real shock to my system when I started my career. I had never experienced real poverty before.

Children with their underclothes sewn to their jumpers; shoes that were stuffed with paper and cardboard; children who had no coats in the winter and then – meeting young mothers that I thought were grandparents. They were old before their time.

School dinners – it was a family sitting in those days. The food just disappeared and seconds was a real treat. Little did I know at first, how the kindly dinner ladies gave another extra helping of mash or pudding to those who needed it most.

Over the years, school dinners changed to canteen style and self-service. However, nothing changed in the care of those who needed an extra spoonful or some toast when they came to school hungry.

As well as cupboards with books, paper and pencils, there were cupboards filled with spare clothes, and hand-me-downs brought in by staff and their friends. Over time, things slowly improved as measures were put in place to improve child poverty. Most children were better fed and clothed. It was about this time when programmes and the news media started to portray the poor as feckless, greedy scroungers who were ripping off worthy tax-payers. It was the prelude to austerity. The government decided to use austerity measures to solve the crisis caused by unscrupulous bankers.

Can you believe that in this, the fifth richest economy in the world, that children were, once again, coming to school hungry? The school dinner became a life-line once more.

Here we are today and I am retired, seeing food banks and growing poverty in every town. What is the response to this poverty from many of our local MPs? It is to vote against giving those families in need a voucher to spend on food during half-term.

It has taken a young, talented and extremely wise young man, Marcus Rashford, to prick the conscience of our nation. Is it not about time that a nation as wealthy as ours puts an end to child poverty?

Terence Fleming, Guisborough.

Recreation field

AS a former committee member of the Brompton Recreation Group (BRG) I felt it necessary to write in support of the dog ban on the Brompton Recreation Ground (D&S Times, Oct 23).

The BRG was set up to provide sports facilities for the parish of Brompton; the original plan provided for football, tennis and cricket pitches, a nine hole golfing circuit, a children’s play area; in essence a safe space for people to relax and enjoy themselves. It was never envisioned to be an area for dog walking.

Its charitable objectives “to provide for the inhabitants of the beneficial area in the interest of social welfare facilities for sport recreation and leisure time occupation, for the purpose of relaxation and with the object of improving the conditions of life for the said inhabitants” were written with this in mind.

Dogs and sporting facilities do not mix, especially if children are involved and the issue of dog fouling has been ongoing since the BRG, and its predecessor the Brompton Recreation Association, was formed.

It was discussed on numerous occasions during my almost ten years as a member of the management committee but we never took the necessary action; the desire to do so was there but the will was not.

So I must congratulate the current committee for taking the action has been so very long overdue.

Robert Carter, Brompton.

Pick it up

AFTER reading the article in last week’s D&S (Oct 23) “Recreation field dog ‘ban’ row divides community”, I was disappointed that it did not make clear that parish councillor Steve O’Sullivan is also a committee member for Brompton Recreation Group and has participated in meetings for the last two years.

Northallerton Town Councillor Caroline Young runs a dog walking business and visits the field several times a day with different dogs. I find it strange that these relevant points were omitted.

Allowing people to walk dogs is not the problem, it is the fact that not all dog walkers pick up after their dogs.

It is a shame that everyone has to be penalised but that is something that we cannot help; people do not wear a signs which says ‘I do not pick up after my dog.’ We as a committee have a duty of care to everyone who hires the facility and we must protect all children and visitors who use the field and play area. It is hoped that people will be sympathetic to our decision.

We would like to think that everyone will adhere to our decision; long term we think this will work.

Barbara Slater, Brompton Recreation Group.

Food imports

THE recent Agriculture Bill in the Lords had a key amendment added by a certain Lord Grantchester.

The gentleman asked: “We only allow food imports that meet UK legal standards.”

A vote against was carried by 332 to 279, no need to ask which party voted it down.

The vote goes firmly against the government manifesto to “maintain and improve animal health and welfare standards”. A U-turn.

Tory government farms minister Victoria Prentis (pictured) said “such conditions would make it very difficult to secure any new trade deals” so, it seems we are being blackmailed.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Banbury MP Victoria Prentis

They will be the trade deals required and essential when we leave the EU proper.

So this is what you voted for ladies and gentlemen, poor food, imported from thousands of miles away, an increase in chemical usage, an increase in pollution created by farmers here that must lower standards to compete.

They didn’t mention this before we voted for an “oven ready Brexit” did they?

Richard Baker, Middleton One Row.

Protecting standards

IT is heartening to see the amount of recent correspondence in your paper about the important issue of food standards and also to read about the local farmers’ demonstrations on the same subject.

As your correspondents have noted, the vast majority of consumers wish to see our present high food standards maintained and not lost in a trade deal with the US.

Given the rural nature of our area it is extremely disappointing to learn that none of our local Tory MPs have been willing to vote against the government to both support our farmers and protect our food standards into the future.

Why aren’t they listening to their constituents?

David Craddock, Saltburn.

Rule oblivion

AS an older person, I am trying to keep to the rules and keep my distance from others when out and about.

Most people are considerate, and we move out of each other’s way with a smile. Schoolchildren however seem totally oblivious and both in the morning and afternoon the streets all around Northallerton College and in town are thronged with large groups of young people who block footpaths and ignore any passers-by.

I know they don’t have to keep to the rule of six in school, but can anything be done to make them more aware of others when they are out in public?

Alison Clarke, Northallerton.

Working together

ON Saturday (Oct 24), Honduras became the 50th nation to sign the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

That treaty, after more than a decade of campaigning by many groups worldwide ,including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent will now become international law. This follows similar bans on biological and chemical weapons, land mines and cluster bombs.

It makes the production, use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons illegal as from January 2021.

It will become more difficult for arms companies to seek funding for such work and encourages banks and pension funds to divest from these enterprises.

It will also help small Pacific nations who have been used for testing these weapons seek redress for the damage caused to their people and countries.

Welcome news indeed in these dark times and a reminder of the power of people working together for the common good.

Jennie White, Leyburn.

Cut the politics

IT is good to read Malcolm Warne finally acknowledging making a political point in the Eating Out column.

I have been dismayed over recent weeks by his rabid enthusiasm to crowbar into the column anything relating to his friend Rishi Sunak.

The zeal over the “Eat Out” scheme was unedifying, particularly since the jury is out as to whether that was a wholly beneficial scheme both in terms of helping venues or causing further spread of the disease.

It will certainly be refreshing and wholly welcome if he manages to exclude politics from future columns.

Sheila White, Northallerton.