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I take with a HUGE pinch of salt the posturing self-righteous indignation of Tory MPs Ann Main and Bim Afolami. (‘District MPs defend vote on free school meals.’ Herts Ad March 22)
Let us consider the facts: yes, means-tested families will still get free school lunches, but those who don’t qualify will have to pay big bills.
The decision to remove the government £2.30 subsidy on each free lunch will mean working families will have to find £480 extra per child per year. For a family with more than one child, this amounts to over £1,000 a year.
Just two years ago, the Tory manifesto for the 2015 general election promised to keep the free lunches. Many Tory MPs had previously voted under the Coalition in favour of legislation to introduce them in the first place.
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Now they have decided to renege on that promise and undo the legislation they previously supported.
It is estimated that the average person requires an income of at least £24,270 to lead a comfortable life - a long way from the £7,400 at which point the ‘no more free school lunches for your kids’ kicks in.
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As an interesting comparison: both our MPs earn an annual salary of £74K. In addition to this, they can claim £9k for office expenses. They get further allowances for relocation, travel, and let us not forget they benefit from subsidised lunches in the various bars and dining rooms around the Houses of Parliament.
Pulling the rug from under the poorest children in society seems to be the Tory way of working: Thatcher and free school milk, McVey and free school lunches. Like the leopard in the proverb, a Tory never changes its spots.
CAROL HEDGES Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden
I write with reference to your article last week regarding the government funding changes to Universal Credit and the affect it will have on families who rely on free school meals.
The brass neck of both Anne Main MP (Cons, St Albans) and Bim Afolani MP (Cons, Harpenden) is breathtaking.
Anne Main was quoted as being “shocked that the Opposition were attempting to mislead the public”.
The Opposition are not misleading anyone, it is the government who are doing that.
She of all people should know that given that she votes for each and every pernicius and mendacious cut her party comes up with.
I would recommend that she reads the comments made by Mrs Norris from Home-Start. They are after all the door upon which families in dire straits knock so it would make perfect sense to heed their reaction. Mrs Norris explained that for families with 3 children in school the changes are equivalent to a £3K pay cut.
The UK Statistics Authority has recently chastised Tory ministers - including the Prime Minister - for false claims that the government has increased spending on services including both policing and schools.
With regard to funds going towards schools an additional £1.3 billion over two years will have a real terms effect of keeping funding per pupil level - not an increase - after inflation is taken into acount. Indeed this was confirmed by the Institute for Fisal Studies.
With regard to the claims made by the Prime Minister that she is both protecting police budgets and increasing them by £450 million - a claim that was also repeated by the Home Office - this again required correction from the the UK Statistics Authority.
They ruled that this was indeed misleading as the claims that any funding increase was coming from the government was incorrect and that the funding was coming from Council Tax increases and not from central government. That grant has since been frozen and which post inflation account equals, once again, a cut.
Forgive me but I am surely not alone in being sick and tired of this Tory government and its rabble of ministers peddling their austerity out to the poorest and most disdvantaged in society whilst rewarding their lies with a 1.8 per cent pay rise.
To add insult to injury they then bluster their way through their self created mess with fake news/stats’.
For the sake of all the suffering families and my hypertension it would be greatly appreciated if the local electorate would bear this in mind before marking the blue rosette box in the forthcoming district elections. There are solutions to these problems but they will not be forthcoming from the Nasty Party. No tears from me for shocked Anne and Bim.
LIZ MCCANN By email
I believe your reporter Frances Berry has misunderstood the proposals for the lake upgrading.
On the plan for Reach 1 can be seen the comment: “A slight increase in the flow from the river to the lake will freshen the water, reduce algal blooms and encourage wildlife to thrive etc”
I must stress the word slight which is quite unrealistic and this indicates to me that a good flushing of the lake is not in the designer’s aims.
I have suggested that the original intake into the main lake be reinstated to ensure flow and a control of the rate.
The first note about the river is downstream of the sluice into the model boating pond and almost everything after that is river oriented.
Even the reduction of the width of the main lake has been proposed to create the new section of river as a typical chalk stream.
JACK HILL St Albans
Last night my car broke down on Sandpit Lane in St Albans and I was waiting there for three hours for the breakdown truck.
In that time three people came to ask if I was OK and I would like to thank them. In particular, one lady asked if I was OK and I replied yes just waiting. Half an hour later she reappeared with her husband and they had been to Pret to get me a coffee and a muffin. That small act of kindness from what surely must be my guardian angel has restored my faith in humanity in a world where humanity is often lacking.
If you could print a short note of thanks to that couple I would be so grateful as I have no way of contacting them.
Thank you for highlighting the story of the cuts to Thameslink commuter services from Harpenden. Thameslink have shown a shocking disregard for all of us who commute from Harpenden.
The term ‘broadly similar’ being stated by Thameslink to describe the revised service for Harpenden, is I’m afraid misleading.
For example, an analysis of the evening peak using data on the National Rail website and the Thameslink handout distributed at last week’s meeting, shows a reduction of one fast train every 30 minute period.
Whilst this is replaced by an additional slow train, replacing a 25 minute journey, with a 40 minute journey - over 50 per cent longer, is not broadly similar. In effect, evening peak services are being cut by a third, with everyone cramming onto the remaining fast trains.
For years, we have been waiting for the completion of the Thameslink 2000 programme. In recent years this has involved putting up with frequent breakdowns of the ancient rolling stock, teething problems on the new trains, plus lack of drivers as they were trained on the new trains and routes.
Just when all these are coming to an end and we are looking forward to the improved service we have long since promised, both in terms of frequency and capacity, we get hit with this. Harpenden commuters deserve better.
SHEILA SMITH By email
I am profoundly upset by the letter published by John Davis on March 22, regarding EU nationals leaving the NHS, and the narrow-minded and nationalist inference he makes at the end of his paragraph.
Some of us living in St Albans are British, others (who may be working in caring or servicing jobs) are not.
We live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-national, and multi-religious city, with outward looking citizens, the vast majority of whom voted to remain in the EU. All the better for it!
FRANCOIS DURANTON By email
Almost every street in the St Albans area is affected by potholes which have been further deepened by the recent bad weather.
There is a policy in force to only repair these once they match a formulated criteria for size and depth.
Might I suggest to the council and their contractors that the rate payers would receive far better value for money if they re-evaluated this policy.
I have seen a pothole repair crew carry out a repair and ignore adjacent holes which would probably fit the criteria only a short time later. This cannot be economic !
Surely if there is the requirement to repair one compliant pothole it would make sense to tackle any others in the same street before they become worse.
Also many repairs do not seem to be properly sealed and begin to deteriorate within days of vehicles travelling over them.
If we rate payers can apply common sense is it too much for the council and their contractors to do so as well?
LES CAZIN By email
Chatting to an elderly day tripper to St Albans recently, we got into a conversation about the famous Alban Bun.
She told me she had read about their origins and was keen to sample one for herself at the Abbot’s Kitchen.
After a long wait for them to be delivered she was offered a pack of four for £4.95 but when she explained she only wanted one the price was £1.95! (plus extra for toasting).
Together with a pot of tea she paid just under £5 in total.
How on Earth can the Abbey justify this ridiculous price for a very mediocre bun when other retailers are offering superior buns for a fraction of the cost? Shame on the rip-off Abbot’s Kitchen.
Tavistock Close, St Albans