Ryedale people want a fair deal for nurses
20 December 2022
Last Saturday (17 December) we conducted a street survey of the public in Pickering and Thornton Dale. Of those who spoke to us not one supported the government imposing a 15% cut on nurses’ pay, not one thought it was right to spend £9bn a year on agency and bank staff and every single one thought the government should negotiate and come up with a fair deal.
In refusing to deal fairly with NHS nurses, the government appears to have a death wish. It’s as though having given up on winning the next general election as a result of their multiple past failures they no longer care about making further blunders. Their claim that they are being ‘reasonable’ is patently untrue and is not believed. Their claim that they have no choice but to implement the pay review board’s recommendations is false and is not believed. Their claim that the pay review board is independent is belied by the fact that the board members are appointed by the government and that its terms of reference are dictated by the government, including that the board should ‘ consider the financial circumstances of the government’ i.e. its budget.
This may explain why the government is confronting nurses but is inexcusable. It is our NHS not theirs. It is the public who cannot afford to pay for private health care who will suffer if the NHS descends into chaos under this government’s stewardship. Our street survey also showed that the overwhelming majority of Ryedale people do not believe the NHS is safe in the hands of this government.
The only constructive way forward is for the government to shelve the pay board’s recommendations and re-enter negotiations with everything on the table. It is to be hoped that Mr Hollinrake will put his weight behind the growing clamour for this to happen.
Mick Johnston, Chair of Thirsk and Malton Labour Party.
Free school meals
12 December 2022
Why are we letting children go hungry?
In the Autumn Statement (17 November), the chancellor ignored the call to help the 800,000 children who live in poverty but are not eligible for free school meals. The earnings threshold of £7,400 combined household income (pre benefits, post tax) has remained unchanged since its introduction in 2018. This is despite soaring living costs. Now more than ever children need access to the nutritional safety net free school meals provide.
The End Child Poverty Coalition (Loughborough University) found that for 2020/21, before the current cost of living crisis, 2,215 (26.03%) children in Ryedale and 2948 (20.64%) children in Hambleton were living in poverty. These figures are likely to be much higher in 2022. Many of these children do not meet the free school meals eligibility criteria.
The government has chosen to ignore the recommendation made in this year’s national food strategy to prioritise the widening of the eligibility for free school meals.
This month, a survey from The Sutton Trust, ‘The cost of living crisis and its impact on education’ found “Schools are seeing growing numbers of hungry, cold and tired pupils”. Some 38% of teachers reported an increase in children coming into school hungry.
The estimated cost the of extending free school meals to more children is between £555mn and 790mn a year (the upper figure would include all those children who live in a household that receives universal credit). These children would not only receive free school meals but benefit from additional in school funding (pupil premium) to support them in the classroom and access activities and meals in the school holidays.
England trails behind Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in its commitment to extend free school meals to ensure children do not go hungry. Can we expect any action from Kevin Hollinrake, MP to help these children?
Reverse the damage caused by Brexit
28 November 2022
As your correspondent Sue Wilson says, “Brexit is no longer the will of the people”, and it continues to fail the country. George Eustice, the environment secretary but one, recently told MPs that the free trade agreement with Australia signed earlier this year was “not actually a very good deal for the UK”. This is perhaps not a surprise, as Rishi Sunak had admitted as much on the hustings during the recent Conservative Party leadership contest. Mr Eustice laid the blame on Liz Truss and her interim permanent secretary at the Department for Trade and Industry, in a rush to get an agreement signed; another part of her legacy to the country.
Kevin Hollinrake, MP for the rural constituency of Thirsk and Malton, enthusiastically welcomed the agreement. The consequences for the farming and food sectors are likely to be damaging but will not be felt for some years as there is a lengthy transition period. The agreement was supposed to be one of the benefits of leaving the EU. The UK clearly needs a better relationship with its largest trading partner, to reverse the decline in trade to and from the EU and the difficulties in doing it.
We were promised honesty and integrity from this government. I hope Mr Hollinrake, in his new role as a government minister, will be honest in accepting the inadequacies of the Australian free trade agreement, and also it would appear the one with Japan, and argue for reversing the damage caused to EU trade by Brexit.
Finally, you voted him out!
28 November 2022
Finally, you voted him out! But swallowing my mates in a smoothy is no form of redemption and an insult if meant as atonement. Down Under, we think a two-month stint on minimum wage starting in December as a trainee in one of the worst performing care homes suffering high staff turnover and grossly inadequate resources would be more convincing. Followed by a month of 60-70 hour weekly shifts shadowing junior staff in A&E, no weekends off and having to rely on public transport. That should knock any PM ambition on the head.
So be kind to yourselves and ask Santa get him out.
Carers Rights Day: Letter from Sir Tony Robinson
23 November 2022
The need for the government to prioritise dementia care has never been more pressing. And while last Thursday’s autumn statement brought some welcome news, there is still a long way to go.
Thursday (24 November) marks Carers Rights Day, when the focus will be on the cost of caring.
Right now, the families and friends of people living with dementia in the UK are providing care for their loved ones valued at £13.9bn a year, a figure that’s projected to rise to £35.7bn by 2040. In North Yorkshire alone, this army of unpaid carers are estimated to provide care worth £172.5mn.
As the cost-of-living crisis bites, it’s little wonder so many of these devoted carers feel uncertain about the future.
We were disappointed that government has delayed the proposed £86,000 care cap for two years as this was a first step towards tackling crippling care costs. We recognise the political upheaval of recent months has caused delays, not least in the delivery of the new ten-year plan for dementia in England, but further delays must be avoided.
There was some encouraging news announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Social Care will receive £1bn in additional funding next year, and £1.7bn the year after. The government claims this will lead to an estimated 200,000 additional care packages over next two years.
This is a step in the right direction, but with pressures on all carers being intensified by the record 165,000 vacancies in social care across the UK – including 14,000 in Yorkshire and Humber – the system is in urgent need of reform.
It’s also a huge concern that diagnosis rates are at a five-year low, meaning tens of thousands are living without crucial treatment and vital support.
I would urge readers across North Yorkshire to sign Alzheimer’s Society’s open letter to the Prime Minister asking the government to prioritise dementia by visiting alzheimers.org.uk/openletter
Sir Tony Robinson
Actor, writer, TV presenter and Alzheimer’s Society ambassador
How much more obscene can I’m a Celeb get?
17 November 2022
How much more obscene can I’m a Celeb get? Hancock going on about how good a meal feels after not eating well and stuffing his face was the last straw. I don’t think I’d ever tire of stinging that shameless lump’s smug face to remind him that four million kids and families are in poverty, hungry and missing meals.
Like my mate Mike said… “Matt is on holiday!” Having fun and getting fed while kids pretend to eat at lunchtime because they are so ashamed not to have anything and don’t qualify for free school meals. But hey, his pals are sending those on universal credit to work coaches. Please, pretty please Miriam Margolyes, take the shameless loon to live like one of them, minus subsidised canteen food, heating, expenses, lattes and whatever else floats his boat.
That’d be karma. That or an immediate general election.
Get him out of here!
14 November 2022
I admit it. My aim was off, but I stung him. Nice to wipe that ingratiating smirk off his face but hard to refrain from stinging the other campers who were babying him. It was his thumb folks!
Pity really, because it meant he could still player hero hunter gatherer and pick up stars for ‘meals’. Handy deceit.
And now I have a favour to ask. He’s had long enough to rehabilitate his reputation as a dastardly Tory giving out bungs and dippy advice during lockdown. He’s had long enough to show how to duck questions and try and blame that on someone who hasn’t been in power since 2007. At least Blair made you think.
Hancock just makes me want to summon Miriam Margolyes to whisper sweet somethings into his ear while our ants steel themselves into crevices no insect should have to brave.
Please vote him off. Get him out of here.
Poverty in North Yorkshire continues to rise
7 November 2022
There is further evidence that people in North Yorkshire are facing rising poverty levels. A recent report published by North Yorkshire County Council (September 2022) looked at “the growing need for, and dependence on, foodbanks across the county…” with up to a 58% increase in the number of households using foodbanks in recent months. The report is a hard read as it highlights the difficulties people faced even before inflation topped 10% and energy bills soared. The situation is only getting worse.
Food bank and other food support providers in North Yorkshire have seen demand for their help increase as people struggle to manage the impact of the rising cost of living, the legacy of financial instability and increasing debt after the pandemic. This has presented a range of challenges to households on low incomes. Many people who would not traditionally seek help are now needing it.
Demand for Council funded support schemes continues to grow. In Ryedale, applications to the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund have more than doubled in recent months.
This is the time for the Conservative government to increase financial support for those in poverty and not to be advocating cutting public spending. I call on Kevin Hollinrake MP to show his support for those struggling to make ends meet in Thirsk and Malton.
B A Southwell
It’s time the BBC got some in-house economic expertise
2 November 2022
On Wednesday, lunchtime Radio 4s World at One had an extended report on the NHS and the difficulties it is experiencing in providing adequate services within its constrained budget. There were concerned conversations about how funding inadequacy might lead to provision not meeting demand. It was reported that the view of the prime minister was that “it would be very very difficult to find more money”. Hence the coy remark from the BBC’s health editor, Hugh Pym, “the pressure to use taxpayers’ money more wisely”.
What we have here is the BBC allowing itself to be pulled into the Conservative government’s preferred framing of how this issue should be discussed. But there is no hope of solving this funding crisis via ‘efficiency savings’ because all services have already been pared to the bone.
I would invite those who are looking for an alternative and more honest narrative to access the blog ‘Mainly Macro’, posted by Simon Wren-Lewis (retired Oxford professor of economics). His post of Tuesday 1November is a clarion call for higher levels of taxation.
As a country the UK is relatively lightly taxed. Wren-Lewis provides evidence that people are prepared to pay more for services such as health and education. In short, in the UK we have not got the balance right between public spending and private spending. This is the same imbalance identified in 1958 by JK Galbraith in his The Affluent Society in which he pointed to the stark contrast in the USA between private wealth and public squalor. Sixty-four years later, the UK has at last caught up with the USA in this respect.
An immediate improvement in this depressing scenario would be for the BBC to have the guts (and the in-house economic expertise) to call out the falsity of the government’s framing of this public spending issue.
We need a crime reduction plan
26 October 2022
While I would not entirely disagree with Dr Perrott’s call to reduce the prison population, surely we need to start with a crime reduction plan?
I am sure that those of us who drove cars built in the 1980s and before will be aware of the massive improvement in car security, and resultant reduction in car theft since then. This didn’t simply happen but was enforced on reluctant car makers by the UK Government and insurance companies.
In the same way Network Rail has found it cost effective to fund youth clubs in areas where they experience high levels of crime against their property in a bid to reduce offending.
Secondly why don’t we intervene with children and young people at risk of becoming involved in crime? As a ‘for example’ the young man convicted of killing PC Andrew Harper was the son and grandson of men who had gone to prison, increasing the risk of him being imprisoned from less than 1% to 66%, as was the young man who killed a colleague of mine’s stepson.
Why it could not be predicted that these man would kill someone it could be predicted that they were at very high risk of going to prison, and that was clearly not in their best interest. Despite this however I am not aware of any intervention to prevent them becoming involved in crime prior to their convictions.
Then there is the question of who should go to prison, why, what we do with them when they are in prison and under what circumstances should they be discharged from the criminal justice system.
The obvious place to look for inspiration would be the Netherlands where there are no prison sentences of more than two years, instead offenders are either placed back in the community under intensive supervision and support, or if either they choose not to take this option or are deemed unsuitable they are held in secure psychiatric hospitals with their detention reviewed by a judge every two years. This both tackles the causes of an offenders behaviour and protects the public.
It’s time to rejoin the single market
22 October 2022
The very time of day writing this I should be travelling to London from my home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, in the company of many, many others for a march through that city of my youth 200 miles away south. We’d be walking between Park Lane and Westminster, where we’d hear speeches from several people including Steve Bray. You know – that shouty bloke!
I believe this to be the initial march in the cause and campaign to rejoin the EU. The first of a growing movement toward returning to trading and working with our nearest geographical, former major trading, EU neighbours. More of these unarguable facts later.
But first the reason for me failing to join these good southbound people. Last night I set out all the goods and requirements for the trip but attendance was frustrated because both alarm clocks failed to raise me for my 6.30am departure to meet the bus to London. My double mechanical failure with its immediate knock on effects was unforeseen BUT the awful, dire and long term damaging events preceding and following brexit were entirely foreseeable.
I’m a retired man but my pro-EU opinions don’t arise from abstract theory, they come from real, practical, hard experience during my working years trading with European nations before and during the single market (SM), both while the UK was an EU member. Before the SM, my trade and European work there was sometimes difficult, sometimes unnecessarily time consuming and trying. Then came the SM and it was truthfully a liberation in time, effort and business efficiency and of benefit to our clients.
It is a terrible, dreadful loss to our nation and businesses not now to be in the SM, with huge, damaging effects on our balance of payments. For instance, our trade is now 25% lower with the EU than during our membership. We’re now running record monthly and annual deficits. In those days my company made a lot of export sales, none of which is now possible.
A first, relatively easy step to improving our balance of payments would be to rejoin the SM. Certainly of greater benefit than our free trade deal with Vietnam that our former trade secretary Liz Truss so proudly trumpeted.
We have a government that’s been 12 years in power, with no worthwhile achievements, no worthwhile reforms, and no appointed prime minister at this time of writing. Plainly our ‘government’ is no more useful than my alarm clocks.
P.S. I do sincerely hope the march went well
Fracking should not be a political pawn
22 October 2022
Thirsk and Malton Labour Party congratulates Ryedale District Council on its principled opposition to the government’s promotion of fracking. The government’s renewed enthusiasm for fracking flies in the face of both its own Climate Change Strategy and public opinion. Mr Rees-Mogg’s advocacy of fracking is cynical opportunism aimed solely at gratifying those who stand to profit from it. Starting fracking now in the UK would make zero difference to global fuel prices and therefore do nothing to protect UK households and businesses from energy price rises. If the government was rational it would have added fracking to its U-turn portfolio but instead, it used the parliamentary debate on Labour’s ban fracking motion as a political pawn in a failed attempt to shore up support in their own party for Ms Truss.
Our representative in parliament, Mr Hollinrake, has blown with the wind on fracking. He championed it while his government was granting licences, said its time had passed when his government imposed a moratorium on it, and last week, when he had a chance to stand up for the interests of his constituents by opposing fracking, voted in parliament against a ban. Such flip-flopping is symptomatic of the unprincipled and dysfunctional government which has so badly damaged our economy and blighted so many people’s lives. The only certain way to end the threat that fracking in the UK poses to our local and global environment is to vote for a Labour government in the general election which is urgently needed to restore credibility to our democracy.
Because the government has scrapped Ryedale Council its ban on fracking will lapse next April unless it is adopted by the body that replaces it, North Yorkshire Unitary Authority. Thirsk and Malton Constituency Labour Party and Labour county councillors are calling on the county council to commit to a blanket ban on fracking in North Yorkshire. Given the county council’s past support for fracking and their record of subservience to Tory governments, a ban may not be won without a fight. The Labour Party will work with all county councillors who oppose fracking to get it banned. However it will also need pressure from the public writing to their Tory county councillors to demand that they back a ban on fracking.
Chair of Thirsk and Malton Constituency Labour Party
Conservatives deserve to be out of office for decades
21 October 2022
Boris Johnson has his cap in the ring to become the replacement for Liz Truss. (Here is the man who lost 57 government ministers in 48 hours). His strapline appears in the Daily Telegraph: “I can save the party from electoral wipeout.”
Two things can be deduced from this, the first of which has been blindingly obvious for decades: the top priority of the Conservative Party is to retain power. Serving the best interests of the country comes a very poor second.
Secondly, Boris Johnson, just like Liz Truss and it would seem the majority of the Tory MPs, has no self-awareness. They just do not ‘get it’. Johnson and Truss and others before them have trashed both the country’s reputation and the economy. They have, for example, given us Brexit, the worst policy decision in over a century.
As things stand, the Conservatives deserve to be out of office for 15 years. Three full parliamentary terms. Any UK electorate worth its salt should see to that.
If Conservative MPs and their party membership now choose to place Johnson back in Number Ten then the electorate should disqualify them for t30 years.
16 October 2022
Following the collapse of Kwarteng’s budget, Jeremy Hunt has the chance to go back to the drawing board and start afresh.
Hunt has to acknowledge that over the Tory years income and wealth have become unacceptably distributed in favour of the rich. The poor have become poorer both relatively and absolutely. In the first 18 months of the Covid pandemic the number of billionaires in the UK rose from 147 to 171 as the wealth of the rich ballooned.
A wise chancellor with a social conscience would engage in the following:
- For those holding wealth of £1mn or more in 2020, a 50% tax on their windfall gains in the last two years.
- A 50% tax on the windfall increase in profits of the energy companies. Their current level of profits was not anticipated. It was not part of their business plan. They can afford the tax.
- Instituting a 60% tax on all slices if income above a £250,000 threshold.
The above would bring in a sizeable chunk of one-off money together with a flow from higher rates of income tax. This income to the Exchequer might be used as follows:
- Emergency additional funding to the NHS that is on its knees.
- Emergency additional funding for schools but more especially skills education for school leavers to raise future labour productivity.
- Uprating all social security benefits in line with inflation to preserve their real value.
The above are not the ramblings of some swivel-eyed Marxist but the thoughts of a moderately left of centre Liberal. If they come across as ‘extreme’ it just goes to show how far in a rightward direction our economic discourse has been dragged.
The King and I
20 September 2022
King Charles III and I were born just over a year apart. I am the more senior. In 1958, when King Charles was not quite ten years old, he was made Prince of Wales. At that time, I was still playing conkers and marbles and my ‘eleven plus’ examination was looming.
For the last 700 years the title Prince of Wales has traditionally been passed to the eldest son of the reigning monarch. In 1911 Caernarfon hosted the investiture of Prince Edward. (Later King Edward VIII) shortly after his 16th birthday.
The official investiture of Prince Charles, now King Charles III, as the Prince of Wales took place in 1969 at Caernarvon Castle. In nearby Snowdonia, near another castle, Dolwyddelan, I was a Geology student completing an undergraduate mapping project. (Described in Yorkshire Bylines August 2021). We were both 20-year-olds.
The title has now passed to William following the accession of his father
Prince Charles spoke some Welsh during his investiture, having studied Welsh – an official language since 1967 – under his tutor at Aberystwyth University, Dr Tedi Millward. The two developed a warm relationship although Millward, a Welsh nationalist and anti-monarchist, was opposed to the appointment as Prince Charles knew. The two had a good relationship but owing to his views Dr Millward did not attend the investiture.
Prince Charles evidently found the ceremony daunting and has said that he hopes William “will not have to go through what I went through”.
Prince William has now been named the new Prince of Wales. His constitutional role and his relationship with the Seneddd in a devolving administration have yet to be decided. Some, like Lord Elis-Thomas feel that Wales no longer needs a prince. First Minister Mark Drakeford believes there is a conversation to be had.
It is now 53 years since that summer when we were both in North Wales. After a long professional career, I have now retired. Meanwhile, Charles III is now King – a role he has trained for all his life. He draws inspiration from his mother in espousing his approach to being monarch.
As a fellow septuagenarian, I wish him good health to meet the challenges ahead.
Press release from Thirsk and Malton Labour Party
6 September 2022
On 5 September Liz Truss was elected as the leader of the Conservative Party and on 6 September she officially became prime minister of the UK. All of this with the support of only one third of Conservative MPs; fewer than half of the eligible party members. She becomes prime minister with the support of only 0.18% of UK voters; the remaining 99.82% of us have had no say in this at all.
Within minutes of her election the MP for Thirsk and Malton tweeted that it is, “Now time to unite behind our new PM in the national interest”. This raises the question of who ‘our’ refers to? We are not even certain that he includes himself in that category. After all, it was only on 19 August that Mr Hollinrake tweeted that he “totally” agreed with Michael Gove when he wrote in The Times that: “Liz Truss’s campaign had taken a holiday from reality and that her tax cuts proposal would put the stock options of FTSE 100 executives before the poorest in society”, a tax cut policy that Truss has since confirmed to Laura Kuenssberg.
On 24 July Mr Hollinrake agreed with a Sunday Times article written by David Smith that Truss’s plan for tax cuts was a ‘fantasy’ and the headroom for them did not exist.
Perhaps more terrifying for Thirsk and Malton residents, Ms Truss has stated her intention to back fracking for shale gas. This is a policy that Mr Hollinrake once supported but since then he told the Ryedale Environmental Group meeting on 23 October 2020 that he thought that “the time for fracking has passed” and that renewables were a much more cost effective option.
It is the view of the Thirsk and Malton Labour Party that the remaining 99.82% of the voters in the UK must have the opportunity to have their say on whether or not we accept the imposition of this prime minister, the fourth Conservative prime minister in six years. There must be an immediate general election.
Furthermore, we challenge Kevin Hollinrake to stand by his criticisms of the new prime minister’s plans and to protect his constituents from her ‘holiday from reality’, ‘fantasy’, and environmentally destructive policies by opposing them if and when they are introduced to parliament and, by doing so, represent the ‘national interest’. Given his comments above, anything else will clearly be seen to be acting in the interest of the Conservative party only.
Communications officer, Thirsk and Malton Labour party
Implement the National Food Strategy
23 August 2022
Henry Dimbleby and a group of independent experts recently published a National Food Strategy for the government. The review is comprehensive and authoritative with recommendations to improve the health of citizens and the environment. It is very relevant to North Yorkshire where farming and food production are important issues.
The strategy deals with diet, health and food poverty. It stresses the importance of school meals, particularly free school meals for children living in poverty. At present only children in households with incomes below £7,400 pa before benefits are eligible. The report recommends that this should be extended to children in households with incomes below £20,000. The government’s response to this recommendation is that eligibility for free school meals will be kept ‘under review’.
The free trade agreement with Australia has now come into force, despite inadequate scrutiny by parliament. Rishi Sunak described it at the hustings in Exeter as a bad deal. Liz Truss was warned by her own officials that the agreement, and the one with New Zealand, would shrink the country’s farming and food sectors, according to recently released information. Thirsk and Malton’s previous Conservative MP, now Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, has also criticised the agreement.
One of the results may be the importation of food from Australia of a lower welfare and environmental standard but cheaper than home-grown produce, as highlighted by the International Trade Select Committee. With budget cuts and the rising cost of ingredients, this lower quality produce may be used in school meals.
The strategy demonstrates how agriculture, food production, international trade, the environment, nutrition, health and equality are linked and inter-dependent. I hope that Malton and Thirsk’s current MP Kevin Hollinrake and his fellow MPs, will press the new PM to accept the report’s recommendations and give them the urgency they demand.
Bill, the Ventriloquial Rooster
12 August 2022
For some unfathomable reason, the current hustings between the candidates to be the replacement prime minister brings to my mind the story of Bill the Ventriloquial Rooster.
Bill, unfortunately, was not a character in the dystopian Animal Farm, as much as I would have liked him to be. He was rather a product of that great Australian author Henry Lawson.
It was observed that Bill, master and defender of his surroundings, went through the usual preliminaries of producing his call, stretching to his full height extending his wings, and moving his throat muscles “as if swallowing a nest egg”. The crow, when it came, however seemed to emanate from elsewhere, at which point Bill’s whole body would stiffen ready to do battle with the threat.
On a neighbouring smallholding was another rooster, Bill’s sworn enemy. The two neighbouring roosters were willing, indeed eager, to settle their issues in the traditional rooster manner but both were constrained by fear of a third, as yet unseen, rooster.
Quite how Bill’s story fits to the narrative of the hustings is not quite clear to me. Who is the ventriloquist and who the dummy, or could there be an unseen ventriloquist somewhere off stage?
That I should be giving the hustings any thought at all, or why the media should be giving it so much airtime, is because the victor will be our next prime minister.
Like the overwhelming majority of us, I will have, at least for the time being, no vote.
Rising child poverty – what is being done to address this?
8 August 2022
Worryingly, alongside spiralling bills and stagnant wages, there is yet more evidence that child poverty continues to rise across the country. Here in Kevin Hollinrake’s Thirsk & Malton constituency almost one in every four children are living in poverty (20.64% in Hambleton, 26.03% in Ryedale). That is 3,679 children whose family cannot afford essentials, who face an additional burden of childcare costs and of providing food across the summer break.
What help is the government offering these children and their families? It rejected the National Food Strategy independent review recommendation that free school meals be extended to support more children. Funding for free school meals has not kept pace with inflation (April 2022 funding for universal infant FSM provision increased to £2.41 a day – an increase of 3%, benefit related FSM remains at £2.47 a day). The rising cost of ingredients combined with limited quality assurance of the food being served means that even this provision is under threat.
Families are facing a major cost-of-living crisis making it increasingly difficult to give children a healthy, sustainable diet. Don’t all children deserve to live free of poverty and to have the same chances as their peers? When will Hollinrake stand up for the children in his constituency to ensure that child poverty is addressed?
Free school meals in Thirsk
26 July 2022
Two years ago, public response to Marcus Rashford’s campaign forced the government to provide food vouchers worth £15 per week per child to help families with children entitled to free school meals during the school summer holidays. Those families also had the £20 per week temporary uplift in universal credit. This meant that a family with two children faced the summer holidays with support of £50 per week.
The government scrapped the uplift in universal credit and replaced the holiday food voucher scheme with grants to councils to provide free places on holiday activities and food programmes.
With rocketing food prices, the poorest families with children need help during these summer holidays as never before. Without their free school meal many of these children will be malnourished.
The holiday activities and food scheme doesn’t reach anywhere near enough of the children in need and a child can only have a free place for a maximum of 16 days.
Just 22% of the North Yorkshire children who get free school meals took up places on the programme last year. That means that across the county some 8,700 children missed out, over 1,000 children in Thirsk and Malton.
Three community organisations – North Yorkshire Together – have arranged the holiday activities and food scheme for North Yorkshire, working with many local groups to provide a varied and exciting offer this summer. However, such a programme is no substitute for ensuring that all school-age children are properly fed throughout the year.
Local Conservative Party members electing their new leader and our prime minister should be asking the candidates why, in a civilised, advanced western economy, the government is failing so many children. For the rest of us, who have no say in who the next prime minister will be, we should be asking our MP Kevin Hollinrake what he is going to do to ensure that his constituents’ children do not go hungry this summer.
Thirsk & Malton Labour Party Supports Further RMT Industrial Action
19 July 2022
The hoohaa over Mr. Johnson’s inevitable demise and its consequences is diverting attention from the many real problems which his party and his dysfunctional leadership have created. One of these is the driving down of pay and living standards for millions of families. The rich will weather the economic storm but most people feel the impact of inflation directly and immediately. 10% inflation is a 10% pay cut and for those without the cushion of savings, investments or inherited wealth it comes straight out of their disposable income. On top of which, living standards for many have already been squeezed by twelve years of government-imposed austerity.
Working people are therefore taking what action they can to protect their pay and conditions. Rail workers union RMT is taking further strike action as Network Rail management refused to improve their 4% offer on pay and the Train Operating Companies have to date failed to even table a pay offer. Other unions have balloted or are due to ballot on industrial action. These include those representing teachers, train drivers, post office workers, criminal barristers, local government staff, University and College lecturers, Uber drivers, British Airways airport staff and Civil Service staff. NHS staff are awaiting the outcome of their Pay Review Body.
Thirsk and Malton Labour Party recognises that industrial action disrupts many people’s lives but it is our view that the responsibility for this lies ultimately with the employer’s failure to negotiate acceptable terms. We also recognise that the decision to take industrial action is never made lightly, is often a response to the accumulated long term erosion of pay and conditions and is only finally taken when negotiations have failed.
The government’s argument that pay rises will cause inflation is demonstrably false. The real value of wages has fallen significantly over the twelve years of Tory government and yet inflation is now out of control. The actual cause of inflation is corporate profiteering and government mismanagement of the economy.
Working people should not be made to pay for something for which they have no responsibility. We believe it is our duty to unequivocally support all workers who have been driven to vote to take industrial action to protect their jobs, pay and services.
What do they take us for?
12 July 2022
The Conservatives have been in power since the general election in May 2010, albeit in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and with David Cameron as prime minister. From 2015 Cameron was on his own. He took the country to the referendum on our relationship with the European Union expecting us to stay within. Brexit was the outcome so Cameron stepped down and Theresa May stepped up. She continued to negotiate with the European Union but the Tory Party and then the country said that was not good enough. In 2017 after calling a snap election, she lost her majority and went into a coalition with the DUP. That did not prove fruitful so in 2019 Boris Johnson became prime minister.
So now we have rats in a bag fighting for the keys to Number 10. We have the poisoned chalice of our exit from the EU, particularly with the unresolvable Northern Ireland issue, fishing rights and what on earth they really want from the farming fraternity. And we have the Sword of Damocles in the form of Ukraine/Russia and Climate Change. What a destructive triad of despair they present us with.
So much has been self-inflicted – no, inflicted upon us. We need our voice in parliament. Whether we support Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green Party, Yorkshire Party, Screaming Lord Sutch or the Conservatives, our vote should count and be part of the consensus of views felt in parliament. After the roller coaster within and without the Conservative Party in the past 12 years, no longer can they, or anyone else, say that First Past The Post voting system provides a strong and stable government.
Indeed, if the candidates for PM are to be believed, we can only assume that our prime minister is an autocrat as they all scuttle back away from the policies pursued by them and their party for the past 12 years. Collective responsibility as an excuse is just not good enough.
What do they take us for?
Time to be honest about Brexit
11 July 2022
BBC’s radio programme Any Questions went out on Friday night with Jacob Rees-Mogg as one of the panel.
When Rees-Mogg attempted to present Brexit as a huge success his words were greeted with hoots of laughter and whistles of derision.
The audience was ‘on the ball’. It is now manifestly clear that Brexit was a deep policy mistake and in any sane society with a functioning democracy we would be taking steps to reverse the process. Or at least we could mitigate the damage by joining the single market and the customs union whilst staying out of the European Union itself.
Sadly, the current leadership contest within the Conservative Party will inevitably mean that the ‘runners’ will be burnishing their pro-Brexit credentials in order to find favour with the electorate they face – the 150,000 or so dinosaur members of the Tory party. The latter are unrepresentative of the general population and wholly at odds with the Any Questions audience.
What a bind we are in!
We desperately need voters and candidates who look to the good of society as a whole – standing back and reassessing Brexit by referencing the information now available (and almost certainly changing course).
Unfortunately, we seem to be stuck with the pig-headed, the intellectually dishonest and the self-serving.