Letters: School meals: more, please

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 19 September, 2013

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Regarding the announcement from the Lib Dems to offer free school meals to infant-class children, we think it is about time the national government caught up with what local government has been doing.

Southwark is one council that has been doing this for the last two years, because we recognised the positive impact a healthy, hot school meal can have. It should be rolled out as national policy, but this doesn’t go far enough. It is great that children will be getting free meals in the early years but we have rolled it out through to year 6 and we’d like to see that as national policy.

This is the third year Southwark has offered free healthy school meals to primary school children and already parents and teachers are reporting children taking up the offer are concentrating better in class, are less hungry at home and are asking for salads and vegetables at home.

Dora Dixon Fyle, Cabinet member for children’s services, Southwark Council, London SE1


You have to hand it to the Liberals: they’ve managed to milk the proposal to give infant pupils free school meals for all that it is worth. Cue pictures of Nick watching children eating school meals.

The question I want answering is why, given all the evidence about the benefits of this measure and its success in places such as Hull, a Labour government never saw fit to implement it.

Maybe Gordon Brown could tell us.

Richard Knights, Liverpool


I hope Mr Clegg doesn’t renege on this pledge, as I’ve just invested my life-savings in the Turkey Twizzlers futures market.

Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh,  Essex


Bedroom tax hits disabled people hard

The news that 50,000 people affected by the bedroom tax have fallen behind on rent and face eviction (19 September) is reflected in the increase in the number of calls the legal services team at Sense have received from deafblind people and their families, who are struggling financially as a result of this policy.

The tax has had a disproportionate impact on disabled people, as many have been found to have a so-called extra bedroom, despite requiring it because of their disability, for example needing extra space to store disability-related equipment or for short-term carers. Alongside other benefits being cut, housing benefit has been the final blow for many disabled people.

We are urgently calling on the Government to take on board these findings and get rid of the bedroom tax for disabled people. This would prevent more disabled people from suffering financially as a result of their disability.

Richard Kramer, Deputy Chief Executive, Sense, London N1


Trapped by bike invaders

Simon O’Hagan’s comments (18 September) on the impact of leisure cycling on Surrey residents miss the point – that in certain areas of Surrey, the intensity of leisure cycling is causing residents real concerns.

As the Mole Valley District councillor representing Box Hill – probably the most affected area – I see the pressure caused by the number of cyclists using the single minor road through the village. Most of the mainly retired residents feel intimidated when they have to drive among large groups of cyclists; as a result many feel imprisoned at weekends. I can personally substantiate the claims O’Hagan derides as “absurd” – that cyclists “practise months in advance of an event, riding the route in large numbers from very early in the morning shouting at each other”.

This is not a battle between cyclists and motorists; it is an attempt to balance the rights of residents and those of cyclists. The cycling community needs to appreciate the pressures their numbers create, to moderate their use of the hot-spots and put pressure on the minority who behave unacceptably. Local authorities must have the power to regulate the many Sportive events to ensure they are well-managed and to restrain their over-use of certain areas.

David Preedy , Headley, Surrey


Not all residents of Surrey feel the same as those who are signing petitions against cycling events.

Just before the event takes place Surrey County Council engineers check the roads for suitability to cope with the cyclists, and all the roads are re-surfaced and the ever-present potholes filled in.

We were thrilled when we learnt that the “Tour of Britain” was coming to our village. Yes, we have extensive road closures in the area, but for one day’s inconvenience we have the legacy of pothole-free roads.

Sandra Grainger, Normandy, Surrey


Evidence that cull will work

In response to Tuesday’s letter, (“Scant evidence on badger TB”, 18 September), I would like to point out the evidence on the spread of bovine TB between badgers and cattle.

The £50m Randomised Badger Culling Trial, designed by the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB, investigated how bTB spread between cattle, badgers and other wildlife between 1998 and 2006. The trial culled just under 11,000 badgers and forms the basis of our current badger culling policy. It conclusively showed that a significant proportion of badgers are infected with bovine TB and that bovine TB is spread between badgers and cattle. Using data from the RBCT, it has been estimated that 50 per cent of herds with TB in high-incidence areas are infected because of badgers. 

As well as evidence of a dynamic cycle of infection between cattle and badgers, the RBCT showed that badger culling resulted in an overall beneficial effect on bovine TB in cattle herds, compared with areas that weren’t culled. A benefit was still evident six years after culling stopped. The decision by ministers to include culling in the wide-ranging 25-year TB eradication strategy was taken based on the best available scientific evidence after more than 15 years of intensive research.

Alick Simmons, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London SW1


Lib Dems will pay for lurch to right

I live in a Conservative seat (Stratford-upon-Avon) so safe that the party could select a garden gnome as its candidate and it would romp home with a vast majority. In fact, it might be better if it did. 

Labour’s support is perfunctory; so if anyone has harboured leftist tendencies they have tended to vote Lib Dem, for that party picks up more support, and until fairly recently we assumed that it leant leftwards rather than to the right. 

Any claims it has for having curbed the excesses of this most rabidly right-wing government can only wither in the light of the reality of the implementation of neo-liberal policies so extreme that even Thatcher would have balked at implementing them. I think  that many people will never vote Lib Dem again, and suspect that most of their incumbent MPs will be doing an involuntary Sarah Teather after the next election.

Michael Rosenthal, Upper Brailes, Oxfordshire


Nick Clegg says the Liberal Democrats should be judged on what they have prevented the Tories from doing. No, Nick, you went for glory and you will be judged on what you did do; increased fees and all. If you had remained in opposition with Labour you could have prevented much more.

Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshire


Letters on the pillar box

You publish a letter concerning the charm of red pillar-boxes as historical records (17 September). Though truculently republican, I too enjoy the window into the past offered by a Victorian post-box in a more modern street, and I was delighted to identify three Edward VIII post-boxes in the town of Tobermory, a large fraction of the total installed during his nine-month reign.

I feel I should note an error when your correspondent looks forward to the days of CR and WR. Should succeeding kings take their first given names as their titles, we can expect Carolus Rex, but it will surely be GR for William V as Gulielmus Rex, if the tides of time have not washed away both pillar-boxes and the monarchy.

Richard Jeffcoat, Birmingham


Cats must be kept on a lead

Well said Jonathan Allen with his call (letter, 19 September) to make cat-owners responsible for their animals. Despite what owners will argue, it is possible to stop the destructive rampaging. We have a couple near here who keep their cats tethered on long leads in their garden and take them for daily walks along the street. All cat owners should be made to do the same.

Adrian Durrant, Eastbourne, East Sussex


While I was very sorry to hear about Jonathan Allen’s pet rabbit being killed by a cat, I feel he ought to take some of the responsibility. This tragedy need not have occurred, had he provided the animal with secure housing. If the rabbit had been killed by a fox, Mr Allen would be blaming himself. We must all take responsibility for the animals in our care.

Ben Martin, Maidstone, Kent


Specious relationship

I started reading Rosie Millard’s piece (19 September) about an astonishingly honest “man living on the streets of Boston.” Boston, Lincolnshire? No: a few lines later on it became clear that she was writing about Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

If this piece had been published in an American paper, the town would have been referred to as “Boston MA”. But here in England, journalists assume that we will understand that “Boston” means a foreign city 3,000 miles away. The 51st State Syndrome strikes again.

John Williams, West Wittering, West Sussex


Hamming it up

Did Ian Herbert in his piece on Manchester City (17 September) really intend to imply that the former City manager Roberto Mancini would hand round a tray of prosciutto at his press conferences? I know you hard-working journos would appreciate a slice of Italian ham for your lunchtime sandwiches, but surely you’d prefer a glass of prosecco?

David Atcheson, Douglas, Isle of Man


Kind to flies

The fast reaction time of a fly (letters, 17 and 18 September) is so easily and humanely defeated by a very slow-moving glass, which the fly does not see approaching; just don’t be tempted to speed up at the end. A piece of card completes the fly-catcher. No mess, no death, so zen.

David Bruton, Colchester