Let down by MP

The residents of North Hampshire have been let down by our MP, Kit Malthouse, in his recent Commons vote against funding meals for disadvantaged children.

Ensuring the country’s poorest children have access to food over the Christmas period is the bare minimum we should be doing. By voting with his fellow Conservative MPs against this support he has failed the 1.4 million disadvantaged children this motion could have helped. This includes the 2,535 children entitled to free school meals in Andover.

Joanna Allam, Picket Piece, Andover.

Loose leg

I would like to recount an amusing incident in Andover. I am a one leg, above the knee, amputee, wearing a prosthetic leg, which I have had for four years.

On Thursday, I was contacted by my bank to say that there as suspicious activity on my credit card. As a result my card was cancelled and I was told that I could draw cash by going to a branch and showing photographic ID, until I received my new card.

On Friday, I went into Andover to draw some money from the bank for the weekend and parked in a lay-by in Bridge Street.

A lady was vetting people as they entered, but with only two people in the queue, I decided to wait. Unfortunately this took more than 20 minutes, but eventually I got my money. As I went to leave, I felt that my prosthetic leg was becoming loose, where it clamps onto a socket fitted over my leg stump.

I had left my car using one crutch, instead of the usual two, so I would have a free hand, for carrying items. I therefore asked the vetting lady if she would go to my car and bring back my second crutch, as I feared that the leg would collapse. I also noticed two traffic wardens looking at my car. When the lady got to my car, the wardens pounced. She explained what was happening. My thanks to her. I started off for the car, but after five steps, my leg fell on the floor, after the attaching grub screws came loose.

Another young lady offered to help, so I asked her to pick up the leg and then realised that I could not do anything with it, as my hands were full, keeping me upright. She agreed to carry the offending article to my car, whilst I walked on one leg and two crutches. My thanks to her. Having sat in the car, the wardens pounced again. I had parked in a loading bay and was only allowed to be there for ten minutes. Acknowledging this, I then pointed out that I had a particular problem. To give them their due, they then became very sympathetic. They helped me get a key from the hardware shop to fix my leg.

I was feeling a bit worn out, so decided to go to a nearby coffee shop and have a rest. Entering, I ordered a coffee and a cake and when they were delivered offered to pay with cash, only to be told sorry, we only take credit cards. If you remember this is where the story started. The young lady took pity, when I explained what had occurred and let me have the coffee and cake. My thanks to her.

Moral to the story: people will always offer help in a crisis. Make sure all screws are correctly torque-loaded and locked.

Ben, King Lane, Over Wallop.

Funny smells

I often visit Andover by train, passing through the subway that links Junction Road with the college campus.

On numerous occasions the subway is host to teenagers littering and smoking cannabis.

The police are no where to be seen and it must be especially intimidating to the elderly.

Perhaps Andover could be twinned with Amsterdam?

Adrian Pettigrew, a visitor to Andover.

England in contrast

It is said that a country’s level of civilisation and humanity is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable. On that measure we are not doing well.

Our government here in England has decided not to extend free school meals through the school holidays for those children who are eligible for help. This stands in stark contrast to Scotland and Wales, and the advice of doctors and teachers.

The government’s argument is that they are already giving councils buckets of money to sort all these problems out. This is simply not true. The pandemic has hit our councils badly financially with increased expenditure in key areas and a significant drop in revenues. Despite many government promises, little has been delivered to cover additional expenditure. Hampshire alone spent over £150 million in pandemic related expenditure but has received less than £50 million. It is on course for bankruptcy. My school, despite additional costs incurred by barking national and county decisions, will have to cover most of its own costs despite already being underfunded. Most schools were in the red before this pandemic. So much for the benefits of good administration.

With significant cuts to incomes for the lower-paid workers, the free meals programme is proportionately of greater help for those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Free meals have been a lifeline to these families, yet we are behaving in a way that shames us.

All credit to Marcus Rashford who through his skill, dedication, and hard work has made it. Marcus has shown that he has not forgotten his roots, nor more importantly his humanity. If our local businesses, many in the hospitality sector badly hit by the pandemic, are offering to help, then it provides hope for us all. Meanwhile, the government is wasting millions on a failing national test and trace system. As taxpayers, we should demand our money is spent wisely. Yes to free school meals for all families on Universal Credit. No to government out of touch with our values.

Luigi Gregori, Charlton Road, Andover.

Vision for rest of the year

There will – eventually – be an end to Covid-19 in the UK and elsewhere in the world. But how the UK comes out of it, and with what mindset its society emerges is of some concern.

Since 2016 I have been writing to our constituency MP, Mr Malthouse. Events force me to do so again.

I compose this in the autumn of 2020 as the UK finally confronts Brexit – and what it will really mean for all in this country. It is rumoured that a trade agreement will be reached with the European Union; this however will be hugely inferior compared to the economic conditions that the country would have enjoyed had it remained inside the Single Market and Customs Union. From 2021 onwards imported foodstuffs – which the UK in large part relies upon – will become more expensive. This burden will be passed onto the consumer us. The country’s exporters will also be faced with increased costs - and become less competitive as a result. A cheaper pound will not be enough to compensate.

The UK government seeks a trade deal with the USA. But this will be of considerably less value to the country than previous arrangements with the EU. What is more the UK, it seems, is prepared to allow inferior US foodstuffs to enter the marketplace: the horror of chlorinated chicken and hormone-infused beef may soon become commonplace. Those who suffer the most from the combined effects of dearer European imports and cheaper American foodstuffs will be this country’s least advantaged: an ever-widening segment of society that will already have been affected by the economic and health impacts of Covid.

The UK government will nonetheless assure us that we are entering a ‘great new age’. You can see it now, can’t you?

For its part the electorate - us - will surely remember (will we not?) that life used to be better? The economy, food, justice. Or have we simply become anaesthetised, lost our memories? Our daily lives full of so much social media claptrap that we have become unable to articulate and demand better prospects?

And when Scotland pushes for independence, Northern Ireland seeks stronger ties with the rest of Ireland, what then? Will it matter? Perhaps not, in part because this has already started to happen. Whilst the Tories are already aware of this they will – in pursuit of power a’ tous les prix - inevitably blame the SNP and Europe. You can see it now, can’t you? However, to understand the ruin they are wreaking, they need look no further than themselves.

In the meantime, comparative living standards in Britain, and the country’s standing in the wider world, seem destined to decline.

2020 Vision: Take back control. Make lives worse. Dismantle the UK.

Ray Bryant, Berry Way, Andover.