First published in The Felixstowe Flyer, November 2020.
Free School Meals
The footballer Marcus Rashford did an amazing job in forcing the Government to do a U-turn and provide free school meal vouchers for eligible children all through the school summer holidays. He was awarded an MBE for services to vulnerable children. As a result of his campaign, as many as 900,000 more children have had free school meals on top of the 1.4 million who already claimed as the Covid-19 crisis played havoc with family incomes. He has now been campaigning for free school meal vouchers to be provided also over half term. There are an increasing number of children who are eligible for free school meals with fresh waves of unemployment. Parents don’t need just handouts at irregular intervals, but the certainty that their children will be fed all through the holidays as well as in term time.
Keir Starmer has called for a two to three week “circuit breaker” lockdown in England as he accused the Government of having “lost control” of the coronavirus pandemic and no longer following scientific evidence.The Labour leader admitted a short lockdown would “require significant sacrifice across the country”. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) recommended this on 21 September or risk “catastrophic consequences”. The Labour leader warned the country could soon “sleepwalk into a long and bleak winter”. A short lockdown would “provide an opportunity to reset and rectify some of the mistakes the Government has made”. He demanded Ministers “get a grip on testing, and hand over track and trace to Local Authorities”.
The Government has wasted millions of pounds during the pandemic and ultimately it’s ordinary people who will have to pay. Two contracts worth £1 million were handed to a small polling company. The firm carried out focus groups on Government policies. The Government was able to award the contract without a competitive tender because of new coronavirus procurement rules. £10 billion has been poured into test and trace, but a study found it had serious flaws. The system that is labelled “NHS test and trace” has little to do with the NHS. The system is contracted out to big private companies. Deloitte handles the huge Lighthouse Laboratories that can’t yet process the tests efficiently and in a timely manner, while Serco oversees the contact tracing system that regularly misses Government targets (initial fee £108 million). However, we are better than the US where research shows that one in seven people woudn’t seek coronavirus treatment because it costs too much.
Butterfly numbers in decline
Despite our sunny summer, the numbers of some species of butterflies is going down. There was a record number of participants this year in The Big Butterfly Count. It showed that three quarters of Britain’s native butterflies are in decline. While the number of large white and small white butterflies increased in the sightings, the Peacock, the Red Admiral, and the Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were all down. While global warming helps some species to increase, many common species continue to disappear.