Bury Free Press readers' letters to the editor
The performance of the Government and our MP dominated this week's mailbag.
GOVERNMENT NOT DOING ENOUGH TO SECURE OUR FOOD
Among the shortages the country is facing is food, not just due to Brexit and Covid but to increasing global demand and because we import 60 per cent of our food, much of it from the EU.
The supply of food in the UK is not protected from unforeseen or even foreseen events. Whether it be a lack of HGV drivers (foreseeable) or new border checks into food and agricultural products at UK ports (foreseeable), there is no flexibility in our food supply, we have no defence against even foreseeable problems with our food supply.
What happens when global heating reduces the world wide supply of food? We shall no longer be able to rely on other countries to supply us with food which their own populations need, as we have seen with the supply of Covid vaccines. We need more home grown food.
This is all because Government has no policy to secure food supplies. The recent Food Strategy Report only dealt with what we should eat, not where it comes from or how it gets here. The answer has been ‘leave it to the supermarkets’ whose ultimate responsibility, by law, is not the customer but their shareholders. The interests of the nation and the long term interests of their suppliers, farmers and producers at home or abroad, are not their top priority.
Having left it to the supermarkets we now find that their supply chain is collapsing so government has appointed the ex-chief executive of Tesco to put it right. I wish him the best of luck for all our sakes but can the person who designed the failing system now redesign it with due resilience?
In the past farmers have not always been the consumers’ or the environment’s best friend but are now facing a number of serious challenges:
- Uncertain income due to transition to new subsidy arrangements. Especially small farmers.
- Uncertain access to overseas markets.
- Uncertain effects of new trade deals, no guarantees of animal welfare standards nor chemicals used compared to high UK standards.
- Uncertain road transport and butchering.
- Uncertain impact of climate change
Neither farmers nor the general public can rely on the present arrangements for food security. Many farmers in the UK and abroad are further threatened with sea level and temperature rise, potentially removing land from production and/or creating crop failures.
An increasing number of farmers, through the Nature Friendly Farming Network and similar organisations, are facing up to climate change and biodiversity by using more sustainable treatment of otherwise rapidly degrading soils, minimising chemical and animal waste and reducing water consumption, ie regenerative agriculture.
In Ixworth and Stanton we have two large farmers who are focused on low input and low interference to the soil structure to reduce their carbon footprint and pollution of air and waterways.
This approach ensures the soil can produce crops indefinitely, reducing damage to the whole spectrum of wildlife, animals, birds, insects, fungi and helpful bacteria. It also reduces health-threatening pollution, from animal waste, especially ammonia and phosphates, getting into air or water sources and using much less energy, especially diesel. However, this is a medium term approach which can take a decade or more to fully implement but we can already see benefits from it.
Government needs to give a lead and take our food supply as seriously as they claim to take other areas of security.
In two weeks time they will preside over the Climate Conference in Glasgow, probably the most important meeting ever to take place. As I write they have yet to publish their proposals for the UK, let alone the world.
The Treasury seems determined not to invest in a future free of environmental threats. They promise for the future but we need that investment now.
Even if Government is not acting fast enough, we as citizens can play our part. Among other things write to your MP to press on them the urgency of actions to protect our environment and a healthy food supply.
Roger Spiller, Ixworth
NO CHANGE OF MIND OVER £20 CUT TO UC
I have written several times to my MP, Jo Churchill, expressing my dismay and disbelief at the withdrawal of £20 from the Universal Credit benefit.
Several well-known Tory MPs have begged the Prime Minister to change his mind as it is forecast that millions of children will be forced back into poverty.
However, according to Ms Churchill, these people who will be affected by this change, plus myself and those Tory MPs who think otherwise, need worry no more as these claimants will be well looked after for a number of reasons.
One, support has just been extended to vulnerable families with a £500 million fund to be distributed by councils to those most in need. This will help with essentials over the coming months and will be targeted. This is in addition to a £140 rebate for qualifying low income households on energy bills.
Two, the Healthy Start vouchers for families with young children to help them purchase fruit, vegetables, pulses, milk and formula has been increased.
Three, the £2 billion Kickstart scheme has seen over 263,000 approved roles created from a range of sectors for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.
Four, the £2.9 billion Restart scheme will provide intensive help to over a million jobseekers who have been out of work for more than a year and the National Living Wage has been increased to £8.91. This increase has been effective from April 2021 and extended to 23 and 24-year-olds for the first time.
Furthermore, Universal Credit claimants should, according to Minister Therese Coffey, work extra hours to make up the difference and if their wages are not good enough do, as Edwina Curry insisted this week, have a word with their employer or go and get a higher paid job. It’s that easy.
So, it looks as those Universal Credit claimants will be so well looked after they won’t know they have had £20 per week deducted. In fact, they will probably find themselves so well off they won’t even notice their heating bills, fuel and food prices have soared up.
Peter Critchley, Pakenham
MP FAILED TO ADDRESS SO MANY ISSUES
I was unimpressed by the article from Jo Churchill (Bury Free Press, October 8) since she failed to mention several important current issues
Violence against women and sexual harassment is on the increase and yet the Prime Minister sees no need to make public sexual harassment a recognised crime as requested by Priti Patel. Where does our MP stand on this, what plans has she to ensure women are, and feel, safer?
In relation to the police who, in Suffolk, are seriously underfunded, receiving from Government far less than comparable forces, what is she doing about that?
No mention of the fuel and energy crises. No mention of farmers having to cull pigs despite the protests at the Tory party conference – she is a minister at DEFRA or has she forgotten?
Nothing about Covid booster jabs, a few people across the country have had letters but my local surgery is awaiting guidance on how and who to target. Meanwhile, the elderly and CEV people are becoming increasingly vulnerable once again, at a time when flu will also be circulating.
Locally, we have had the recent independent report detailing the serious failing of Suffolk County Council in relation to SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) and she ignores that.
Then we have the cut in Universal Credit where our MP wrote to a resident to say she appreciates that many people receiving Universal Credit are in work, which is why she welcomed the Government’s commitment to supporting the low-paid and increase of the National Living Wage to £8.91. I would like to see her live on that, but then, like Therese Coffey, I expect she thinks people can just work two extra hours and replace the £20 that way. However, a person on UC must give up 67p in the pound from UC for every extra £1 earnt. So someone on £300 per week would have to earn an extra £79.50 to make up the loss of £20.
Finally, for months people across the country and in Suffolk have complained about the lack of NHS dentists, with one local lady pulling out her own teeth in desperation. The answer this week from our MP was a 45-minute online session to listen to complaints. That won’t fix the crisis.
On all these matters we need action not words and we need to see our MP out and about in Bury St Edmunds.
Cllr Diane Hind, Tollgate Ward, West Suffolk Council
WELL DONE FOR CREATING DISPLAY
Well done to the family who recently moved into an address on ‘The Howard’, in Bury St Edmunds, and shortly after having done so, have taken the time and trouble to transform an otherwise uninteresting and neglected area of grass to the front of their new home, into an eye-catching display, which with strategically placed trellis ready to host whatever they have in mind will – in the fullness of time – turn the frontal aspect of their house into something special.
Perhaps this transformation will be all that was necessary to encourage others to follow suit and make ‘The Howard’ even more special than it already is.
Name and address supplied
GREAT WORK BY HEALTH CENTRE
I took my brother and our wives to the Woolpit Health Centre Fluvax drive through on Saturday, September 18.
What a superb operation they ran, the volunteer guides were fantastic, the system was excellent and the vaxing staff were great. We were in and out in under 15 minutes.
A huge thank you to all and congratulation on a successful operation.
D C Coe MBE, Elmswell