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Recorder letters: TfL, public parks and free school meals

PUBLISHED: 12:30 24 May 2020

A man on the Underground wearing a protective facemask. Picture: PA

A man on the Underground wearing a protective facemask. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Fares hike will hit some of poorest the hardest

Unmesh Desai AM, City & East London, writes:

In the midst of this crisis, it has been incredibly disappointing to see the government force such a punitive and damaging bailout deal upon TfL.

When they should be working constructively with City Hall to help the capital through this pandemic, the government’s fare hike, sudden changes to the Freedom Pass and saddling of TfL with debt is a gratuitous kick in the teeth for Londoners.

This will hit some of the poorest in our capital the hardest. It is also nonsensical that Londoners have been effectively singled out and punished in this way, after doing the right thing and staying at home and away from public transport to contain the virus.

The government needs to own up to the fact that where they could have helped TfL back on track to recovery, they have inflicted unnecessary pain and uncertainty. They must go back to the drawing board and reconsider this decision.

Respect other park users

Mark Camley, executive director, Parks and Venues, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; Shaun Dawson, chief executive, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority; Tony Leach, chief executive, Parks for London; Andrew Scattergood, chief executive, The Royal Parks; Richard Parry, chief executive, Canal & River Trust and Colin Buttery, director, Open Spaces Department, City of London, write:

As those responsible for some of London’s key open spaces we are not surprised that during these difficult times our parks, green spaces, towpaths and riversides have become a vital part of our national response to coronavirus.

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We wrote to Londoners at the start of April asking that you do everything you can to help us keep the spaces open. It has not been easy, but the vast majority of those going out and about have followed the rules and played their part – along with our dedicated staff – in making sure that there have been places where people can go out for their daily exercise.

Now we have reached a new phase and from today some elements of what you can do outside will change. However our message remains the same – please respect any regulations in place at the open spaces you visit – we can only keep our parks and green spaces open if you continue to help us.

Social distancing remains – keep two metres apart from people outside your household. Sitting outside is allowed – but again keeping your distance from those not in your household. It might be that on occasions those working hard to keep these spaces open will ask people to move on as areas are getting too crowded, please respect that and be kind in your response as they are only doing their job to keep open spaces safe. We ask you to support us so we don’t risk losing these opportunities.

Try to stay local if you can. If you do need to travel to enjoy open space then consider if it is absolutely necessary, it could put unmanageable pressure on our car parks and public transport if sensible choices are not made. Finally, at the places you visit look out for information on what facilities are open and closed and how they should be used, such as those that might allow limited sports activities.

It is not difficult to help us – it is a question of being alert and sensible, looking out for information, listening to advice and doing the usual responsible things such as taking your litter home and keeping your dog under control. Please also respect those living next to our open spaces and alongside our rivers and canals.

Our teams are working hard because we know how important it is for everyone that the great outdoors is accessible to everyone in London – and we are proud to be part of that effort.

For more information on using London’s open spaces please visit: london.gov.uk/coronavirus/social-distancing-guidance/london-parks-and-green-spaces-covid-19-guidance

Save the free school meals

Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, writes:

Many more children are going hungry in this crisis, so this is absolutely not the time to be withdrawing support for free school meals.

There have been huge admin problems with the free school meal voucher scheme which we have been urging ministers to sort out, but it is a terrible mistake to take this crucial support away at a critical moment.

The economic impact of coronavirus is hitting the poorest families hardest, with one in five households with children not getting the food they need in recent weeks. A free school meal is often the only proper meal that some children get, especially when household budgets are under pressure.


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