MPs are normally expected to work for their constituents, sadly Mark Jenkinson voted against providing food for disadvantaged children of whom there are many in his constituency.

One reason he gave, without any supporting evidence, was that a small number of food vouchers were traded for drugs. He clearly believes that it is acceptable to disadvantage the bulk of those genuinely in need because of the misbehaviour of a few. Others in his party made it clear in the debate that they thought it better that children go hungry to prevent their parents becoming welfare dependent; the undeserving poor!

Mr Jenkinson will no doubt have consulted the Cumbria Intelligence Observatory and seen that his constituency contains wards in which two thirds of children are in the most deprived 10 per cent of the population and 100 per cent are in the most deprived 20 per cent. His vote reflects the mean-mindedness of his Government to the most deprived children and families in this country and in Workington.

The Children’s Society recently reported (Ending Child Poverty) that there are four million children living in poverty in this country with the prospect of that rising to five million in the next year. This means that in a class of 30, nine children are in poverty and in danger of going hungry. Children receiving emergency food has risen by 107.

None of us should be proud of this record and we expect our MP to vote to alleviate child hunger, not vote for it.


Dovenby, Cockermouth

'Badly done'

YOUR article (‘Abusive’ Social Media Slammed, Times & Star, October 22nd) was a dispiriting read. I have seen some of the abuse aimed at Mark Jenkinson MP and it is truly vile. I trust he has placed the matter in the hands of the police and that they, in turn, follow the matter up relentlessly.

No MP should have to accept it and I certainly don’t condone it. We should not, however, be deflected, from the anger that is fuelling that abuse.

Mark, like 322 of his Tory colleagues, voted NOT to extend free school meal provision for eligible families throughout the school holiday. Whatever excuses these Tory MPs give (“it was a technical vote”, “we’ve given money to local authorities already”, etc.) the vote comes across as mean spirited and cold hearted. Mark then invited further ire by stating in a tweet that ‘a tiny minority of his constituents exchanged food parcels for drugs’.

Even if that were the case we should not let a few bad apples dictate policy. Voting NO to free school meal provision was morally wrong especially in the middle of a pandemic in which many families are facing hardship because of job losses, salary reductions or no support whatsoever.

We have a Tory government that can waste £12 billion (that is 12 thousand millions) on an outsourced failed track and trace system that nobody has any faith in at all but they can’t seem to find a few million to help families in need. Badly done Mark.


Great Broughton

Helping those in need

SOME 1.4 million children from poor households get free school meals. It is unlikely their circumstances will change for the better during school holidays, in spite of the increase in Universal Credit. It makes common-sense to continue this support. However, the effects of the pandemic have thrown many other families into extreme hardship and their children also need support. This falls into the remit of local councils with money the government has allocated.

Schools can administer their pupils entitled to free meals ensuring they are not overlooked. This would also reduce the council’s administrative load as they identify and support additional families suffering from hardship.


High Harrington


MARK Jenkinson caused outrage after claiming, without evidence, that people in Workington sell or trade food parcels for drugs. He also turned himself into a laughing stock with social media awash with sarcasm about his wild theory.

West Cumbrians are famous for the lengths to which they will go to help each other. People are particularly willing to rally round to make life better for children. Mr Jenkinson, however, indulged in some very un-West Cumbrian behaviour. He demonised the whole idea of support for families struggling to buy food. He intensified the distress felt by West Cumbrians over the state of the country, the deaths and illness all around, the loss of jobs, the loss of income. He undermined our area’s community spirit but people responded to the government’s meanness magnificently with offers of help to children.

And it’s needed. In Allerdale, Department for Education figures show that 4,558 children were eligible for free school meals in the last school year. There will be even more now because of the growing impact on household incomes of the pandemic. Child poverty is growing. The government is not ‘levelling up’.

Some Tory backbenchers now realise the government is making a historic mistake in not working with Labour to extend food support for children on free school meals while schools are closed during the public health crisis.

Labour will force another vote on this before the Christmas break so Mr Jenkinson will have the chance to make amends.


Chair Workington Constituency Labour Party

Reform? No time like the present

Cumbria is the second biggest county in England, but it is one of the least populated. Yet we have eight authorities governing Cumbria – each with well-paid senior officers and, between the county and district councils, 368 councillors (all of whom are being paid).

Northumberland has one council (67 councillors); Cornwall (123) has one (123); Durham (126) has one. The plain fact is that, here in Cumbria, we are grossly over-governed, over-regulated and, not least, over-taxed!

Millions could be saved if Cumbria transformed into, say, one or two unitary authorities with devolved authority to local committees, including parish councils (if they wish), and the voluntary sector in order to address the very local needs. After an initial transition period of two to three years the potential savings (Wiltshire saved £100m) would ensure that those services which we voters think are important, such as Children’s Services, would not need to be axed, underfunded or reduced.

It is abundantly clear to those with vision that local government must redefine its role, working with others to facilitate change and achieve wanted community outcomes and, most importantly, establishing a deeper appreciation of what really matters to local communities.

This is not to say unitary local government is a panacea. Many detractors argue against reform largely because of the effort and cost. In reality, transition costs are relatively small and can be addressed effectively over time. In addition, combining county and district functions and responsibilities would allow for synergies to be developed such as in housing, addressing homelessness and Social Services departments.

It is wrong to suggest that progress towards these changes should wait until the current pandemic is over. We need to get on with the transformation now if we are to have improved, cheaper and more responsive local government.

I have advocated unitary status for Cumbria for many years. To do otherwise would be to perpetuate the current bureaucratic and financial insanity of local government in Cumbria.



Fertile mind

The amazing power of myths to influence a population has been shown by recent events.

Most people have simply accepted the claim that Covid-19 only spreads after the pubs close at 10pm and that the virus behaves itself as long as no more than six people gather at a time.

It occurs to me these myths have probably come from the same fertile mind that created the mass myth that Brexit would mean “Taking Back Control”.

That fertile mind belongs to Mr Dominic Cummings, currently running the government from 10 Downing Street, or Barnard Castle.