Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

It somehow seems appropriate as we start a new year that the first of the new Cow Lane bridges is in place.

The installation of this bridge is a landmark event in the history of Cow Lane and heralds in the begining of the end to Cow Lane misery (as the local press like to call it).

I sincerely hope 2012 is a successfull year for all of us.



Monday, 26 December 2011

Cow Lane

End to Cow Lane misery now a reality


Battle councillors have been campaigning for nearly ten years
The existing southern Victorian red brick Cow Lane Bridge is set to be replaced by a new 1600-ton bridge. The bridge will be inched into place today on a multiple set of wheels operated by a single engineer.
 
This work will herald the beginning of the end of what has become known as ‘ Cow Lane misery, and will create a new chapter in the history of Cow Lane bridges. The new bridge will provide for two lanes of traffic, double decker buses and articulated lorries will be able to pass under it. There will be provision for safe access for pedestrians and cyclists will have a dedicated cycle lane.

By 2015 the replacement of both bridges will be complete. Long delays for traffic and lorries stuck under the northern bridge will be consigned to history. However, most important of all is that pedestrians will be able to walk beneath the bridges in safety for the first time. The replacement of this first bridge will be an historic moment that will conclude with Cow Lane being brought into the 21st century in 2015.

For many years Battle councillors have been campaigning for the bridges to be sorted out once and for all.  This is what was said in 2005.
Battle councillors 2005 annual report. Read the full report here.
This is yet another example of how Reading Labour Party delivers on major projects that benefit local communities as well as our town.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Cameron lied

Cameron’s broken NHS promises


I was proud be out on the streets of Battle ward this weekend campaigning with my colleagues to fight the NHS cuts. 

Cameron promised to ‘protect the NHS’, to ‘give the NHS a real rise in funding’ and to ‘stop top-down NHS reorganisations’. He is breaking every one of these promises.


Under Cameron’s government:

  • More people are waiting longer for treatment

  • More NHS services will be run by private companies
  • A real-terms cut in the NHS budget is a deadly threat to our National Health Service

Cameron, backed by Clegg’s Lib Dems, is pushing forward with the biggest reorganisation in the history of the NHS. It’s costing billions of pounds, and is opposed by patient groups and health professionals alike. 

Their Health Bill is a deadly threat to our National Health Service. It will mean:

  • Worse patient care with services cut, hospitals closing and longer waiting times for treatment

  • More privatisation and more companies making money from all parts of our health service

  • More red tape making it harder for nurses, doctors and other health professionals to do their jobs

Cameron has betrayed our NHS. He made promises in the election he knew he would not keep in government. He has put our NHS firmly in the danger zone.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

End in site for Cow Lane problem


This Christmas the project to replace Cow Lane Bridges will take a huge step forward with the replacement of the bridge closest to Salisbury Road.  The road between this junction and the Safestore entrance will be closed from 19 December until 23 January 2012.  The road between Safestore and Cardiff road will then be closed 23-30 January 2012 for preparation work on the second bridge.

It will potentially be a difficult time for residents of Battle ward as there will be disruption to traffic flow however it will be for a huge benefit once the bridges are complete, as large vehicles and through traffic will no longer need to use the Oxford Road.

This video very neatly shows the improvements to the station and, near the end, Cow Lane Bridges!


 


You can check if your train journey will be disrupted here.  You can also visit the Network Rail pages for this project here.

You can even go and watch the bridge being moved into place from a viewing platform in the Dairy Crest yard on Boxing Day.

UPDATE:  Just received notification that  Cow Lane will be shut between Safestore and Cardiff Road for three nights 8pm until 6am from 5 to 8 December for safety reasons.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


New loyalty scheme for sport and leisure for #rdg #Olympic year


Money saving incentives for Reading residents could be introduced if a new reward and loyalty scheme gets the go-ahead from councillors.

Savings and rewards will be available in all Reading sport and leisure centres, libraries and arts and entertainment venues – including The Hexagon and South Street - if proposals are agreed by the Council's Cabinet on Monday, November 28.

The reward and loyalty scheme works by collecting points on the Your Reading Passport when you take part in particular culture and leisure activities. The more people who participate in particular activities, the more points they will earn, resulting in bigger discounts for future use.

As part of the proposals, which follow a detailed review of the scheme, free swimming in the school holidays for under 16s with a YRP card would be continued and concessionary rates for the Council's pest control service and bulky waste collection service would be reintroduced.

Marian Livingston, Lead Councillor for Culture and Sport, said: 'I am delighted that we have been able to propose even more benefits with the Your Reading Passport Scheme. The changes being proposed provide some great opportunities for residents to utilise these benefits right across Reading. As well as maintaining existing savings, we have been able to extend the concessions to bring back savings on bulky waste and pest control services."

Paul Gittings, Lead Councillor for Environment and Climate Change, said: 'With the Olympic and Paralympic Games coming to the country next year and also the Olympic torch coming to Reading borough in July, there has never been a better time for people of all ages to take part in cultural and sporting activities in Reading. These proposals will provide an added incentive for people to get involved.'

The Your Reading Passport scheme was launched in 2004, updating and replacing the Passport to Leisure scheme which had been running since 1987. It is a combined discount and library card, available free and exclusively to residents of Reading borough. It is used on the spot at ten locations around Reading.

There are two categories available through Your Reading Passport membership:

- YRP general membership: for residents of Reading and those aged 3 years and over

- YRP concessionary membership: for residents of Reading and either: aged 60 years or over, people who have a disability or be permanently incapacitated by ill health, or on low income/unemployed.

The Council's Cabinet meeting will take place in the Kennet Room of the Civic Offices, and starts at 6.30pm.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Womens Rights

 

From the monochrome silhouettes of Mad Men to the scandals and seductions of Downton Abbey, vintage style offers some nostalgic escapism at this time of austerity. Yet beneath the veneer of glamour and gentility, the bygone decades harbored a raft of gendered double-standards and institutional sexism. 

Unfortunately for Britain’s women, the world of yesteryear is rearing its head again as evidence emerges that coalition cuts are literally turning back time on women’s equality.

The coalition strategy for reducing the deficit is hitting women disproportionately hard. Hardly surprising considering that the cabinet is dominated more by millionaires than by female voices.

Women face a unique ‘triple jeopardy’: cuts to their jobs, since two-thirds of public sector workers are women; cuts to state services and benefits that women rely on more than men – such as childcare assistance and support for victims of sexual and domestic violence; and, as reduced state services and benefits increase levels of unpaid labour and decrease financial autonomy, women face being pushed back into dependent roles as ‘homemakers’.

Women’s unemployment is at a record high. Soaring childcare costs and cuts to childcare support are forcing over half of working mothers to ‘stop work or significantly reduce their working hours’; 124 Sure Start children’s centres have closed down, with many more set to follow unless urgent action is taken; organisations that provide specialist services for women, such as for victims of sexual and domestic violence or for lone parents, are being hit hard by local authority funding cuts with some having to close their doors for good; legal aid support is becoming a rare privilege. And these are just some of the impacts.

Welcome to the past. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Or your child benefit. Or your working tax credits. Or your equality.

The Fawcett Society, along with a coalition of charities, unions and academics, recently unveiled a manifesto of policies to lessen the disproportionate impact of the cuts on women. We are asking for proposals in this ‘Life Raft for Women’s Equality’ report, which cover work, pensions, families and violence prevention, to be implemented before or at the next budget in March 2012. These would include a U-turn on cuts to childcare support, safeguarded funding for specialist violence against women support services, and ring-fencing money for Sure Start centres. These requests are tangible, workable solutions, and vital for safeguarding hard-fought women’s rights and opportunities.

There has been much rhetoric from the coalition about connecting with women voters. No wonder women are turning their backs on Cameron and Clegg in their droves!

Shopping trollies

Proposed Charges for Dumped 
Shopping Trolleys
            
Wherever there is a supermarket you will find abandoned shopping trollies in the immediate locality. 

In response to local residents who were fed up with seeing abandoned trollies in their streets we asked Reading Borough Council to persuade Tesco to put coin locks on their Shopping Trollies, this they did and things have improved, however, we still see abandoned trollies. 

Across the town Reading people still see this as an issue that needs to be addressed. I am pleased to tell you that Reading Borough Council is going to get tough on supermarkets. Reading's Labour led council have issued the following press release.

21/11/2011
Reading Borough Council Press Release

Reading Borough Council is proposing to charge supermarkets and convenience stores for abandoned shopping trolleys that are dumped around the town.

Keeping the town clean and tidy and respecting the environment were key issues raised by residents during the Council's 'We Need To Talk' consultation initiative. Discarded shopping trolleys, particularly when they are abandoned on pavements, parkland, beauty spots or in waterways, are the cause of a large number of complaints by local residents each year.

The Council already contacts the owners of abandoned trolleys, requesting them to retrieve their property. If they fail to do so, Council staff remove the trolleys. This has significant cost implications, both in terms of staff hours and disposal fees. So in future, the Council is proposing to charge supermarkets and convenience stores for recovering, storing, returning of disposing of the items.

Proposed charges would be as follows:

Removal: £15 per trolley
Storage: £7.50 per week or part week
Return the trolley to the business: £15 per trolley
Disposal: £50 per trolley

A report including the proposals will be going to a meeting of Reading Borough Council's Cabinet on November 28 for approval to begin a consultation process with interested parties. If approved businesses affected will be invited to have their say on the proposals before a final decision is made.

Paul Gittings, Reading's Lead Councillor for Environment and Climate Change, said: 'Unsightly dumped shopping trolleys are a blight on local areas and it is only fair that businesses who do not put in place appropriate measures to collect them have to pay for their retrieval.'

Shopping trolleys dumped on pavements can be an obstruction for pedestrians as well as in some cases causing damage to parked cars. When dumped in rivers they can also damage boats and be harmful to wildlife.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows local councils to remove abandoned shopping trolleys from their land and recover subsequent costs. After removal a notice must then be served on the owner of the trolley within 14 days. If the owner claims the trolley it must be returned but only after the Council's charges have been paid. If the trolley is not claimed by the business, the Council may dispose of the trolley after a period of six weeks and may charge the owner for the subsequent costs of disposal.


Monday, 21 November 2011

Bulky waste


Bulky Waste Collection Discounts Reinstated

Last year the Tory lead administration did nothing to encourage people to use the councils bulky waste collection service, all they did was put up the price which put people off using the service and as a result fly-tipping has got out of hand. 


For years they told us the environment was at the heart of their political agenda. After only one year in office we now know the truth. It was a political stunt cynically designed to get votes.

Labour is the only Reading party that has a long and established record on positively tackling environmental issues. Paul Gittings the lead member for environment and climate change said: “We are taking this action to encourage a better take-up of the service and make it more affordable for those on lower or fixed incomes.' Reading residents will again be able to take advantage of significant discounts for the Council's bulky waste collection service if proposals are approved next week.”

 21/11/2011

Reading Borough Council Press Release

The Council's bulky waste collection service is a door-to-door service for residents or businesses who need help in disposing of household items they no longer need and which may be too heavy or large for them to move. Examples include furniture, fridges or other large electrical items.

Residents who held a concessionary Your Reading Passport were previously entitled to two free bulky waste collections a year, however these two free collections were removed from April 1, meaning including elderly, disabled or residents on low incomes had to pay the full price for collection of bulky waste items. Prices for residents are £32.90 for the collection of up to 5 items or a fridge/freezer and £42.70 for the collection of 6 to 10 items.

The new administration is now proposing to introduce a 25% discount for concessionary 'Your Reading Passport' holders. It means that for elderly, disabled or residents on low incomes, the cost of the collection of up to 5 items or a fridge/freezer from a doorstep will be £24.68p, a fall of £8.22p. For the collection of 6 to 10 items the cost would be £32.03 - £10.67 cheaper.

Under the proposed new scheme, Your Reading concessionary Passport holders could also use their discount prices for as many collections as they want a year.

The new discounts would become effective from January 2012 and, in addition, bulky waste collection costs for all other Reading residents would be frozen for the coming year. Proposals will be going to a meeting of Reading Borough Council's Cabinet on November 28 as part of the Council's regular review of fees and charges. * (see Notes To Editors)

Paul Gittings, Reading's Lead Councillor for Environment and Climate Change, said: "This administration will do all it can to make sure that unsightly bulky waste is not left dumped in our communities. We have therefore taken this action to encourage a better take-up of the service and make it more affordable for those on lower or fixed incomes.'

The removal of concessions for bulky waste collection from April 1 have resulted in a significant drop in the total number of collections, from 91 collections per week to an average of 26 collections a week. Reading Borough Council's Streetcare Team estimate the reinstatement of discounts would mean an increase in collections to an average of 40 a week.

The Council's current bulky waste contract ends at the end of this year. Proposals would see the Streetcare Team bring the bulky waste collection service back in-house and refuse crews absorb the expected additional workload as part of their daily rounds. This would create a saving for the Reading council tax payer of £25,000 by the Council not having to pay costs to a contractor to carry out the bulky waste collection work.

Bogus Waste Collectors


Warning Over Bogus Waste Collectors

Always check with the Environment Agency
Businesses are being warned to be cautious over arrangements for having waste collected after a Reading restaurant was fined for having its rubbish dumped across the town.

Earlier this year the Reading Borough Council received a number of complaints about bags of food waste that had been dumped in various locations. The waste was traced back to a restaurant, in Kings Road.

Staff there admitted that they had paid an unknown man to take away the waste, despite having a contract with a bona fide waste company. This is an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The company was fined £300 and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs at Reading Magistrates Court on November 9. The restaurant was also ordered to recompense another local business which had had to pay to have the dumped food waste taken away from its premises.

The case follows a similar successful prosecution by Reading Borough Council earlier this year when two landlords were fined after arranging to have the contents of a flat owned by them cleared out. The waste was then passed on to an unknown man and dumped at Island Road, near the Council's Household Waste Recycling Centre.

Under the Environmental Protection Act all persons have a duty of care in respect of waste transfer/disposal, to ensure that their waste is properly stored and is collected only by an authorised person, or to a person for authorised transport purposes.

Paul Gittings, Reading's Lead Councillor for Environment and Climate Change, said: 'Thankfully businesses and residents of Reading are overwhelmingly law-abiding. However there clearly are some exceptions and both businesses and householders should be aware that the Council will track down and prosecute those who fail to take responsibility for the waste they produce. Uncontrolled dumping of rubbish in our town will not be tolerated. We have a duty to protect our environment for all our residents.'

If residents are having building work or renovation work done, the contractor must be a registered waste carrier if he takes away the waste. If residents are having garden landscaping done, the contractor will also need to be registered if he takes away waste such as walls or fencing. If only green waste is involved, such as tree or shrub prunings, the contractor does not at present need to be registered, but will in the near future.

In many cases, the persons who actually fly tip the waste are never traced, because the business or householder has not taken their details. The costs of clearing up can then fall on the business or householder, or on council tax payers in general.

Members of the public can check with the Environment Agency whether or not a contractor is registered to take away waste by phoning 08708 506506 and asking for a Waste Carrier Validation Check, or by checking the Public Register on the Agency's website 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Fuel allowance

Coalition to cut winter fuels allowence

Pensioners have been told at the Post Office that this year's winter fuel allowance has been cut.

After a year of rapidly rising prices - with gas and electricity prices increasing by between 15% and 20% this year - it is alarming to think the coalition government has decided to cut winter fuel by £50 for the over 60s and £100 for the over 80s compared to last year.

To say that our pensioners are baffled would be an understatement: most are angry that the government has decided to take support for fuel bills back top 2007 levels at a time when costs have never been higher.

Pensioners feel insulted that the Energy Secretary Lib Dem Chris Huhne blamed people for not shopping around for the best deal. Many older householders simply to do have access or know how to use the internet. Others pay more because they don't use direct debits. They also use more fuel in the daytime, so forcing even higher bills.

It is unbelievably mean for the government to cut support for pensioners at a time when many are worrying about how to make ends meet. The coalition will not be forgiven by them for this.

Note:

George Osborne, in the speech introducing the Government's 2010 spending review was very careful to say, “winter fuel payments will remain exactly as budgeted for by the previous government”. If it is the case that the rates of 2010/11 were intended as a temporary, one year increase by the previous government, then this is, of course, true. And if we look back at the description of the 2010/11 rates then we do see that they are described as “a higher rate”, suggesting that these rates were indeed temporarily increased.

However, if we look further back in time we see that both in 2009/10 and in 2008/09 the rates of £250 and £400 applied. In both cases, £50 and £100 of these amounts respectively are described as “an additional amount”, and it is stressed that these additional amounts apply for one year only. We have to look back to 2007/08 before we find rates at the level they are planned to return to in 2011/12, of £200 and £300.

It may well be the case, as the DWP claims, that no additional amount for 2011/12 was budgeted for by the previous government. It is also the case, however, that these additional amounts have been consistently reintroduced over the last three years.



Story courtesy of Tony Jones



Monday, 14 November 2011

Working with you - the future


Working with you – the future

 


This video, from the Reading Borough Council YouTube channel, beautifully explains the Let's Talk events that have happened and invites you to  the 'Working Better With You - The Future' event.

It is at the Town Hall on Thursday 24th November 2011 at 5.30pm and is for you to hear about the views that have been gathered so far.

Whether or not you have already been a part of the programme by joining one of the Let’s Talk events, or completing a questionnaire, this is your opportunity to get involved. More information, and the on-line booking form, can be found
here.

Hope to see you there!

 
Reading's Top Priorities to be Revealed

09/11/2011 - Press Release

The results of one of the biggest consultations ever seen in Reading will be revealed at a special community event in the Town Hall on November 24.

Invites to the event are being sent to community groups right across the borough and other residents are also being invited to attend. 


Places are limited so people are urged to put their names down by using the Council's booking form at www.reading.gov.uk/letstalkevents
, email communications@reading.gov.uk or phone 0118 937 2098. Return slips are also being sent out in letters to community groups for them to register to attend the event.
Earlier this year Reading Borough Council launched a new way of working with local people, aimed at building long-lasting relationships with local residents and providing new opportunities to influence Council decisions and services. The 'We Need to Talk' public engagement initiative focused on the difficult decisions facing the council in the current economic climate and gave local people the chance to have their say on the issues that matter most to them and their communities.

Starting in the summer, the Council posed a number of key questions relating to the services it provides and people were asked to respond by completing questionnaires or visiting the Council website. There were also more than 30 daytime and evening community workshops spread across the borough's 16 wards.
Hundreds of responses have been received and Council officers have been busy analysing the results, which will be unveiled at the 'Working Better With You – The Future' event.

The feedback begins at 6pm on Thursday November 24. The top priorities as listed by local residents will then be announced and people attending will then be invited to split into different groups to discuss key themes in more detail. 


Bet Tickner, Lead Cllr for Public Engagement, said: "Residents have responded positively to our consultation. It's time now to take things forward in terms of feedback to community groups and residents on the results of that exercise, the main themes emerging from what they said and their response when we ask the question: `Have we got it right in how we're planning to take forward what you've said?".

With public spending being reduced there are difficult budget decisions to be taken over the next few years. It is therefore more important than ever to listen to people's views on how the Council should spend their money. The Council has asked residents about the things that are important in their local communities, what they like and what they think can be improved.

Reading Borough Council believes services can work better and be more responsive if the people of Reading are more involved in how they are run. This programme – 'Reading: Working Better With You' - now underpins everything the council does."
Children’s Services in Reading ‘Peforming Well’

Recently, both the Tories and Lib Dems in Reading have been writing letters to the local press rubbishing the Council’s Children’s Services Department, so it was very pleasing get the official news that: Children and young people in Reading are continuing to benefit from good Council services, according to the latest Ofsted judgement announced today (Tue Nov 8). 


Ofsted has published the results of its latest inspections into children services in Reading, which includes the performance of nurseries, schools and sixth forms, as well as the vital area of child protection. Government inspectors concluded that Reading Borough Council performs well and improvements have been built on from last year.

The Ofsted letter to Reading Borough Council notes: ‘Children’s Services in Reading Borough Council perform well. This good performance has been sustained from 2010 to 2011.’


It goes on to say: ‘The large majority of services, settings and institutions inspected by Ofsted are good or better and provision helps children and young people stay safe and learn well.’


Particular highlights include:

  • The majority of childminding and childcare provision is good or better and has improved since 2010
  • The majority of nurseries and primary schools are good, with some is outstanding. There is a good development in this area by children from low-income families
  • Five out of seven secondary schools are good or better, as are five of the seven sixth forms in the borough, with a clear trend of improvement
  • The gap between young people from low income families and the majority of 16 year olds in Reading is closing
  • Persistent absence from school is below average and the proportion of children staying in education and training at the age of 17 is above average
  • All special schools are good or better and the special school sixth form is outstanding
  • Reading’s adoption service is good

Ofsted also highlighted some areas for development which include continuing to drive through improvements in primary schools across the borough, closing attainment gaps and reducing high rates of re-referral and the timeliness of assessments for children in need. Reading Borough Council has taken all Ofsted comments on board.


John Ennis, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Children’s Services, said: ‘I’m pleased that Ofsted have recognised the continuing improvements made across all areas of children’s services in the town. Standards in our schools are improving and we are continuing to perform well in key areas like child protection and adoption. There are still important areas of work we need to improve on however. The challenge of doing our very best by every child in Reading is a vital one. We are determined to do all we can to achieve that.’
Tesco application rejected

This is my third term on the Planning Applications Committee and I have come to appreciate what a difficult job it is for all councillors' irrespective of Party. We have to work within planning laws and policies. The fact that residents may object to an application because they simply don’t like it is not a material consideration.

It is very hard for councillors to say to residents ‘sorry I would like to help but your objection in planning law is irrelevant’ that is tough because we are all aware that we have been elected to represent our constituents. In this particular case Battle councillors believed the concerns of local people were legitimate material concerns.

I risk being attacked by those who think Tesco are seeking to take over the world but frankly I believe they have been good for Battle Ward. They must engage with Chester Street residents and they must do something about Portman Road but in general they have contributed positively to the Oxford Road economy and they are, in all probability, our major local employer, which is great for the wider area. However, they have to recognise that sometimes they don’t get things quite right. This application is a case in point.

I believe the impact this development would have on the immediate locality is fraught with danger, in particular opening hours, disturbance to local residents and road safety.
For the Tesco bashers: They are my store of choice. I spend thousands of pounds in their Oxford Road store and their loyalty scheme, in my opinion, is second only to Boots. But on this occasion they are not my favourite store.

This is a good result for local people. I hope Tesco take the hint and move on.
Tory MP Slams Reading Lib Dem/Tory Parking Permit Cuts

Reading Chronicle have published a story about the Reading West MP attacking his coalition colleagues on Reading Council and showing his ignorance about the scheme all at the same time! 
 
Alok Sharma has finally woken up to the fact that the Lib Dem/Tory gang who briefly ran the council managed to slash residents parking permits by half LAST January, replacing the 20 all-day permits offered free to residents each year with 20 half-day vouchers.


The Labour run Council have acted swiftly to reinstate these cuts and have doubled the number of free half-day permits available a year to the 12,000 people living in residents’ parking zones from 20 to 40.
The Tory MP said residents were concerned about the lack of consultation by the Lib Dems and Tories over the January change from all-day permits.


Labour’s Transport Lead Cllr Tony Page said “Mr Sharma is making the point we were making last year when he was, as usual, completely silent. We are now having to put right many of the mistakes.”