Thursday, 20 December 2012

Happy Christmas

Talk to you next year

I am currently recovering from a major operation. 
I hope to be fit and rearing to go early next year.
With best wishes: Gul

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Police Commissioner

Tim Starkey 

Candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner Thames Valley

Sarah, Chris and I briefing Tim On Battle ward issues
In November of this year you will have the opportunity to vote for the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley Police Area. The Home Office state that Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will
  • ensure the policing needs of their communities are met as effectively as possible,
  • bring communities closer to the police,
  • build confidence in the system and restore trust.
PCCs will make and influence key decisions that will impact on how your local area looks and feels – from CCTV, street lighting and graffiti to tackling gangs and drug-dealing.
Reading Council’s Crime and Disorder Partnership (CSP) are providing residents, businesses and organisations a chance to ask the candidates questions directly on issues that affect them on 24th October at Reading Town Hall.
The election is on Thursday 15th November.

More details will be available soon.

The Labour candidate for this vital position of power over how our town will be policed into the future is Tim Starkey, his key priorities are: 

Protect The Operational Independence Of The Police
Who to investigate, arrest and charge must be decided by Police Officers not politicians

Put Victims At The Heart Of The Criminal Justice System
Protect Victim Support

Fight The Cuts
20% cuts to police funding are criminal! Stop further cuts to Police numbers in Thames Valley

Stop Police Privatisation
Outsourcing patrolling our streets to private firms like G4S is not the answer!

Create A More Efficient Service
Use technology to reduce bureaucracy and keep victims/witnesses better informed

Keep Decision Making Local
Give local communities the power to decide police priorities in their area

More information can be found on his website here and you can follow him on Twitter 

We urge to make sure you cast your vote in this important election.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


First floor of the old Co-op to become flats

Over the last twelve months or so a number of local people have expressed an interest in what might be happening to the first floor of the old Co-op building.
I thought you might like to know that this week we learnt that an application for planning permission to redevelop the first floor of the building has been received by Reading Borough Council and is currently out for public consultation.
Members of the public who live in the locality are invited to comment on the application. This can be done by writing to: Louisa Johnson, Civic Centre, Reading Borough Council, Reading RG1 7AE or by email: or you can contact me at: and I will pass on your comments. Your comments must be received by no later than Monday 13 August 2012.
The application is for three x 2-bed flats and six x 1-bed flats with external roof terraces. You can view the plans and associated documents on the councils and click view associated documents
We have extracted the plans for you so if you only want to look at the plans without having to navigate the council’s website click here.

View the plans

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

See you at the 

Oxford Road Fun Day!

It's the Oxford Road Community Fun Day on Saturday, 12-4 at Kensington Park. I have been for the last few years (though I was on my holidays last year) and have always enjoyed it but this year will be different.
Battle Councillors Chris Maskell, Sarah Hacker and I are always trying to think of new and different ways to meet the residents of Battle Ward.  It was during a Zumba class that Sarah decided we should look into having a stall at the Oxford Road Fun Day. We all agreed it was a good idea, so we will have a stall on Saturday - a red gazebo in fact.  
We will be there just to chat, for an informal surgery if you would like to discuss any local issues (we will have our usual surgery on 7 July at Battle Library) and we will be joined by Cllr Jan Gavin who will be selling some of the postcards and craft items she makes.
Some of Sarah's vegetable plants will also be for sale, but by Gloucester Road Playgroup where she is a committee member.  They are hoping to raise some money with her courgettes, squash, sunflowers and tomatoes so please go and see them.
The weather forecast looks good so it should be a great afternoon.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Thank you Into Battle

Into Battle Latest

Our latest edition of Into Battle is with the printers now. We will deliver a copy to every household in Battle ward as quickly as possible. For those of you who have a computer and are able to access my blog, you can read Into Battle here.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Art in Reading

Art Network Event

The Cultural Partnership will be hosting an Art Network event on Wednesday 30th May, 6.00pm-7.30pm at South Street Arts Centre. 

The network event will provide the opportunity for all local art individuals' organisations and community groups to come together and find out about national and local arts projects and agenda's.

The key note speaker for the event will be Vidya Thirunarayan- Arts Council South East, Combined Arts & Touring Relationship Manager. Vidya Thirunarayan, Combined Arts & Touring Relationship Manager, has 20 years of experience in the arts sector, reflecting her broad and eclectic interests. She was the founder Artistic Director of Sankalpam, a national touring company, and has worked as a choreographer, performer, tutor, board member, mentor, and advisor.

To book your place on the network event you must register at and or phone 01189374046 to book your place.

Reading Borough Council's Lead Member for Culture and Sport, Cllr Livingston, said: 'We have a talented, passionate and unique arts scene in Reading which I am very proud of. The Culture Partnership nurtures this community and hopefully artists will take advantage of what the Partnership has to offer.'

If you register with the Cultural Partnership and become a member there is a performance concession to view to Chris Goode's - The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley at South Street Arts Centre after the network event. Refreshments will be available to purchase from the bar.

Please bring along any marketing and promotion or information about your organisation or project to share with other attendees.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Labour take overall control



Thanks to all Battle residents who voted for me:

Labour 1,015 votes
Tories 522
Greens 188
LibDems 106

Roman Party 42

Labour now has overall control of the council with 26 of the 46 seats. There are no elections next year, however, this does not mean we are not going ease off, we are committed to serving Battle ward all year round. Visit Councillor Hacker's blog site to find out what we are doing next. 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Oxford Road - Black Bag Up-date

Action Agreed
Black bags will be collected daily until a permanent solution 
to this unacceptable situation is agreed
I recently highlighted the accumulation of bulging black refuse bags along the Oxford Road (Into Battle, local election edition 2012).
I said that the situation developing along the Oxford Road was totally unacceptable and that I would be contacting the council insisting they take strong action to stop this kind of abuse happening.
I am pleased to be able to tell you that following the discussions I had with the council and the lead member for the environment the following has been agreed
  • Black bags will be collected on a daily basis until a permanent solution to the problem can be agreed.
  • There will be a review of collection days, landlords/residents responsibilities, enforcement, lack of recycling, use of on street bulk bins for domestic waste.                  
  • Agree a strategy to effectively tackle illegal fly-tipping and the dumping of trade waste.

After the election I and my colleagues and the lead member for the environment will be holding a meeting with senior members of the Streetcare team to agree how bet we can stop the kind of abuse we are seeing along the Oxford Road. It is clear that those who are dumping the black bags have no right to do so.
We will also be considering the issue of those big industrial refuse bins. I was recently in West Ealing where there are terraced shops similar in character to those on the Oxford Road. What struck me was that there were no piles of black bags and no industrial size refuse bins on the streets. As part of our review of how refuse is stored and collected I will be asking council officers to visit other local authorities to look at how they manage refuse in areas similar to the Oxford Road.
I will let you know how things progress.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Desperate Tories

Out of Touch and Ill-informed
"Extract from the recent Tory election leaflet".
The Tory candidate in Battle ward thinks there will be a
cycle and pedestrian bridge built over the railway lines, what a joker.

In a desperate and badly disguised attempt to gain credibility and votes the Tory candidate in Battle ward is claiming responsibility for sorting out Cow Lane bridges.
Sadly, he, or rather those who write his publicity, didn’t do their research thoroughly enough. Anyone who has been the slightest bit interested or involved in getting the bridges sorted out would know that the foot/cycle bridge is not part of the final solution.
In 2008 Network Rail wanted to drop the northern bridge to ground level and construct a foot/cycle bridge over the railway lines. This would have blocked off Cow Lane to traffic and would have made it even harder for pedestrians and cyclists to access Rivermead and beyond. Battle councillors in partnership with Martin Salter MP campaigned against this and insisted both bridges were replaced and that is what is going to happen.
If the Tory candidate or Alok Sharma had taken the time and trouble to look at our councillor reports from 2005/2006 and 2008/2009 plus the spring edition of Into Battle, all of which are freely available to view under councillor reports and Into Battle at:
If either of them had been bothered to do any research themselves instead of leaving it to others they could have fully acquainted themselves with the work Labour councillors, under a Labour council, have been doing over the last 7 years to get the bridges sorted out. They would also have discovered that a project of this size and complexity takes longer than a year to conceive, plan, secure funding and reach the advanced stage the whole scheme has reached today. 
Incidentally the last Labour Government granted the funding for the work being carried out by Network Rail. However, Reading people will remember that for a short time the project was under threat from Coalition cuts. Thankfully the work had reached an advanced stage which meant cutting the project would have wasted the millions already spent and would have seriously impacted on the efficiency of our national rail network. 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Labour Manifesto

Labour’s manifesto for the 
2012 Borough Council elections

Fighting for a fair deal for Reading in tough times
Labour’s manifesto for the Borough Council elections, says Labour Leader Jo Lovelock, includes detailed commitments across the full range of Council services, commitments that Labour knows it can meet despite the huge financial pressures on the Council. “Our first promise in these tough times,” she says, “is to be upfront with people about what can and can’t be done, and to continue to involve residents in deciding what the priorities are.”

Faced with unfair cuts from central government, who have taken £73 away from every Reading resident as compared with £16 in Tory Wokingham, Cllr. Lovelock says, Reading needs a Council which will fight for a fair deal for Reading. “But,” she says,  “Labour will do its best to protect people where we can and we can make sure that the Council’s priorities are those of Reading people: working with businesses to bring jobs to the town; clean, safe streets; protection for the most vulnerable; and efficient, well-run services.”

Labour’s key pledges in this election are to:

  • Fight for a new secondary school for all 11 – 18 year olds in East Reading
  • Keep Reading clean with a crackdown on graffiti and fly-tipping
  • Promote jobs and investment
  • Use the Council’s watchdog powers to stand up for the NHS
  • Protect Reading’s green spaces
  • Continue to involve the public more effectively
  • Find further efficiency savings
  • Restore free OAP bus travel from 9am
  • Protect libraries, youth clubs and children’s centres
  • Promote environmental responsibility – the Council will lead by example and encourage others
  • Create a New Local Partnership to stand up for Reading

Cllr. Lovelock says that with the wheels coming off the Tory-LibDem government, it is even more important for Reading Council to be run for Reading people and not just there to make the cuts Whitehall demands. She is hoping for a working majority to give Labour the mandate to stand up for Reading.

Protecting our Environment

Protecting Our Environment 
Against Fly-Tipping

These are just a small sample of the kind of things we have removed from our streets. Every year we have to deal with hundreds of items because a tiny minority don't care.

Periodically we patrol the streets of Battle ward identifying issues that need to be addressed by the council. It is important we all work together to keep where we live clean and safe. If you see any fly-tipping report it to the council. REPORT FLY-TIPPING

Alternatively you can ring any one of your Battle councillors, just click the Battle councillors' button in the right hand column for contact details.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

About our MPs

Do our MPs’ only support the rich?

Thursday's vote will tell us a lot about our two MPs

When Reading West Conservatives election leaflet dropped through my door I was quite surprised one of the headlines on the front page was 'Protecting our pensioners'.  Despite not mentioning the fact they took away free travel from pensioners before 9.30 am when they were in coalition control of the Council, they also failed to mention the 'granny tax' proposed in the budget.  This will mean 40% of pensioners will be paying more tax then expected.  

The following from the BBC explains what pensioners are likely to lose: 'Figures from HMRC show that, taking inflation into account, this will leave 4.41 million people worse off than they would have expected, by an average of £83 a year in 2013-14. 

People due to turn 65 after 5 April 2013 will miss out on an average of £285 compared with what they expected in 2013-14. The biggest loss is £322 that year.'

That's a lot of money to lose when you are on a fixed income, especially with inflation higher than expected and the cost of  living increasing.

Jo Lovelock, Leader of Reading Borough Council said: “Wilson and Sharma should vote against the granny tax this Thursday”.
The Labour Party is forcing a vote in the House of Commons this Thursday against George Osborne’s ‘granny tax’ and Labour Leader Jo Lovelock says Rob Wilson and Alok Sharma know their constituents agree with Labour on this issue and should vote to stop the tax going through.

“Pensioners have had a raw deal under this Government,” she says, “but with the tax raid on them announced in the recent Budget, George Osborne is making tough times even tougher for older people. Everybody I have spoken to is appalled by the fact that millionaires will be getting a tax break while 4.4 million pensioners lose out, and I am sure both Reading’s MPs have been getting that message loud and clear from their constituents.

If Reading’s Conservative MPs back the Government on Thursday, they will be saying that they are only in tune with the super-rich, not the people who have worked all their lives and were hoping for a comfortable old age, and their families.  

Adult Gaming Shop

Battle councillors to oppose
24/7 Adult Gaming Centre 

It is proposed to turn this former Gym
into an Adult Gaming Centre

Reading Borough Council has received a planning application to turn the former Gym, on the corner of Connaught Road and Oxford Road, into an adult gaming centre. The applicant wants to trade 24 hours a day 7 days a week except Christmas day. How thoughtful ! 

My fellow Battle councillors and I believe an operation of this type opening on the Oxford Road would have a negative impact on our community. It is our view that a business such as this should be sited away from a residential area like ours. If this gaming centre is allowed to open there is a risk  that more could follow, frankly we would rather not take that risk, therefore we will be objecting to this application.

We have already received emails from a number of people who object for the following reasons: “Oxford Road already has enough problems related to drugs, alcohol and prostitution without the added problems which gambling will bring. There will be increased noise and possible anti-social behaviour”. We support this view.

Battle councillors in partnership with the local community have worked hard to improve the area over the last ten years. To allow this development would be a backward step.

If you would like to object to the application you should write to: Louisa Johnson, Planning Department, Reading Borough Council, Civic Centre, Reading RG1 7AE or email your objection to: - 

Please quote application reference: 12/00211/FUL
365-367 Oxford Road - adult gaming centre.


Promotion to the Premiership
Congratulations Reading FC

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


This is unacceptable

I took the evening photographs on Thursday 22 March on my way to a meeting. I took the day time pictures on 27 March, during that time the piles of black bags have grown. This kind of thing has got to stop. 

This kind of thing has got to stop
I have written to Reading Borough Council insisting they take strong action to stop this kind of abuse happening. This kind of thing reflects badly on the town and the Oxford Road. Whoever is responsible should be prosecuted, this is totally unacceptable. 

I have also asked for an urgent meeting with the head of service responsible for refuse collection and the lead councillor for the environment to discuss what can be done to prevent this appalling situation occurring in the future.
Budget Bombshell
Bad News For Most In Battle

A budget for millionaires
George Osborne’s budget is a disaster for most people struggling to make ends meet here in Battle Ward. The Tories have let the bankers keep their bonuses and rewarded their rich friends (including their dodgy donors) with a massive tax cut for millionaires paid for with a ‘Granny Tax’ which will rob 4.4 million pensioners of up to £323 a year.

Families trying to bring up children on incomes less than £20,000 a year lose £253 in working tax credits from April and the VAT rise is costing every household an average of £450. Car owners have been squeezed as fuel prices hit a record high under the Tories and the LibDems following the latest tax hike at the pumps. They’ve even slapped extra taxes on takeaway food and caravans and are increasing the price of a first class stamp to 60p as they prepare to privatise the Post Office.

Millions to pay more so millionaires can pay less
The millionaire Chancellor has certainly looked after his own with a budget that will see 14,000 of his fellow millionaires paying £40,000 a year less in tax and substantial tax cuts for other high earners pulling in wages of £150,000 or more. How can it be right to penalise pensioners who have paid taxes all their lives and increase the burden on hard working families just to make the super rich even richer ?
Pensioner groups slam budget ‘stealth tax’
Saga Director, Dr Ros Altmann, said: “This Budget contains an enormous stealth tax for older people. Over the next five years, pensioners with an income of between £10,500 and £24,000 will be paying an extra £3 billion in tax. “In short, this Budget is another shocking example of the Government’s attack on poorer and older people. It is dramatically unfair.”

Local people have been telling me how angry they are that the Conservatives and their LibDem allies seem to be more interested in rewarding the rich than in helping pensioners and hard working families on modest incomes to get through these tough times. Mr Cameron’s claim that, ‘we are all in this together,’ has turned out to be yet another empty promise.”

Labour – on your side in tough times
Labour’s alternative budget includes a plan for real growth with a tax on bankers’ bonuses to fund a real job guarantee for unemployed youngsters, tax breaks for small firms taking on new workers and a temporary cut in VAT to boost spending and get the economy moving. We will fight to reverse the ‘Granny Tax’ and the other unfair measures, all of which could be defeated if the LibDems stopped propping up the Tories in Parliament.

Saturday, 24 March 2012


Changes to residents’ parking
Labour keeps its promise 
 Last June Reading Borough Council’s new Labour administration made a commitment to reverse the changes brought in by the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition council, which had resulted in visitors’ permits being cut by half and the time of departure of overnight visitors being brought forward to 8am from 10am.
As your councillor I am writing to let you know that we have kept our promise after I and other members of the Labour group pressed the council to make changes.
Earlier this year we reversed the cut in visitor parking permits – and residents were given an extra book free of charge.
We have also now confirmed that overnight visitors will be able to stay until 10am on the same permit, rather than having to use a new visitor’s permit from 8am. (This will come into effect for new visitor permits issued after April 2nd).
As well as this Labour confirmed in the council budget for next year that the cost of second residents’ permits would remain the same (at £60).
In addition, other changes have been made to simplify renewal procedures for permits. From this year residents will be able to renew permits on line where there have been no changes to vehicle ownership. (The council has asked DLVA to put the process for new vehicles on line as the DVLA currently ask for new ownership documents to be seen by councils).

Friday, 23 March 2012

Osborne's £500 million raid on the NHS

Remember this poster?

If we thought all of the budget nasties were out already with the “granny tax”, we were wrong. Hidden in the budget red book is the news the Osborne has clawed back £500 million from the NHS, and it’s feared the money is going to deficit reduction. Or in other words, that NHS budget looks a little less “protected”.

The HSJ reports: “Figures published in this week’s Budget show that the Department of Health underspent its allocated funding by £900m this year. While £400m will be rolled over for the department to spend in 2012-13, the remaining £500m has been returned to the Treasury.”
Ed Balls has said: “The tax grab on pensioners was not the only hidden bombshell in the Budget. David Cameron and George Osborne have silently taken half a billion pounds from the National Health Service.

“Yet at the same time George Osborne has given a £3 billion tax cut to the richest people in the county – a tax cut worth over £40,000 for the 14,000 people earning over £1 million.

“It tells you everything you need to know about this government that they’re prepared to take money from pensioners and our NHS, while giving a tax cut to the richest people in our country.

“Some people thought the Tories had changed, but with this one Budget we’ve seen their true colour's. It’s the same old Tories – a Budget where millions are asked to pay more so millionaires could pay less.”

Story courtesy of Labour List

Monday, 19 March 2012

Health and Social Care Bill – Guest Blog 

Tom Lake, long time Labour and Health campaigner writes:

Parliament has just published the latest version of the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill.   The Bill starts out by naming a number of highly desirable duties placed on the Secretary of State for Health and then proceeds to deny him any powers to carry out these duties lest he interfere with the autonomy of any provider of the services.

The bill, currently with 472 pages, is substantially in the form of amendments to the National Health Service Act 2006, which currently has 286 pages.  No statement of the 2006 Act as it will be after the application of these amendments is provided – probably for fear that the public might find out what it is all about.

There is no straightforward order in which the present Bill can be read. For example, at section 13, subsection (8) the Bill prescribes a new paragraph (zza) to be inserted before paragraph za of section 272, subsection 6 of the 2006 Act (are you following me?).  But the 2006 Act has no such paragraph. Paragraph za of section 272 of the 2006 Act is actually inserted by section 179 subsection 8 of the present Bill (got that?) . So section 179 , subsection 8 of the Bill has to be read before section 13, subsection 8. In short ,it is a jumble. To place such a muddle before the sovereign and ask for her assent seems the height of disrespect.

The Government’s contribution to the health of the nation is indeed guided by  the maxim, “laughter is the best medicine”. But I fear we shall all be crying before too long.


Friday, 16 March 2012

Vote NHS

Doctors are proposing to stand NHS candidates against the Lib Dems

I have been wondering lately how far the people of this country will allow an unelected, unrepresentative, dictatorial Government push them before they react. It seems that in the medical profession at least that moment is, potentially, not far away!

Click on this link and judge for yourself.