Sunday, 31 October 2010

Harriet Harman Was Wrong

I love red heads. I've always loved red heads of whatever hue.

What Harriet Harman said about Danny Alexander was wrong on so many fronts:

1. It was offensive. As Flashing Blade says "Think she would have called him a black rodent? Can't see that somehow, how about calling him a slag? Nope."

2. It wasn't funny. Alexander has already proved that the comparison with the muppet Beaker the bungling, hapless assistant is more apt.

3. Have fun at his expense for being someone who avoided paying capital gains tax on the profit he made from his taxpayer-funded second home in London, having told the House of Commons authorities that it was his second home, while telling the Revenue and Customs it was his main residence.

And then remind people that this is the LibDem who Cameron, Clegg & Osborne have put in charge of pursuing tax dodgers and evaders while cutting public services!

Now Harriet, that's the real joke!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Cameron "Betrayal" And Defeat In Europe

There are those in the Conservative Party who blame David Cameron for failing to deliver an overall majority at the general election.

Now, he appears to be irritating the likes of Daniel Hannan MEP and Lord Tebbit with his weak cave-in during discussions over the EU budget: some are even calling it "betrayal" and "surrender".

While Cameron blusters on about winning a "spectacular success" in limiting the increase in budget to 2.9%, the harsh reality is that it is nothing of the sorts: the 2.9% increase was agreed by Finance Ministers in August.

What happened to Cameron's big push for a budget cut, or at least a freeze, which he was promising only last week? Defeated.

And MEPs in the European Parliament, who voted by a whopping majority of 564 to 92 to increase the Budget next year by 6% to £114 billion, are not going to roll over and meekly accept 2.9%.

So what will Cameron have won? Nothing.

Friday, 29 October 2010

LibDems Trounced In By-Election

Here's an interesting result from London.

At the by-election held in Kentish Town yesterday (28 Oct) I'm told that the LibDems poured in a lot of outsiders, to support their candidate who had been a sitting councillor in the ward until deposed in the elections last May, against a virtually unknown Labour candidate.

Jenny Headlam-Wells, Labour, 1411 votes (53%)
Nick Russell, LibDems, 715 (27%)
Naomi Aptowitzer, Green, 349 (13%)
Will Blair, Conservative, 186 (7%)

I guess when the tide turns ...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Lessons Of Government: Don't Break Your Promises

Coalition collaborator Vince Cable pullled out of an Oxford University event last night after being warned that students were preparing to stage a major demonstration. Saint Vince was due to give a lecture on the "lessons of government".

Students had planned to demonstrate over the coalition's plans to cut higher education funding and raise tuition fees to at least £7,000 - probably nearer £12,000 a year if you want to study at Oxford.

A police spokesman said: "Thames Valley Police was putting plans in place for the visit of Vince Cable to the Oxford University Exams School on October 28. However, Mr Cable's office has today advised Thames Valley Police that following their own risk assessment, they have made the decision to cancel the event."

I Love This ... Catch It While You Can

EMI and the super cool Jay-Z & Alicia keep getting this taken off YouTube - serious sense of humour loss!

A Reading version - someone, anyone? Meadway, Madejski, Oracle, Oxford Road ... it's all here.

Labour Takes Poll Lead Amid Cuts Anxiety

Richard Willis is usually excellent at publishing this sort of polling data, but I guess he must be busy installing parking meters around the town centre. (By the way, Richard, the Shinfield Road is still a mess - it's ridiculous to have to queue at 7.40pm in light traffic!)

Anyway, Richard doesn't normally shy away from publishing bad news, but here it is: The Tories are behind Labour (in a Populus poll) for the first time since November 2007.

Labour has taken the lead in a new opinion poll amid growing public anxiety over the largest spending cuts since the Second World War.

The latest Populus survey for the Times puts Ed Miliband's party up one point since September to 38 per cent, the first time Labour has led the Conservatives since November 2007. David Cameron's party has dropped two points to 37, with their coalition poodles, the LibDems, on 15 per cent.

Other findings in the poll suggest that David Cameron's government has failed to convince voters that the spending review was both fair and necessary. 58 per cent of voters think the effect of the cuts will be unfair and a majority believe that the coalition is cutting more than it needs to. Only a third think that the government has managed to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Millionaire Clegg Defends Social Cleansing

I guess it should come as no surprise that Nick Clegg - son of a banker, educated at top private school Westminster and Cambridge University, where he was a member of the Conservative Association - should be entirely supportive of forcing poor families out of the wealthy areas of London.

Doing his half an hour a month job at the House of Commons despatch box yesterday - a special session because he has no departmental resposibilities - Clegg trumpted that the state should not support families who can't afford to live privately in those areas, regardless of however long they have lived there.

That's that then. Let the exodus begin. The poor should pack their bags, get out of his neighbourhood and get on the train to Reading.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

You Can't Trust The LibDems On Affordable Housing

Sadly, "providing affordable housing is no longer a government priority" and thousands of tenants could be trapped in a lifetime of poverty.

The LibDem/Tory coalition government has slashed the affordable housebuilding budget by 60% - so threatening thousands of private sector construction industry jobs - and are tripling rents. According to the National Housing Federation, some low income families will have to find an extra £9,000 a year in rent.

Before the election the LibDems said "for poorer families, the struggle for somewhere decent to live has got much harder". Now, with their Tory friends, they've made it much worse! Don't let them say that we are all in this together.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Parking Meters Installed In Reading Today

Parking meters are being installed in Reading town centre this week - I saw two around the Forbury this morning.

Although Reading council's consultation exercise only closed on Friday 15 October - and never appeared on the council's website consultation page - this is a different matter.

As the lead member for Planning & Transport Cllr Richard Willis pointed out on this blog earlier in the month "We are proposing a two year trial of the technology in the town centre only. IF that is successful then we will consider rolling it out to some other areas including the University and Hospital areas."

Now, while I'm not sure why the technology of presumably "off the shelf" meters need testing - surely these aren't bespoke machines for Reading? - I'm happy to accept Cllr Willis' assurance that this is a genuine trial.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

London Poor To Be Dumped In Reading

Benefit cuts by the LibDem/Tory coalition government to some of the poorest families in London will see them driven out of wealthy areas and being moved to Bed & Breakfasts and private lets in Reading - and force prices up in the town.

Representatives of London boroughs told MPs last week that councils have already block-booked bed and breakfasts and other private accommodation outside the capital – from Hastings on the south coast, to Reading to the west and Luton to the north – to house those who will be priced out of the London market.

Councils in the capital have warned that 82,000 families – more than 200,000 people – could be on the move, forced out of London because private landlords will not cut their rents to the level of caps imposed by ministers. The councils have been "procuring bed and breakfast accommodation" to meet the demand of those being made homeless since last June.

This has a familiar ring to it. In the early 1980's I worked with homeless people in Reading and it wasn't unusual for London councils to arrange B&B rooms in Reading to house London's homeless - including giving them rail tickets to travel here. This sometimes made it more difficult and more expensive to meet Reading's own needs. This could well happen again, causing more costs to Reading Council.

It's no co-incidence that the LibDem/Tories have just relaxed the rules governing houses in multiple occupation. This begins to smell like a form of economic cleansing by the LibDem/Tory government.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Navy Lark

Just as the Royal Navy was coming to terms with the government's decision to scrap the Ark Royal, while work continues on two new aircraft carriers - one going into service without any planes, and the other probably ending up as a Prison ship anchored off Portland, Dorset - then they have to explain another careless use of precious assets.

HMS Astute, Britain's brand new state-of-the art, nuclear-powered attack submarine, equipped with the latest stealth technology and "a world beating" sonar system with a range of 3,000 nautical miles, ran aground in familiar waters during an exercise off the Isle of Skye.

One of its operational tasks is to drop special forces discreetly ashore, yet it managed to get stuck in mud while transferring men and supplies to a boat. The cost of repairs could run into millions of pounds to the £1.2billion sub.

Local lifeboatman Ross McKerlich said he was amazed that the submarine went ahead with a crew transfer where it did. "These big subs normally lie six miles off shore. I have never seen a sub as big as this come this close. Someone's made an error."

Neither Sub Lieutenant Phillips, Chief Petty Officer Pertwee nor Able Seaman Johnson were available for comment.

Friday, 22 October 2010

LibDems Crushed In Cuts Backlash

Here's an early indication of the way people are feeling about the LibDem's support for the Tory cuts agenda - slaughtered in the court of public opinion.

They've sold their souls for a sniff of power. Let them eat their crumbs of comfort for now.

Coming to a ballot box near you in 28 weeks time!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Go With Gavin!

Redlands Labour Party has selected Jan Gavin as their candidate for the next council elections in May 2011.
Jan is a former teacher and education advisor and has lived and worked in Reading for more than 30 years.
She is an experienced campaigner and community activist and is already busy working for Redlands people.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

You Can't Trust The LibDems On Nuclear Power

Before the election the LibDems said "Both Labour and Conservatives support the construction of new nuclear power stations. More nuclear power will soak up subsidy, centralise energy production and hinder development of Britain’s vast renewable resources. Nuclear has a dirty legacy and increases global security risks. We oppose construction of further nuclear power stations."

Now, having made deals to get around the Cabinet table, "In an astonishing U-turn", Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne – a once vocal opponent of nuclear power - ditched one of their most distinctive pledges and said the eight power plants were vital to fill Britain’s looming energy gap." Until recently Huhne had seven anti-nuclear speeches on his website.

He also shelved plans to build a 10 mile barrage across the Severn estuary to generate ‘green’ electricity from tides. It aimed to meet 5% of Britain’s electricity needs.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Moving On Up

Thanks to the enduring Adrian Windisch for providing this service.

Frankly, I'm amazed that after such a recent return this blog is hot on the heels of the trail blazing Jane Griffiths and Cllr Richard Willis (now the longest continuous voice of an elected representative in the Reading blogosphere) - so thanks, friend or foe, for tuning in. Remember, if you don't like it, don't read it.

It's clear that the local LibDems, who previously made such a big noise of connecting with people through the internet, are now retrenching (aka retreating to the Civic Offices bunker).

I've previously commented on the fact that Redlands LibDems have decided "it's just a tool" which they no longer use (Cllr Glenn Goodall, really!) and the less obvious, all capturing LibDem vehicle Reading List has also been parked. And, well, the infrequent Was Was 'Ere no longer has any local relevance.

I guess we blog when we have something to say. Nuff said.

You Can't Trust The LibDems on Housing

It appears that the local LibDems can turn tricks for their Tory masters just as quickly as their Westminster chums.

As John Ennis reports, last year, when in opposition, the scrutiny panel chaired by LibDem Daisy Benson argued for better information for residents on planning controls on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s), so residents could report breaches to the Council, and for better enforcement of planning policies - and Labour put a batch of strong new controls in place.

But now a decision by Tory Housing Minister Grant Shapps to scrap the need to apply for planning permission to convert a home to a house in multiple occupation (HMO), is welcomed by Benson - in a press release as Lead Councillor she rejoices that in future "many of Reading's landlords will save time and money by no longer having to fill out planning application forms and paying to submit them to the Council".

Landlords of houses in Redland's student-land will love that - if not the local residents.

Jan Gavin, Labour’s candidate for Redlands where the HMO problem is greatest, is launching a petition to press the Council to bring in their own local controls now, without waiting for the Government. Jan says “The Council has the power to require landlords to ask for planning permission for conversions, and I am sure that people in Redlands and in other East Reading wards would want them to exercise that power immediately, to plug the gap that Grant Shapps has made. There’s no time to waste: I’m shocked that Daisy Benson, who is after all a Redlands Councillor, did not make that commitment as part of her press release.”

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Knocking On Doors And Being Called Liars

Here's an interesting (if raw) blog from a LibDem activist in this part of the world.

He seems really fed up with the hypocrisy of his party leadership who promised to say goodbye to broken promises - then flunked their first real test.

Shame that the Redlands LibDems either want to be Clegg Cheerleaders or else remain awkwardly silent.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Biggles Takes It Rough

RAF top brass have begun a last-ditch attempt to save scores of combat jets as ministers prepare to make deep cuts in Britain’s air power which could leave the UK "vulnerable to attack".

It seems that the Navy has won its battle for two new aircraft carriers and with the already over-stretched Army facing only modest cuts, the RAF is likely to bear the brunt of the cuts.

The Prime Minister’s analysis of future defence needs were rejected by the RAF. Air Marshal Anderson said that the RAF’s fleet of fast jets was vital to national security “despite what amateur theorists might assert from their armchairs. Without such an air defence capability, the UK would not be able to guarantee security of its sovereign air space and we would be unable to respond effectively to a 9/11-style terrorist attack from the air.” And Hilary Clinton seems to share the same view.

Mr Cameron will announce the details of the defence review next Tuesday.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Mein Fuhrer!

The LibDem/Conservative coalition on Reading Borough Council is setting new standards in courtesy.

Having first lavished tax payers money on re-configuring their bunker in the basement at the Civic Offices, I'm now told that should a fellow councillor wish to speak to the Hon. Andrew Cumptsy, in public at least, they are required to address him as "Leader". Pop along to a cabinet meeting and see if it's true.

But then again, Iain Duncan Smith did say recently that "Work will make you free".


Friday, 8 October 2010

The Picture They Wanted To Ban

Apparently the new ruling LibDem/Tory coalition on Reading council are so thin-skinned and up themselves that they are striking out everywhere.

Not content with axing £1.5million of services to some of the town's most disadvantaged children, they also think they can bully others into submission.

Hence their hissy complaints about the above cartoon of new Education axe man councillor Mark Ralph. Personally, I bet he was quietly flattered at the attention.

More to come folks, lots more to come.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Return To Sutton?

That's Alfred Sutton Senior School, of course!

While it is to be hoped that cool heads will prevail and the current row over Wokingham council's move to exclude Reading school children from their schools will be resolved, isn't time we came up with a long term solution? I fear any answer now will just be putting sticking plaster on a problem that will eventually return, perhaps next time with less wriggle room.

Last year when Thames Valley University announced they were pulling out of Reading, I asked whether their Kings Road site could be used as an East Reading secondary school.

The whole question of why so many Reading kids are bussed out of town every day for their education must be reviewed again. This time the council should look at any opportunities for bringing back a secondary school on the Alfred Sutton and TVU sites at Crescent Road: as it stands, this is just about the only meaningful site left in east Reading.

I know from my own family experience how difficult these matters can be. As my son concluded his primary education at Redlands School - a truly outstanding school, in my opinion - we were faced with him having to go each day not to Maiden Erlegh, but on to Bulmershe. How on earth could that make any sense?

So come on councillors, sort it out, for once and for all!

Monday, 4 October 2010

You Can't Trust The LibDems On Tax

Remember this press stunt before the election. Nick Clegg declares "We will not have to raise VAT to deliver our promises ... Let me repeat that: Our plans do not require a rise in VAT".

In order to get into government, Clegg and his Tory-supporting LibDems have agreed an increase in VAT to 20% from next January.

Pre-election Clegg also said "It is time for the Conservatives to come clean ... without decimating schools, hospitals and police forces across the country."

Er, Nick, that's what they - and YOU - are doing. Haven't you noticed?

Pay & Display - A Sham Consultation

Reading's LibDem/Tory coalition council has found a new way to fleece us and write a new chapter in it's ignominious transport and planning history.

Having learned nothing from past bonkers ideas, from the One Way IDR right up to the current Shinfield Road fiasco, now they will introduce Pay & Display parking across much of the town.

But any thought that this new scheme depends on the outcome of a public consultation is completely wrong. It's a sham consultation.

1. The Tories said they would do it before that last election and the LibDems are dutifully obliging them.
2. They have already started with pay machines due to land in the Oxford Road in a couple of weeks time.
3. It's not listed on the RBC website consulation page, which boasts "If we are planning to do something in your community or across the Borough, we need your feedback. In this section of the site, you'll find all the current consultations that you can give us your opinion." As I post this, it's not there.

In Redlands the council recently rejected an application for a new car park at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, despite the fact that the need for another has long been identified by RBC.

Instead Cllr Willis has said "a review of parking in the area round the hospital was already under way". In other words, RBH can't have a car park, but RBC will make money from introducing pay and display parking in residential streets surrounding the hospital. Let me be clear, this is where I live - and I believe it's already been decided.

And how many of our silent local LibDem ward councillors will be affected by these changes in Redlands? None.