Monday, 31 December 2012

Ed Miliband's New Year Message 2013

 
 
And a Happy New Year from me to one and all!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Conservative Home: 2015 Election Is Already Lost

Paul Goodman, Executive Editor of the influential ConservativeHome website has written in the Telegraph, describing how with two years to go, the Tories have already lost the next general election .
 

Four Factors Conspire To Make A Tory Majority An Outright Impossibility



No chance of an encore: David Cameron, flanked by his wife Samantha,
takes power after the 2010 election Photo: AP
 


The first of these apocalyptic horsemen is the Conservatives’ plight among ethnic minority voters.

That it is probably the least significant is no comfort for the Tories. In 2001, one in 10 voters were members of an ethnic minority. By 2050, that will have risen to one in five. Yet Mr Cameron’s party scraped a paltry 16 per cent among these voters in 2010, and that total is likely to fall even lower. Pakistani-origin Muslims, black voters, and Indian-origin Hindus have spread from Labour’s urban heartlands into the marginal suburban seats the Tories need to win.
 
Alok Sharma MP, has been put in charge of a drive to raise support. But aware though it may be, No 10 is still not aware enough. Mr Sharma needs more people and money to make the kind of long-term impact that his party needs.
The same-sex marriage plan is also a contributor to the Tories’ second big problem

The rise of Ukip, which is poised to top the Euro-elections in 2014. Its support doesn’t all come from former Conservative voters, though polling suggests that this is now increasing. Nor are its ratings driven by hostility to the EU, though this is certainly a factor: immigration and crime enrage its supporters more.

In short, Ukip is not so much a political revolt against the governing class as a cultural one – an angry Poujadist movement of largely male and mostly older voters. No wonder Nigel Farage is flying the flag of opposition to same-sex marriage, just as he has long brandished that of support for grammar schools. He is wooing former Tory supporters by presenting Ukip as the Conservative Party they used to vote for. It won’t win any seats in 2015. But by filching many of the Tories’ activists and former voters, it is splitting the Right.

The third problem for the Prime Minister is the converse of the second – that the Left is remarkably united.

Respect has failed to take off. The BNP, which during the last parliament was competing with Labour for white working-class votes in some seats, has collapsed. Most importantly, Left-wing Liberal Democrat voters have decamped to Labour en masse – which is why the Coalition’s junior partner has been fighting with Ukip in some polls for third place. Ed Miliband is finding it very hard to persuade voters to switch from Mr Cameron’s party to his. But he doesn’t need to do so in order to nudge Labour’s poll share, come 2015, into the mid-30s or higher: all he must do is to hold on to those Lib Dem defectors.

This brings us to the fourth and biggest problem for the Conservatives. Britain’s electoral geography, whereby Labour’s vote is spread more efficiently, has placed the Tories at a disadvantage for the past 20 years.

Under the proposed boundary review, the Tories would have had to lead Labour by four points to win a bare majority. With the review dead in the water, the required lead stretches to seven points. Like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, Mr Cameron is being asked to do all the running he can just to stay in the same place.

“If you want to get somewhere else,” she tells Alice, “you must run at least twice as fast as that.” So it is for Mr Cameron. To outpace Mr Miliband, he must raise his party’s share of the vote by four points or more. No governing party has succeeded in doing so in modern times. The next election may allow him to form a minority government or try to re-form the Coalition. But not even Scottish independence, which would release the Tories’ natural majority in England, can come in time (not that it is likely to happen, in any event) for him to win outright.

This is less a complaint than a simple observation – the inevitable outcome of the failure to win in 2010. Labour has won three of the last four elections. It is set to dictate the terms of the coming one in 2015. Losing older voters on the one side, failing to win ethnic minority ones on the other, and all at sea in Scotland and in parts of the North, Conservatism has been living through a crisis for the past 20 years – one which opposition after 2015 may not relieve.

Paul Goodman is executive editor of ConservativeHome

You can read the article in full on the Telegraph website.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Somebody That I Used To Know


This is one of my favourite songs from 2012.
Although originally released in 2011 by Gotye (Belgian- Australian Wally de Backer) and featuring New Zealander Kimbra, most people will know that it made No.1 in the UK earlier this year. The song has since been nominated in the the Record of the Year category at the 2013 Grammy Awards.
At times Gotye's voice reminds me of Ozzy Osbourne in the early 1970s Black Sabbath "Paranoid" era.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas

 
Happy Christmas everyone.
I hope you have a peaceful holiday season.
My thanks to all who have supported my work in 2012.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Sharma Scrooged!

I attended an enjoyable Christmas lunch at a community association in east Reading earlier today. This is one of the anuual events I always look forward to - with an excellent curry on offer.

However, this year was particularly amusing when the master of ceremonies introduced, amongst the guests, Martin Salter, Alok Sharma and Viki Groulef as the former, present and future MPs for Reading West!

The look on Sharma's face was one which might have made Alastair Sim laugh out loud!

Some Tories started drifting away from the event describing it as a "Labour Party Rally" - surely no way to describe the Pakistani Community in Reading!

No Rob Wilson in attendance or any Reading Tory councillors.

No Lib Dems either - but they are very thin on the ground these days.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Burglaries In East Reading

Message sent by
Liz Herbert (Police, NHW & Community Messaging Co-ordinator, Reading LPA)

Over the past few days there have been a number of burglaries in the East Reading Area:

14/12/12-19.45-21.15 Hatherley Road:
Unknown offender has smashed small window in front door-opened lock and stole small electrical items stolen.

15/12/12-00.00 Donnington Road:
Offender has gained entry by smashing three rear ground floor windows. Offender has been disturbed and Officers attended and I am pleased to inform you a male has been arrested.

16/12/12-02.54 Palmer Park Avenue:
Offenders were seen smashing fence and Officers have attended and two suspects have been arrested.

15/12/12-16/12/12 17.00-16.00: Conquest Court, St Johns Hill:
Unknown offenders have gained entry by unknown means and stole various property.

Please report any suspicious sightings, incidents or any information to The Thames Valley Police Enquiry Centre on 101 quoting URN955 16/12/12.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Norovirus at RBH

Ed Donald, Chief Executive of Royal Berkshire Hospital has confirmed that there has been an outbreak of the Norovirus at the hospital.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Thames Valley Police Cold Case Operation


Thames Valley Police has launched a force-wide campaign, Operation Nightingale.

This operation has been established to identify eight unrelated cases of bodies from fatal incidents that remain unidentified across the Thames Valley, dating back to the 1970’s. It is the initiative of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Review team.

The eight cold cases, which cover Berkshire East, Berkshire West, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire remain unresolved with the victim’s identity yet to be ascertained.

Operation Nightingale has been put in place following a directive from the UK Missing Persons Bureau (www.missingpersons.police.uk) encouraging all police forces nationwide to review outstanding cases of unidentified bodies and remains.

These cases are likely to be people who have been reported missing by family or friends and whilst the majority may not have been the victim of a crime, identifying who they are is an important step in providing closure to those families and friends.

Anyone with information that can help identify any of the people in these cases should contact police on the non-emergency phone number 101

quoting URN 982 12/11/12

alternatively email: OpNightingale@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk

If you don't want to speak directly to the police, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.



Thursday, 13 December 2012

East Reading School: Urgent Consultation

Parents and readers wishing to find out more about the proposal for a GEMS Secondary School somewhere in east Reading can do so here:

http://www.east-reading-school.org.uk/

and can fill out the questionnaire here:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/S52HSZK

I am grateful to Councillor Isobel Ballsdon for sending me the link.

I urge all parents to look at the proposals and participate in the consultation - please get involved!

 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

East Reading School Report

Matt Rodda reports:
Labour wants to work with all interested parties to help provide a new school in East Reading. We think it is important to put aside party politics and to provide places for children.

I attended Rob Wilson’s meeting last night and it was interesting to listen to parents and hear more about the proposals.

Rob Wilson is proposing a four form entry free school managed by GEMS on a site within walking distance of much of Park Ward. The group who are working on this are trying to submit a bid with GEMS in early January, which unfortunately gives very little time to show parental support and deal with the other aspects of the bid.

There are concerns that the Department for Education may not approve it or ask for it to be rewritten – which may lead to the group applying for a later tranche of funding.

It was interesting that a number of parents asked questions of Rob Wilson and GEMS, questions asked included:

• What is in this for GEMS?
• Where is the site?
• How will it be built/converted in time?
• Why is there no sixth form?
• How will the school cater for ethnic minorities and what is their involvement?

There may also still be issues about finding/purchasing a site.

Paul Woodward reports:
Meeting was polite, largely because the proposal is so thin at the moment. Wilson admitted it was 50/50 whether it will get through. The GEMS reps were upfront about the project, accepting that, for them, it was largely about company promotion. The audience didn't swallow the "we just want to educate children" line they started off with.

Bottom line is that there's not so much money in private education, so they're looking to get a foothold in the public-funded sector. This project would be run as 'not for profit' but would in reality be a 'loss leader' for them.

The parents plan is to use a GEMS 'off the shelf' model. It'll be for 600 pupils and will teach the English bacc (they think they'll stand a better chance of success if they use the govt's 'flagship' qualification). They want to open in 2014. The application needs to be in by 4th Jan 2013.

No hint of where school will be sited.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Wilson's Secret School Plans Revealed

"For me to know and you to find out"

Current Reading East MP Rob Wilson is holding a public meeting tomorrow (Tuesday 11 December) on the issue of a new secondary school for the area.

Reading Council's Lead Councillor for Education, John Ennis, met with Wilson two months ago and when asked about his involvement with an organisation to build a new secondary school Wilson indicated it was for him to know and us to find out and suggested that he (Wilson) did not need to consult parents and we will find out when it is finalised.

Fast forward to last Friday when Reading Council was approached by GEMS - a global education provider -  with a  request that they be  allowed to approach schools to get parents to complete a questionnaire about their preferences for a new secondary school.

The DfE has stipulated that 150 parents of year four children must sign a form stating they would make the new school their first choice and 150 parents of year five children also signing the preferential form.

As this exercise has to be completed by 4th January, RBC readily agreed to allow GEMS to write to some schools - Redlands, Alfred Sutton and Newtown - asking them to ask parents to complete forms.

Wilson has obviously had a problem with his plan A as he is rushing out to consult and he has gone cap in hand to the council.

It should be noted that the council is helping Wilson with this plan despite his arrogance, for the sake of the children of east Reading and will help further. But there must be full parent involvement ijn these plans and Wilson should stop playing politics with schools.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

New East Reading School Meeting

From the Reading East Conservatives website:

New East Reading School planned

Friday, 7 December, 2012
 
On Tuesday 11th December Rob Wilson MP will be holding a meeting for parents located in east Reading to hear about and discuss plans and progress for a new East Reading School.
The meeting will take place at Reading College on the King’s Road, RG1 4HJ, starting at 7pm and ending at 8:30pm.
The meeting is specifically for parents of children who might use a new secondary school.
 
Rob Wilson's Twitter:
 
I'm inviting East Reading parents to a meeting this Tuesday at 7pm at Reading College to discuss plans and progress of a new 11-16 school
 
And a couple of comments from Facebook Group "Parents for Education in East Reading":
 
"If you look at the web post it says it is specifically for parents of those who may use the school, this is not the case. The community as a whole is invited."
 
"The invite is for all interested but it is intended for those who might consider their children attending in the future."

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Labour's New Candidate For Reading East

Labour Party members in Reading East have chosen Matt Rodda to fight for the party at the next general election.
 
Matt is a Katesgrove councillor with a wealth of experience - from writing speeches for government ministers to working with residents in successful street-level community campaigns.
 
I look forward to working with Matt in bringing Reading East back to Labour.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Redlands Primary Is A Good School


Ofsted visted Redlands Primary School on 8th and 9th November. Following their inspection they have rated Redlands as a good school.
 
It is pleasing to note that Ofsted described the school as "fully inclusive and provides pupils with a good start to their education". This is all the more impressive when it is recognised that in addition to English, 41 other languages are spoken across the school.

And perhaps best of all they report that "Pupils enjoy school" and "They feel safe and behave extremely well at all times".

You can read the full report here.

Congratulations to head teacher Sarah Bergson and all the staff, pupils and governors for all their hard work in running this great school in the heart of our community. I am proud that my son attended this school.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Lib Dem Result "Worst Ever"

Clegg Led Lib Dems To Eighth Place In By-Election

The Liberal Democrats’ showing in the Rotherham by-election is the worst performance ever by a major political party, experts say, as support for Nick Clegg’s party slumped to eighth behind behind the BNP, Respect and the English Democrats.

No major political party had ever performed this poorly in a Westminster by-election. Rob Hayward, a by-elections’ expert, told The Daily Telegraph the Lib Dems’ showing in Rotherham was the worst “in any by election on record”.
 
He said “The Liberal Democrats performances in the three by-elections and their eighth place in Rotherham are the worst results for any major party in a series of by-elections ever. “A combination of eighth place and barely two per cent of the vote in Rotherham is the worst single performance by a major party in any by election on record."
 
The collapse of the Lib Dems’ vote came as evidence strengthened that the party has lost its place as the political repository for the traditional protest vote to UKIP.

 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Christmas Shopping List

 
Thanks to Cllr Chris Maskell for highlighting this leaflet.
 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Burglaries In East Reading: Update

This is a message from Thames Valley Alert Information sent on behalf of Thames Valley Police
Message sent by
Liz Herbert (Police, NHW & Community Messaging Co-ordinator, Reading LPA)

Over the past few days there have been a number of burglaries in the East Reading area:

22/11/12: 14.30-16.00 in Alexander Road, Reading:
Unknown offender has gained entry via unknown means and stole four laptops and chargers.

23/11/12-24/11/12 22.00-08.27 in Crescent Road, Reading:
Unknown offender has forced downstairs ground floor window and various property stolen .

23/11/12-24/11/12 17.00-10.43 in London Road, Reading:
Unknown offender has forced door and stole electrical equipment .

23/11/12 11.00am: Eastern Avenue, Reading:
Unknown offender has forced ground floor window and various property stolen.

24/11/12 23.30: Upper Redlands Road, Reading:
Unknown offender has tried to gain access via front door, no entry gained so smashed front window.
Offender possibly disturbed by neighbour and ran away.

23/11/12-25/11/12 17.00-20.00: Eldon Road, Reading:
Unknown offender has forced open window and stole various electrical items.

Please inform your NHW members and report any suspicious sightings,incidents or any information to The Thames Valley Enquiry Centre on 101 quoting URN1121 25/11/12.

Monday, 26 November 2012

So Rob, Where's The New School?

Wilson Working In Secret On Plans For New School
On 27 September a spokesperson for Reading East MP Rob Wilson told a public meeting called by Reading Borough Council to discuss about options regarding a projected shortfall of school places in the area that the absent MP was working on plans for a new school for the area - indeed, he was said to be "60% there" in his plans for a new 11-16 years school for east Reading".

So Rob, two months on, where are the plans for the new school?

I know you rejected my offer of help. That's OK. But there are still a lot of anxious parents in east Reading waiting to hear of your secret plans. So come on, tell them more - or at least a date when you will reveal all.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Burglaries In East Reading

Message sent by
Liz Herbert (Police, NHW & Community Messaging Co-ordinator, Reading LPA)

Over the past few days there have been a number of burglaries in the East Reading Neighbourhood Area:

19/11/12-20/11/12 08.00-18.45 in Eldon Road:

Unknown offender has gained entry via forced ground floor bedroom window and various property stolen.

19/11/12: Eastern Avenue:

Property has been found with window wide open and unknown what has been stolen.

18/11/12 22.20-02.25 Alexandra Road:

Unknown offender has gained entry via forced sliding window and various property stolen.

Please inform your NHW Members and report any suspicious sightings, incidents or any information to The Thames Valley Enquiry Centre on 101 quoting URN1540 19/11/12.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

3806 Homes Waiting To Be Built In Reading


Badly Needed New Homes Waiting To Be Built
As at 31 March 2012 there were 3,806 new housing units - "homes" - with planning permission in Reading, but not yet built.

Now while we know that some of these are on large active sites, such as Kennet Island or Dee Park, many seem stuck in the current malaise affecting the UK housing market.

This could be summarised as a lack of available credit for first-time buyers and those wishing to move the housing ladder, with bank and other lenders demanding huge deposits and high interest rates for those lucky few they deem worthy of a mortgage.

Nationally housebuilder Bovis is sitting on at least three years of plots. At current house buying activity levels, it may have more than five years' worth of plots for its mix of three to five bedroom family homes. They are not facing planning delays because they are all parcels of land with planning consent.

Other housebuilders are in the same position. They have bought plots in the aftermath of the crash and are only slowly releasing them for building as demand allows. Barratt Developments said lack of mortgage lending was holding back a "sustainable" increase in housebuilding as it reported strong first-half profits

The Bovis chief executive, David Ritchie, is clear. He could build many more homes if banks were willing to grant mortgages to homebuyers who have only small deposits.

So we have plots of land with planning permissions for new housing already granted, people in need of decent, affordable housing, unemployed building workers, and service industry businesses closing.

However, to get things started, there is no question where the barrier lies. Planning is a red herring. Credit, or the lack of it, stands in the way of demand and new housebuilding.

And yet what is the Coalition Government's response to all this? Cameron announces an end to the right of residents to challenge planning decisions!

Talk about looking at something through the wrong end of the telescope. You really couldn't make it up!

(Note: 3,806 new homes is roughly the size of the "old Redlands" area around the university.)

 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Coalition Green Deal "In Tatters"

Barker: No One Has Signed Up For Coalition Green Deal 
The Coalition’s flagship green energy project is “in tatters” after a Government minister admitted that not a single household has registered for the deal.

The £125 million scheme launched in June 2011 by Climate Change Minister Greg Barker with claims that it would be “the biggest home improvement programme since the Second World War” is now said to be in "lying in tatters" because no one has signed up for it.

The Green Deal is the Government’s flagship policy to make homes more energy efficient and – ultimately - cut energy bills, which have soared in recent years. This week British Gas raised prices for the 10 million homes it supplies, and other large companies have done the same.

Under the Green Deal people can borrow up to £10,000 from a private sector loan provider and have loft and wall insulation fitted in their homes. The loan is repaid over a period of up to 25 years through higher bills. The idea is that bills will fall once the loan has been paid off because the houses need less energy.

Central to the deal is the ‘golden rule’, which states that the expected savings that a homeowner ultimately makes must be equal to or greater than the cost of the work being done.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Children In Need: Is This Fair?


An analysis of the level of central government funding demostrates how the cuts have been biased against Labour controlled councils, despite having significantly more children in need.

A look at the councils in Berkshire shows that:

Labour controlled
Reading (with 21.7% children in poverty) has lost £81.47 per head between 2010/11 and 2012/13
Slough (22/7%) lost £86 per head

Conservative controlled
Wokingham (7%) lost £9.10 per head
Windsor & Maidenhead (9.9%) lost £15.20 per head
Bracknell (11.8%) lost £34.19 per head
West Berkshire(11.1%) lost £35.77 per head

Reading has lost 9 times the amount of govermnent support compared to Wokingham, despite having 3 times the number of children living in poverty.

I do hope neither of our Tory MPs pop up in the news exhorting us all to support tonight's Children In Need fund raising events, when their government are so biased against children in need in Reading.

However, if you do wish to donate to Children In Need click here.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Have Your Say Meeting: 20 Nov 12

This is a message on behalf of Thames Valley Police
Message sent by
Liz Herbert (Police, NHW & Community Messaging Co-ordinator, Reading LPA)

This is a message from your local neighbourhood policing team they are holding the following meeting:Redlands & Park Have Your Say – Tuesday 20/11/12 – The Arch, Cemetery Junction 5-6pm
You are most welcome to attend if you have any issues or concerns.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Welcome Liz!

Liz Terry, Minster Ward
Reading's political blogosphere has another new member - welcome to Liz Terry, Labour councillor in Minster ward. You can find Liz's blog here. Smile at the bouquets and laugh at the brickbats Liz - then carry on blogging!
 
Liz and fellow ward councillors Paul Gittings and Marian Livingston are forming a formidable campaigning team in Minster ward. The council elections last May saw Minster move from a being a marginal to a relatively safe Labour seat. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

UTC Update


News update about UTC Reading from Lee Nicholls, Chair of Governors

UTC Reading is dedicated to Computer Science and Engineering. It is non-selective and will open in September 2013 with 60 Key Stage 4 places and 80 Key Stage 5 places, before growing over time to cater for 600 students.
Please see the new UTC Reading 2013/14 prospectus which provides more information on the UTC and the unique curriculum that we have to offer. I would also like to invite you to come along to one of our taster events to find out more. Here you will have the opportunity to meet the new Principal, Joanne Harper, who will outline her plans and ambitions for UTC Reading.
Our first taster event is taking place on 14 November 2012 at the partner premises of Reading College, Kings Road, Reading, RG1 4HJ from 5.30-8.30pm. Other events will take place on the following dates:
 
12 December 2012 Taster event hosted at industry partner Cisco
23 January 2013 Taster event hosted at industry partner Peter Brett Associates
14 March 2013 Taster event hosted at industry partner Microsoft
25 April 2013 Taster event hosted at industry partner Network Rail
16 May 2013 Taster event hosted at academic partner Reading College
 
More information can be found on our website: www.utcreading.co.uk.

Alternatively if you would like to talk to someone please call us on 0118 955 4544 or email enquiries@utcreading.co.uk.
 
Lee Nicholls, Chair of Governors of UTC Reading


 




Sunday, 11 November 2012

Lest We Forget

Armistice Day At The Cenotaph, Forbury Gardens

This year Armistice Day fell on Remembrance Sunday, so while the Mayor of Reading, Cllr Jenny Rynn undertook the traditional civic role at Brock Barracks, the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Deborah Edwards led the two minutes silence at the cenotaph at the Forbury Gardens. It was heartening to see a good number of people of all ages in attendance.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Ward Surgery - Saturday 10 November

St Lukes Parish Hall, Erleigh Road
Redlands Labour Councillors' regular Ward Surgery for residents will be at St Lukes Parish Hall, Erleigh Road, between 10.30am and noon tomorrow (Saturday).

No appointment is necessary and discussions are strictly confidential.

Ward surgeries are held on the second Saturday of each month, alternating between St Lukes Parish Hall and the Hexham Road Community Centre, in addition to our very popular roaming street surgeries all the year round.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Over Half Way

By most accounts this week marks half way through the life of this parliament - thirty months since the last general election in May 2010, and thirty months to go to the next one on Thursday 7 May 2015 - assuming that the coalition lasts until then.

I think for the government and perhaps many MPs in marginal seats, this will be a psychological milestone as they begin to realise that time is beginning to run out for them to be seen to be delivering change or having made an impact.

With the latest estimates suggesting that the government will miss its target of having debt fall as a share of GDP by 2015-16, total public borrowing during the five year lifetime of the government set to outstrip that of the total for the thirteen years of the previous Labour governments, and the billions spent on a series of quantitative easings doing nothing to help business borrowing but killing the value of savings and pensions pots, the political prospects for the coalition partners look equally bleak.

Come election time many may feel that all the hurt and pain levied will have been for nothing - and will  vote accordingly.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Govt "Unable To Commit" To Capping Care Costs

Government U-Turn On Promise To Cap Care Costs
A rising number of elderly people face losing “almost all of their wealth” to pay for social care, after the Government admitted it was “unable to commit” to a promised reform to the adult social care system.
The report, released this week, depicts a bleak picture of the future, with a growing number of pensioners slipping into poverty as they use up their savings to fund care costs.
 
An official review of the social care system published last year (the Dilnot report) recommended that the Coalition should introduce a cap of £35,000 on the maximum amount that people have to pay towards a nursing home. This would stop tens of thousands of people having to sell their homes to fund treatment.
 
Last summer Cameron and Clegg said they would introduce the proposed cap. However, the new report suggests the promise of a cash threshold is quietly being abandoned as this week's report from three government departments - the Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Communities and Local Government - say that the Government is “unable to commit” to the £35,000 cap.
 
The failure to cap care costs will lead to a growing number of people losing their life savings, the submission adds. Without more state help with care costs, officials believe that the number of older people forced to rely on families and friends will double by 2030. One in 10 people already has to pay more than £100,000 towards their care.
 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Decide Europe "Through The Ballot Box"

Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson Called A Referendum On Europe
In May 1975 I had just turned 18 and was about to leave school. On 5 June that year I was able to cast my vote in the national referendum on whether the UK should continue as a member of the European Economic Community. The result was a vote of 67% in favour of remaining in the "Common Market", as it was often referred to at the time, on a 65% turn-out.
 
I was able to vote because the Labour Party, led by Harold Wilson, had promised in it's manifesto for the General Election of October 1974 that the people would decide "through the ballot box" on whether to remain in the EEC.
 
Since 1975 the nine member EEC has morphed through many treaties and names to the almost unrecognisable European Union of twenty seven nations we have today.  There is no doubt that being a member of the EU has brought many benefits - although thankfully the UK avoided being sucked into the disasterous single currency - but it also has many critics.
 
And yet no one younger than people of my age has since been offered the opporunity to once again directly decide whether this arrangement is one we wish to continue, despite a regular series of hints and undertakings by all political parties since.
 
The next elections for the European Parliament are due to be held in June 2014. My view is that the UK government should call another referendum next year in order to seek a fresh mandate from the British people before participating in any further European elections.
 
However, as this is not going to happen, I urge Ed Miliband and those responsible for drafting the Labour Party manifesto for the next UK general election, scheduled to be held on 7 May 2015, to include a clear, unequivocal commitment to hold another national referendum on whether the UK should continue as a member of the European Union. 
 
Let's give the new generation (and anyone of voting age of 54 and younger!) the chance that I was given, to decide "through the ballot box".
 
 
 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

End The Great British Rail Rip Off Now!


Annual Public Subsidy: £4Billion To Private Profits 
Recent opinion polls and on-line surveys now show that between 70% and 90% of the British people would favour a full renationalisation of the railways. I have to say, as a Socialist, I am heartened by that suggestion.

The truth is that the great British public have worked out that it is not renationalisation we can't afford, it is any further franchise fiascos. People don't want the franchises got right - they want them got rid!

When the Tory government brought in the franchise systen in the 1990s they promised "cheaper farers and more competition". But rail privatisation has been bad news for rail travellers in the UK, who now pay double, treble or even ten times the cost of comparative journeys by their continental counterparts.

However, for the likes of Richard Branson it has been a financial bonanza, whose Virgin Trains operation has hoovered up more than a billion pounds of tax-payers' subsidies.

In compiling reasons for renationalising the railways, it would be easy to think just write "West Coast mailine franchise" in big letters and be done with it. West Coast is, of course, the franchise which has already cost us nearly £100million not to award a contract.

The fact that we already have a taxpayer owned railway company running successfully on the East Coast mainline is not something you will hear government ministers talk about. The East Coast main line is run by DOR (Directly Operated Railways) and shows that publicly run rail companies can be run efficiently and deliver better value for money than their private profit making sisters.

The private franchises are costing the country over £4billion a year and most have deals which ensure that if they don't make enough profit, then the government (using our money) streps in and tops them up. It is like a corporate welfare benefit for the most expensive and over-crowded railway network in Europe.

It does not seem to me that there is much competition going into London or down to Wales on trains that were first introduced 36 years ago when I was still an undergraduate - Inter City 125s we called them then, passing in and out of Reading. There is no alternative to First Great Western, who are in effect, like other franchise holders simply regional monopolies. What is the point of having video screens in the back of seats if there are not enough seats to go round?

A couple of weeks ago I had to go to Taunton and went by train. It was £156 day return in standard class. So I can have some sympathy for George Osborne when he got his train ticket the other day, he must have looked at the cost and thought "it must be first class".

Cheaper tickets? No. More competion? No.

Worst Great Western and all their pals need to be brought back into public ownership - and I say, the sooner the better.






Monday, 22 October 2012

Wilson's Days Are Numbered


Next General Election Due On 7 May 2015
The process to find Robert Wilson's successor as MP for Reading East has reached another significant landmark: the short-listing of those to be put before a hustings meeting of Labour Party members before the end of the year.

The hopefuls are:

Cllr Richard Davies – Caversham ward Councillor & local business person
Angela Pober - Slough Labour Party
Cllr Matt Rodda – Katesgrove ward Councillor & former Whitehall advisor
Cllr James Walsh – Slough Borough Councillor
Cllr Paul Woodward – Church ward Councillor & professional education advisor

Mean while over in Reading West, Alok Sharma's replacement wil be one of the following:

Cllr Victoria Groulef - Wycombe Councillor & Group Leader
Christine Quigley - former chair of London Young Labour
Debbie Watson – ex Minster ward Councillor

Personally I would have preferred to see a short-list of two in each constituency, with the prospect of a more exciting "head to head" debate giving candidates more time to develop their arguments - another time perhaps!

Next General Election day on Thursday 7 May 2015 looms ever larger, so Rob and Alok should enjoy their train rides back and fore to Westminster while they can - while  we work hard in Reading to get them out!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Welcome Eileen!


Cllr Eileen McElligott - Church Ward Blogger

Reading's political blogosphere has a new member - welcome to Eileen McElligott, Labour councillor in Church ward. You can read Eileen's debut blog here. Smile at the bouquets and ignore laugh at the brickbats - then carry on blogging!

Eileen and fellow ward councillor Paul Woodward are forming a formidable campaigning team in Church ward. This is, of course, bad news for Tory group leader Tim Harris who has little chance of being re-elected in the ward in 2014 - so who will make way north of the river to find a new seat for Tim?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Squeezed Britain - Cuts Don't Work, They Hurt


Pick up for the free coach organised by Reading Trades Union Council to next Saturday's demonstration in London is 9am outside the UNISON offices, 10 Church Street, RG1 2SD. The coach returns from London at 5pm.
For more information on the "A Future That Works" march and rally click here

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Can You Help Reading's Food Bank?

Readifood, Reading's food bank, is appealing for increased food donations to meet the growing demand for emergency food parcels.

They currently deliver around 50 parcels a week to families and individuals referred to them by Reading Borough Council's Housing and Children's Services, Launchpad (Reading Single Homeless Project), Homestart, Reading Refugee Group and other organisations.

Tinned meats, fish, vegetables and fruits are particularly welcome donations, as well as tea bags, biscuits and toothpaste.

More information and contact details here.




Wednesday, 3 October 2012

My Vision For Britain - Guest Post

A guest post from Ed Miliband, Leader of The Labour Party


I am writing to you today about my vision for Britain.

Today, our country risks becoming two nations, with a million young people out of work, the gap between the richest and everyone else getting worse, and hard work not rewarded.

My core belief is in leaving this country a better place than I found it, and that when people join together, we can overcome any odds.

We did it during the second world war and we did it when rebuilding the country afterwards. That is the spirit Britain needs today.

The mission of the Labour government I will lead will be to rebuild Britain as One Nation.

Click here to join me in rebuilding Britain

That means a One Nation banking system: banks that work for all of us, not gamble our savings in casino operations.

It means a One Nation skills system: a gold standard of vocational education which leads to many more apprenticeships which give opportunities to those who don’t go to university as well as those who do.

It means building a One Nation economy with rules that encourage long-term investment.

It means keeping the United Kingdom together, making immigration work for everybody and recognising that at the moment it does not, and standing up for the values of the NHS.

As another Opposition leader - Benjamin Disraeli - urged 140 years ago, we must govern Britain as One Nation.

Not divide this country between the richest and the rest like this government is doing.

It means governing for the struggling small business as much as the public sector, and standing up to vested interests.

And it means building a country where everybody has a stake, prosperity is fairly shared, and we all feel part of something bigger than ourselves, like we did this summer during the Olympics.

Most of all, it means recognising that we share a destiny and a common life.

That is my vision for Britain.

And that is how we will govern.

Click here and let's get to work

Ed Miliband





Saturday, 29 September 2012

A New School In East Reading?

East Reading Still Needs A New School
I have previously campaigned against the siting of the UTC on the Crescent Road site in east Reading - not from an anti-UTC stance, but simply that using that land would make it more difficult to open any other secondary school in the area for 11 year olds and upwards.

I remain of the view that the UTC has such a wide catchment area (15 miles radius) that it could have been sited elsewhere, nearer the town centre.

However, I now concede that the UTC will open at Crescent Road next September - and so welcome it as an additional education offer in Reading for 14 to 19 year old students and wish it every success.

The school places public meeting earlier this week was told that Reading council continues to work on options for more school places at Crescent Road in the face of a housing developer having bought up the land not needed by the UTC. This remains a tough challenge for all concerned.

What was as intriguing as anything the council said at the meeting was the disclosure by Cllr Isobel Ballsdon that Rob Wilson was "60% there" in plans for a new 11 to 16 school for east Reading. Well, I am happy to repeat here what I said in the meeting: if Rob Wilson is serious about working for a new school in east Reading then I am prepared to work with him to get the job done.

So come on Rob, what do you say?






Monday, 24 September 2012

With Friends Like These

Top Tory: Foul Mouthed Tirade At Police
The Government chief whip who launched a  foul-mouthed tirade at armed officers at Police officers protecting Dowing Street pulled out of a visit to Reading last week.

The millionaire cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell was due to speak at an event arranged by Rob Wilson. Apparently local people had been invited to a free lunch  to hear Mr Mitchell speak, but he pulled out without explanation.

As The Daily Telegraph reports pressure is now growing on Mr Mitchell to explain what exactly he said. John Tully, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said there needs to be a "full and frank inquiry" to establish who is telling the truth.

"MINISTER IS SAYING POLICE OFFICERS ARE LIARS"

"It is not the words, police officers are quite thick skinned, what infuriates me here is that a minister is saying police officers are liars," he said. "There is a clear difference of opinion, and we need to establish what happened."

He launched the rant at the officers after they refused to let him cycle through Downing Street’s gates. The constable said Mr Mitchell told him “Best you learn your f***ing place. You don’t run this f***ing government. You’re f***ing plebs.”

The officer, who wrote his report for his superiors only hours after the incident, said he did so because Mr Mitchell told him “You haven’t heard the last of this.” The PC explained: “I write this for your information as Mr Mitchell’s last comments would appear to indicate he is unhappy with my actions.”

However, David Cameron now wants to close the matter down.

Nice friends, Rob. I expect to see you out supporting the Police real soon!

UPDATE: The rant in full straight from the Police notebook

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

David Geary, RIP

At David Geary's funeral this afternoon it was standing room only at Reading Crematorium - a fine tribute to a kind and gentle man.

David enjoyed a joke: I can hear his chuckling laugh now.

Rest in peace my friend, you served Reading well.

"Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through".

(picture: getreading.co.uk)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

East Reading Schools - Residents' Meeting

Reading Borough Council Press Release

East Reading residents are being invited to a public meeting next week to hear more about options to address a projected shortfall of school places in the area.

The meeting to be held on Thursday 27th September at 6.30pm in the main hall at Alfred Sutton School is open to all local residents.

It will be chaired by Councillor John Ennis, Reading Borough Council's Lead Member for Education and Children's Services, and will include a presentation by Reading Borough Council education officers on projections for primary and secondary school places that will be needed in the borough in future years.

As part of that presentation, Council officers will outline potential schemes which could be proposed for the wider site at Crescent Road in East Reading, where a University Technical College (UTC) is planned for 14 19 year olds.

The meeting is an opportunity for every local resident to hear about and have their say on possible future options for Crescent Road, a key strategic site in the East Reading area.

John Ennis, Reading Borough Council's Lead Member for Education and Children's Services, said: 'The projected shortage in school places in East Reading is a serious one which the Council needs to plan for. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of the role local residents have to play in helping us to identify the best options for addressing this shortage, whether using Crescent Road or indeed any other sites which may become available in the area. I would urge as many local people as possible to come along on the night, hear about the options and have their say.'

The new UTC in East Reading is being led by Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, with the support of the Department for Education. The new UTC plans to combine technical and academic studies for students aged 14-19 from a wide catchment area. As the local education authority, Reading Borough Council has always backed the need for a new school in East Reading on the basis it would be for 11 to 19 year olds.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

9/11: Never Forget

 

Selling School Land For Housing Stinks!

Pressure On School Places Ignored In Land Sale
News that the Department for Education has bought the Crescent Road site from the University of West London, allocated some of it for a 14-19 University Technical College, and sold the rest to a housing developer who intends cramming up to 60 flats on the site, has infuriated local residents and councillors.

Reading Council has previously allocated the whole site for educational use and wanted to see an 11-19 school there to help meet the growing shortage of school places in East Reading.

But Michael Gove is not interested in listening to local people, nor to local Councils, but is just pushing his own narrow dogmas. A 14-19 school is not what Reading needs, and in fact the school he is forcing onto our land is not even intended to serve Reading but has a catchment far beyond the Borough’s boundaries. He has grabbed so many powers we probably can’t stop him doing this, but will obviously work to try and get the maximum benefit out of this scheme for Reading children.

My colleague  John Ennis, Lead Councillor for Education is right to say

“It is typical of Michael Gove that having seized the land for what he wants, he has not even asked whether the rest of it is needed for educational purposes. But we know how great the shortage of places in Reading is becoming, and, now we know what Michael Gove has done, I have asked officers to look urgently at ways in which we can make best use of the remaining land to help education in Reading, which is what it is allocated for in our local plans.

The public too—I would be happy for local people to send me their ideas at John.Ennis@reading.gov.uk. We will obviously want to consult local people on the options we come up with, and will be calling a public meeting as soon as possible. It’s our job to stand up for Reading and for Reading parents and that’s what we will be doing.”

The next time the Lib Dem / Tory coalition talks about Olympic legacies and the health of our children, ask them why they are happy to sell off land set aside for school places and green spaces for housing.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Crescent Road - The Truth Is Out


Half A School Only Needs Half The Green Space
My colleague Cllr Jan Gavin has done an excellent job in bringing the Reading UTC / Crescent Road housing development saga up to date here.

I reported on 21 March that the Coalition Government had instructed that a back-to-back deal be put in place whereby the land would be bought from the University of West London and immediately split in half, with one parcel going to the Oxford & Cherwell Valley College - the promoters of the unwanted UTC Reading - and the other parcel of land being sold to private developers Square Bay Land for housing.
Just weeks after the Olympics and the row about the number of school playing fields sold around the country and days after the Lib Dem / Tory Coalition has said they want to relax planning laws, making it easier to build on green spaces, we have a clear example in the heart of east Reading of what these type of policies will mean in reality.

To quote again from the internal documents I revealed in March this year, the Department foe Education's conclusion was that this arrangement would mean "That way the commercial partner satisfies planning conditions for having educational use on the site, and then can do whatever they want with the other half."

Well, we will see. Somehow I think the residents of east Reading aren't ready to roll over just yet. And where is Rob Wilson ...

NOTE: Square Bay Land Llp (Limited Liability Patnership ) was registered on 5 March 2012 and has it's registered office in Prince Consort House, 27-29 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TJ.


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Residents Parking Scheme Now Under Review

The End Of Paper Parking Permits?
Last night (Tuesday 4 September) I was able to launch a review of Reading Borough Council's residents parking scheme.

The scrutiny review aims to present a final report with any recommendations for change to RBC's Cabinet early in 2013.

It is worth noting that the current arrangements run at a net cost to council tax payers of over £300,000 per annum.

In summary, the Reading scheme generally allows for a maximum of two permits per household, with the first permit free and the second charged at £60. It also provides for 40 free visitor permits and the option to purchase another 100 in any one year.

The review will compare schemes from other towns and see if we can learn from them. For example, in Oxford it appears the maximum number of permits varies, with charges for all permits of betweem £50 and £150 for a fourth permit; in York a third permit is £300 and fourth £600, but can be bought for as little as three months; Nottingham appear to offer a maximum of three permits free of charge and renewable every two years and students can purchase permits for £70 an academic year.

Bristol offers a free permit for a low emission vehicle and York a 50% discount.

It is also worth looking at the "virtual" schemes operated in Cheltenham and Cotswold council areas, where no paper permits are issued, relying instead on enforcement officers having data on "live" permits in any area - would this help cut costs?

Our ambitions should be to see this as a cost neutral service which is easily accessed and understood by residents - this review must aid that ambition.

Residents are welcome to send their views and ideas to me: tony.jones@reading.gov.uk


Huhne Out, Benson In?

PLEASE NOTE: Neither Huhne nor Benson were driving these cars
As Chris Huhne faces charges next month of allegedly perverting the course of justice, news reaches me that Daisy Benson is being lined up as his replacement.

With the Lib Dems in Reading now in terminal decline and few opportunities for the ambitous uber-loyalist Councillor in London, it is said that Daisy is being lined up as the favoured candidate to succeed the Eastleigh MP, should Her Majesty's judiciary interrupt his Westminster career.

Some might call it "Plan B". Toot, toot!

Friday, 31 August 2012

UTC Reading - Planning Exhibition On 5 September

Statement issued by UTC Reading

We are delighted to announce that UTC Reading (previously known as Reading Technical Academy) has gained Funding Agreement approval from the Schools Minister, Lord Hill. This is another milestone towards the opening of UTC Reading in September 2013.

Having procured the site for the UTC at Crescent Rd in East Reading, we are now pushing ahead with the refurbishment of the facilities. In advance of our planning submission we are holding an exhibition on 5th September to share the design scheme being proposed and to gain feedback from the community and other stakeholders. The planning exhibition will be held at Reading College on Wednesday 5th September between 6pm and 8pm. Please see attached for a flyer with further details.
       

For information:
What is a UTC?
A University Technical College (UTC) is an innovative school that provides education for students aged 14 to 19 and offers specialist programmes alongside traditional subjects. It is supported by a University and high profile academic and industry partners who are involved in every aspect of the UTC, including the development of the curriculum.

About UTC Reading
UTC Reading will specialise in computer science and software engineering, taught alongside the national curriculum. This means that students get the benefit of practical study of the specialist subjects whilst still taking the GCSE’s and A-levels that they would take at a regular school; getting the best of both worlds. The specialist curriculum proposed by the UTC will appeal to secondary school-aged pupils interested in computer science and/or engineering who are keen on pursuing and developing their talents.

UTC Reading will accommodate 600 students when at full capacity. The location at Crescent Road is in a central position to serve the proposed wide catchment area, which includes young people within a 15 mile radius of postcode RG1 5RQ in East Reading, extending to Newbury, Slough, Basingstoke and Farnborough. UTC Reading’s site offers extensive playing fields for sport and recreational activities, to ensure that the 14 to 19 year olds starting in September 2013 have all of the facilities for the planned programme of extra-curricular activities. The recruitment drive to appoint a new principal for UTC Reading is also underway and the sponsors plan to have the chosen candidate in post on January 2013, to be in place to spearhead the launch. Other teaching and support staff will be recruited soon after.

Making all of this happen is a committed partnership made up of sponsors and partners. These include the Lead Sponsor, Oxford & Cherwell Valley College, as well as Reading College, Reading School, the University of Reading, Microsoft, Cisco, Network Rail and Peter Brett Associates. Together the sponsor and partners believe they can help create a new kind of facility for 14 to 19 year olds, that brings together the combination of education and industry to give them the best possible start in their professional life.

Regards,

UTC Reading Team

For general queries contact us at: Enquiries@UTCreading.co.uk
For admissions queries contact us at: Admissions@UTCreading.co.uk

Lib Dems Split 47%/46% On Clegg's Future


Nick Clegg's grip on the Lib Dem leadership appears to be weakening faster than anyone would have thought.

A new survey conducted by the influential Lib Dem Voice "will make deeply uncomfortable reading for Nick Clegg" as it shows that while 47% of Lib Dem members say they want Nick Clegg to lead the party into the next election, almost exactly the same proportion – 46% – want him to resign as Lib Dem leader before then.

LDV says "the Coalition’s troubles — from the unravelling of George Osborne’s budget to the collapse of Lords reform — means many more Lib Dems are increasingly unhappy about being in alliance with the Tories" and that "For many, in our party and beyond, Nick Clegg personifies the Coalition. And just as party members are now starting to look ahead to post-Coalition times, so are folk also starting to think whether life would be any easier for the party without Nick at the helm."

Thursday, 30 August 2012

"Clegg Must Go" Says Senior Lib Dem

Calls For Clegg To Go Begin To Mount 

Nick Clegg must be ousted as leader by the Liberal Democrats if they are to avoid electoral disaster in 2015, according to a senior party figure.
.
Lord Oakeshott, a close ally of Business Secretary Vince Cable, said it was time to review the party's "strategy and management" after it lost more than half its "market share" in the polls.

Protest voters and Labour supporters who chose to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats in 2010 have since abandoned the party and its support has slumped from 24% at the general election to around 11%, figures.

The peer said: "We have lost over half our market share, if you like to put it that way if we had been Sainsburys, since the election and any business that had done that would be looking very hard now at both its strategy and its management to see how we get some of that back because otherwise we are going to lose a large number of seats at the next election."

(photo: Daily Telegraph)