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.


"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".


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 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:

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!