Monday, 31 March 2014

Can We Please Be More European

With the European elections barely more than fifty days away, is there anything we can learn from other European countries that perhaps we could adopt here in the UK?

How about the example of the French? Well EDF  (√Člectricit√© de France) is the world's largest supplier of electricity and largely owned by the French state, as well as being one of the "big six" electricity and gas supply companies in the UK, making profits in the British market for the benefit of the French state.

Or the Germans? DB (Deutsche Bahn) is the second largest transport company in the world and largely owned by the German state, as well as operating the Arriva train franchises in many parts of the UK, making profits in the British market for the benefit of the German state.

Or the Spanish? Aena is the Spanish state airport authority which also runs a number of UK airports, including London Luton, making profits in the British market for the benefit of the Spanish state.

I could go on.

Would we be worse Europeans if we ran our own state-owned operations like the energy companies, the trains and the airports and kept the profits for our own state instead? 

Reading Green Councillor Resigns

Melanie Eastwood: Served 3 years
News has reached me that Green Councillor Melanie Eastwood has resigned her seat in Park Ward.
Melanie was elected as Reading's second Green councillor in 2011, so is quitting a year early in her first term.
A thoughtful councillor, it is believed that she no longer lives nor works in the borough.
The resignation opens up the opportunity for more changes on the council. More to follow ...

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Gary Deards - A Star Man

Gary Deards  1966 - 2014
I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Gary Deards - a Redlands resident and campaigning stalwart for better access to football grounds for disabled supporters.
I came to know Gary when we were both board members of the Supporters Trust At Reading (STAR) and quickly came to respect his expertise in this area - and his undimmed enthusiasm for all things football. 

I can do no better than reproduce the Level Playing Field's press release in full below. RIP Gary.
"The Level Playing Field Board of Trustees are deeply saddened to report the loss of our Vice-Chair and great friend, Gary Deards. Gary had been unwell for the last few weeks and slipped peacefully away last night. 
A much loved friend and colleague by those that knew him best, Gary was an expert in the field of accessible stadia and sporting venues. He brought his vast knowledge as both a passionate disabled sports fan and access advisor to Level Playing Field and worked tirelessly to try to improve the experiences of disabled sports spectators across England and Wales. 

Gary first became involved with LPF (then known as the National Association of Disabled Supporters) back in 1999 and since then has devoted so much of his own time and energies to working towards a better landscape for disabled people. 

He was also a much-respected member of the Centre for Access to Football in Europe’s disabled fans advisory group, where his specialist knowledge has helped to bring about real change in Europe.

LPF President David Bernstein CBE said, “I was terribly saddened to learn of Gary’s passing. Gary was an extremely hard working and selfless man who was completely committed to the aims of Level Playing Field. He has played a huge role for us over the years and will be truly missed”.

LPF Chair, Joyce Cook OBE said, “Gaz would want us to all pull together at this moment to ensure that the equal access for disabled fans, that he fought so hard for and for so many years, finally happens. That will remain my driving goal and that of everyone involved. It will be the very best legacy that we can ensure for a great man and my dearest friend. I will miss him terribly and Level Playing Field, its members and the sporting world owes him an enormous debt of gratitude. We are determined that all of Gary’s efforts will not be in vain – we will work harder than ever to achieve our shared goal of equal access for all fans, and we will do so in Gary’s honour. God bless you Gaz.” 

“Gary will be greatly missed by so many people, and on behalf of all at LPF, I would like to offer our deepest condolences to Gary’s family and friends at this desperately sad time”.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ridding Redlands Of "To Let" Board Blight

Anyone who lives in or visits the residential areas close to Reading University knows how unsightly the hundreds of estate agent "To Let" signs are which blight so many of our roads.  They make the area appear transient, are an environmental blight and attract burglars, who see these houses as easy pickings.
We have been working hard to make sure the estate agents signs are lawful, but there is too frequent abuse of the regulations and residents are just fed-up with living in streets with so many signs.  
This week we invited all the local estate and letting agents to a meeting to explore with them how we might overcome these issues. 
You can read a full account of the meeting, prepared by my colleague Cllr Jan Gavin, on the Redlands Labour site here. Council officers will now be looking at how a voluntary ban might work. Failing that the council will consider seeking a full legal ban.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Happy St Patrick's Day

Happy St Patrick's Day to one and all!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

We Can Match Brighton

Reading could do with its own "Falmer Station"
With Reading playing at Brighton today I am reminded that I visited the "AMEX Community Stadium" for the first time last week to address a couple of business meetings.

While there is nothing much to decry or shout about the relatively new stadium, I was impressed by the close proximity of Falmer railway station (if not the station itself - and, of course, it was not dealing with a match day crowd), which provided a nine minute link into Brighton's main line station - and then trains home to Reading. 

All the more pleasing, therefore, to learn that plans are still alive and progressing to bring a similar rail link to Green Park with onward access to the Madejski Stadium. 

These capital works always seem to take longer than people think they should, but the various business, environmental and operational cases all have to be worked through before contractors can be appointed. Any new station and train service established on the Reading / Basingstoke line would need to sit within the existing demands of the local town to town return services, the national cross country services and the various freight services. I suspect they may need to consider a short loop off the main line to accommodate a new stop at Green Park.

However, if things go to schedule, we can anticipate a planning application being lodged with RBC in June this year and a possible new station open to the public before the end of 2016. So, full steam ahead then ...

Ward Surgery - Saturday 8 March

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

Monday, 3 March 2014

You Won't Believe What They're Planning For Any Hospital

The Lib Dem / Tory coalition can't stop meddling and selling off bits of the NHS, bit by bit. 
Now they are planning to introduce a "Hospital Closure Clause" giving them powers to close any hospital without taking into account what any community or medical opinion says.
We know the Royal Berks Hospital is currently facing major challenges: if this was on the law books, who knows what could happen!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Happy St David's Day

Happy St David's Day to one and all!