Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Chiltern Edge School

Statement by Reading council’s lead member for Education Councillor Tony Jones:

"The Council understands the concern and upset felt by parents of pupils at Chiltern Edge School since Oxfordshire County Council announced it was consulting on its possible closure.

Reading’s officers have attended a public meeting at the school and have responded to parents who have written to us confirming that Reading Borough Council will be responding to the consultation, opposing the proposed closure, informing them that the Leader, myself as Lead Member for Education and senior officers are meeting lead members and officers from Oxfordshire next week to put these views directly to them.

We are also in the process of organising a meeting for Reading-resident parents of current and prospective Chiltern Edge pupils.

A specific page on the Council’s website has been set up at www.reading.gov.uk/chilternedge giving advice to parents. The admissions team are also taking calls from parents on (0118) 937 3777 and emails can be sent to admissions.team@reading.gov.uk.
Meanwhile, we encourage parents to respond to the consultation directly by visiting www.oxfordshire.gov.uk by 16 June 2017.

Finally, we have been assured that Oxfordshire will continue to support the school in addressing immediate areas of concern raised by inspectors following the recent Ofsted inspection which triggered the current situation."

Councillor Tony Jones

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Redlands Public Surgery Today

Councilllors David Absolom, Jan Gavin and Tony Jones hold public surgeries for residents in Redlands all the year round.

"Just Walk In" surgeries are held on the second Saturday of every month, alternately at St Lukes Parish Hall, Erleigh Road and at the Hexham Road Community Centre. 

Surgery hours are 10.30am until noon.

No appointment is necessary, and all discussions are confidential.

The calendar for the remainder of 2017 is as follows:
  • May 13th - St Lukes
  • June 10th - Hexham Road 
  • July 8th - St Lukes 
  • August 12th - Hexham Road 
  • September 9th - St Lukes 
  • October 14th - Hexham Road 
  • November 11th - St Lukes 
  • December 9th - Hexham Road 

We also undertake regular "street surgeries" on  most other Saturdays in the year. This is where we deliver notices to you a day or two beforehand, then on the following Saturday morning, if you want to see us you all  you have to do is put up the "Please Call In" notice in your window.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Unionisation in the 21st Century

Guest Blog by Elliot Jones, reprinted from Fabian Society magazine (April 2017)

Across the world, trade unions have brought together workers to defend their rights. Through collective action they fought for improved working conditions, higher pay and equality for millions of people. 
Not only that, they have been a key pillar of the Labour Party since its inception, providing a base of financial and organisational support. 
So looking at trade union membership in the United Kingdom today seems to paint a grim picture; it has faced a nearly four-decade decline, from a peak of over 13 million in 1979 to less than half that in 2017. 
Whether because of more stringent union regulations, decline in the manufacturing bases they traditionally drew support from or the perception that have become antiquated behemoths that are more concerned with party politics than workers’ rights; trade unions have clearly struggled with the transition to the 21st century. 
Yet as we look ahead to the new economy, trade unions only have more challenges to face. Perhaps the starkest is that of automation; while the steps towards mechanisation provided the conditions for their creation, this ‘fourth industrial revolution” may well be their undoing. With autonomous vehicles, self-checkouts and other innovations encroaching on every sector, as many as 35% of UK jobs face being axed in the next 20 years. 
This means a declining workforce for unions to draw on and those workers becoming less crucial to business, weakening the remaining bargaining power they do have. 
The second and more immediate challenge is the rise in unstable “gig economy” jobs. With over 900,000 on zero-hour contracts and 1 in 7 workers self-employed, up from 1 in 9 in 2000, increasing the idea of entire career at a single employer is becoming a thing of the past. 
This more fragmented labour market means that unions may find it more difficult to establish clear, long-term relationships and achieve bargaining power with firms on behalf of members who constantly move around. 
Further workers with rapidly changing circumstances may find it difficult to determine which trade union is right for them. 
So what can trade unions do to overcome these challenges? 
One possible avenue is adapting their negotiating approach. Rather than take a neo-Luddite stance and fight to protect jobs at all costs, the best path forward is working with employers to embrace the benefits of automation and growing flexibility, to make sure that workers receive their fair share. 
This would mean pushing for a gradual transition, ensuring workers are given realistic and funded opportunities to retrain and helping people plan for the future. A second solution may involve looking to the past. Reorganising into single professional unions that provide much clearer options for who workers should turn to in their sector and connect more personally with members in a particular sector. This would also help them seem less internally focused, while still allowing them to conduct important cross-union and party political action through federations like TUC. 
Finally, trade unions could look to the start-up world for a little inspiration. Many fields, especially those in the service and digital sectors lack dedicated unions tailored to their needs; through a trade union incubator, established unions could provide their wealth of expertise, support and funding to those seeking to establish a foothold in underrepresented areas and provide a forum for the development of future union engagement tools. 
With these strategies available to them and the suggestion union strength may have declined because they have achieved so much already, the future of trade unions and their cause may not be so bleak after all.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Parents Against Student Debt

Reproduced from the Intergenerational Foundation site

Students graduating since 2015 have had to swallow outrageous fee hikes and eye-watering interest rates on their loans, leaving many of them with more than £50,000 of debt that they will have to pay back over the next 30 years. 

Asking students to make some investment in their future is reasonable, but debts at these levels are already damaging lives. Moreover, this has happened while the government has made unilateral retrospective changes to the terms and conditions, and is trying to sell off the loans to private providers. 
Universities are behaving no better by showing “disgraceful arrogance” (according to some MPs) by upping fees for 2017 before parliamentary permission has even been given.
Sign up to IF to show your support and share your stories!
Take a look at the small print:
    • Current students face interest charges at above-market rates (RPI+3%!).
    • Compound interest racks up monthly on student loans from the day they take them out. This means a current APR of 4.7%, adding around £200 each and every month to a debt of £50,000!
    • Some institutions are already raising fees beyond £9,000 a year to £9,250.
    • Loan repayments at 9% of income over £21,000 on top of 12% National Insurance and 20% Basic Rate Income Tax means an effective 41% tax burden even for low-earners
    • The government has gone back on its promise to raise the repayment threshold in line with earnings, dragging more low earners into repayment by fixing it at £21,000 for 5 years
    • Top uni pay has sky rocketed by 15% on the back of our kids’ loans.
    • The government wants to sell its pre-2012 loan book to private finance.
    • Average uni halls accommodation now costs around £141 per week, a 5% increase in the last year alone.
    • Maintenance grants to help the poorest students have been withdrawn, forcing them now to take larger maintenance loans.
Click here for more information about all these points

What can I do?

    • Join the movement to show your support 
    • Write to your MP to demand action to stop further fee hikes
    • Be a student-friendly voter and vote for political parties offering a fairer deal

What we’re calling for:

    • Stop loans increasing in real terms by pegging interest rates to true inflation
    • Make loan repayments more affordable by capping at a maximum of 5% of income over £21,000
    • Play fair with young people: guarantee the terms of both borrowing and repayment, and return student loans to the protection of the Consumer Credit Act
    • Show students value for money: make institutions open their books on how student fees are spent
    • Stop the selling-off of the loan book
    • Stop universities and/or private providers from increasing uni accommodation costs above inflation
    • Stop peddling the myth of the graduate premium, which promises unrealistically high salaries for graduates
    • Overturn the freezing of the repayment threshold

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Reorganisation of the NHS is well underway

The following is taken from an article published in the Huffington Post by Justin Madders MP, Shadow Health Minister

“NHS funding growth is much slower than the historic long term trend.”

“Real terms funding per person will go down in 2018/19 and 2019/20.”

“The public are concerned for its future.” 

“There is likely to be continued pressure on waiting times for routine care and some providers’ waiting times will grow.”

Finally, the statement “some organisations and geographies have historically been substantially overspending their fair shares of NHS funding” which “may mean explicitly scaling back spending on locally unaffordable services” will send a chill down the spine of anyone who works or is currently a patient in the NHS. 

They will know that services are already stretched to breaking point and this move to single out sections for further cuts could well push parts of the health service over the edge. 

We deserve better than the future strategy for the NHS being reduced to an exercise in expectations management."

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Redlands Ward Surgery - Saturday, 8 April

Cllrs David Absolom, Jan Gavin and I will be holding our regular Labour Councillors' Ward Surgery for residents at Hexham Road Community Centre, between 10.30am and noon today.

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, Erleigh Road and the Hexham Road Community Centre.
David, Jan and I also undertake "street surgeries" on other Saturdays and weekdays - so watch out for the window poster!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Funding New Grammar Schools While Cutting Existing School Budgets Is Wrong

Government ministers and local Tory MPs like to boast that more is being spent on schools and education than ever before. But what they fail to say is that with more children in schools than ever before funding per pupil is actually falling. 
Local school heads have estimated that cuts in Reading alone could add up to over £7.2million. Budgets cannot be slashed in this way without there being significant impact.
It was therefore so disappointing that the recent government budget simply confirmed that things will get worse for the vast majority of schools.
The headline-grabbing mess over National Insurance contributions for the self-employed stole much of the media attention from the announcement by chancellor Hammond that an additional £320million would be made available for new grammar and free schools. Later we learned that new grammar school pupils could be ferried up to 15 miles by taxi to their schools at a cost of £5,000 per pupil every year. 
But the reality is that local schools are already holding out begging bowls to parents to help, some thinking of cutting the range of subjects they will teach and support for school transport including for disabled and disadvantaged pupils being cut or new charges being introduced.
Others are making the case that grammar schools do nothing to improve social mobility, including former Tory Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Labour's former shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell and former Deputy Prime Minister Lib Dem Nick Clegg when they say "Those championing selection as the silver bullet for tackling social mobility or as the panacea for creating good new school places are misguided".
My view is that, at a time when we are repeatedly told that public finances are limited, to choose as a matter of political dogma, to fund new grammar schools while existing school budgets are being cut is plain wrong. 
Headteachers and governors are struggling to make ends meet now, so this misguided and ill-timed idea must be stopped. 
With such a slim majority in Parliament there is still time to get it right and provide fair funding for all schools instead of pursuing such a narrow agenda for the benefit of the few. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Redlands parking - new arrangements from 20 March

Look out for the latest round of parking updates in Redlands.

Monday 20 March will see the introduction of pay and display machines in some existing "shared use" spaces - residents parking and limited two hour parking for non-residents - as well as new charges in areas which were previously unregulated.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Artisan Community Food Fair - 18th March

Please come along to this food fair - great food from local producers next Saturday morning at St Luke's Parish Hall, Erleigh Road, Redlands, 

Councillors Surgery - Today In The Church

The Councillors Surgery for residents in Redlands, which would normally be in St Lukes Parish Hall, Erleigh Road, will today be held in the Church itself.

10.30am until Noon. All welcome, no appointment necessary. 

Come and meet David Absolom, Jan Gavin and Tony Jones and tell them your ideas, opinions, questions or requests for help or advice.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Pay & Display Comes To Redlands This Month

Pay & Display - part of an overall plan in Redlands
As part of the roll out of resident parking protection initiatives in Redlands, Pay and Display machines will be installed on some streets in and around the Royal Berkshire Hospital area from later this month.

The recent successful launch of the expanded Resident Parking Zones is already proving popular and effective, with many residents now able to park near their homes on a regular basis for the first time in years. The fear of leaving home and returning to find nowhere to park has become a thing of the past.

A further new scheme is soon to be added to Cintra Avenue and Warwick Road, which will largely conclude the current set of schemes.

If you live in Redlands and think residents parking could be improved where you live, get in touch, we'd love to hear from your ideas. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

School Funding - Letter from Reading Primary School Heads

As we await today's budget and what it may mean for school funding, here is a letter recently circulated on behalf of 27 Reading Head Teachers:

Dear parent or carer,

On behalf of 27 Reading Head teachers

School Funding

You may have seen a number of stories in the press around school funding. There have been worrying headlines and we felt it important that we let you know, as far as we are able at this stage, how this will affect schools. 

School budgets across the country have been under pressure for some time. The senior leadership teams at many schools have been faced with funding challenges, leading to a number of tough decisions being made at some schools. In time, it will affect more schools.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has shown that more than half of school leaders felt that their budget would be untenable by 2018/19. The National Audit Office estimate a £3 billion real terms cut across all phases and in all schools.

The recent headlines have been caused by a proposed new funding formula for schools, designed to create a fairer allocation. However, with increasing costs placed onto all schools, including higher pension and national insurance contributions as well as the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, the new formula will not bring the benefits that we had hoped to see.  The School Cuts website, analysing DfE data, projects that schools in our local authority will lose £7,275,456 in total (data from www.schoolcuts.org.uk/).

We will work hard to ensure that cuts have the least impact on teaching possible. However, rising costs and a frozen budget mean that tough decisions will have to be taken. We cannot guarantee that such cuts will not affect teaching, despite doing our utmost to prevent this.

Please be assured that we will take absolute care with budgets, to ensure all the money we have is spent effectively on your children. We are also letting the local authority and government know just how serious the funding issue has become.

We will certainly let you know in plenty of time if our budget means we’ll have to take a significant decision on staffing or activities.

Yours faithfully,

M Bainbridge   St Marys & All Saints Primary
L Bedlow          Caversham Children’s Centre & Newbridge Nursery
S Bergson        Redlands Primary
N Browne         Moorlands Primary & Park Lane Primary
J Budge           Blagdon Nursery
M Buller           St Anne’s Catholic Primary &St Martin’s Catholic Primary
J Carroll           English Martyrs’ Catholic Primary
C Clare            Geoffrey Field Junior
J Cosgrove      Christ the King Catholic Primary
M Cosgrove     The Ridgeway Primary
C Doberska      New Christ Church CE Primary
D Cox              The Hill Primary
T Crossman     Emmer Green Primary
S Daniel           All Saints Junior School
K Edwards       The Heights Primary
S Farrow          Geoffrey Field Infant
D Heath           Norcot Nursery
M Frost            Micklands Primary
J Gray               Battle Primary Academy
J McMinn         E P Collier Primary
E Payne           Blagrave Nursery
S Pengelly        Coley Primary
G Ray              Caversham Park Primary
K Salter            Whitley Park Primary
F Swain            Manor Primary
L Telling           Katesgrove Primary & Southcote Primary
H Wallace        Thameside Primary

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Happy St. David's Day

For those of you celebrating St David’s Day, here’s how to greet your friends.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

That’s how to say ‘Happy St David’s Day’ in Welsh.

It’s pronounced ‘deethe goil Dewi hapeece’.

Today is the celebration, held every March 1, in honour of St David, who is the Patron Saint Of Wales. As such, it is also the national day of Wales.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Accidental Death Of An Anarchist In Redlands!

Progress Theatre in Redlands will be presenting a short run of "Accidental death of an Anarchist" between 20th - 25th February.

Inspired by the real-life events surrounding the death of an Italian railwayman and anarchist who fell - or was thrown - from the fourth floor of a Milan police station in 1969, Dario Fo's classic farce sees The Maniac outsmarting the dim-witted Inspector Bertozzo before impersonating a judge in order to evade capture - and command the re-enactment of the death of the titular anarchist.

Dario Fo was the recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Literature.

I first saw a production of this play in London in 1980 where Gavin Richards delivered a tour-de-force in performance and production, so look forward to seeing how Progress Theatre deliver this pacy piece. 

Bookings can be made here.

Redlands Ward Surgery - Today In Hexham Road

Cllrs David Absolom, Jan Gavin and I work all the year round in Redlands and today we will be holding our regular Labour Councillors' Ward Surgery for residents at Hexham Road Community Centre, between 10.30am and noon.

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, Erleigh Road and the Hexham Road Community Centre.

David, Jan and I also undertake "street surgeries" on other
Saturdays and weekdays - so watch out for the window poster dropping through your letter-box!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Street Homelessness In Reading

Please read this important article by the leader of an organisation working on the front-line of homelessness in Reading.     

A message from Ian Caren, CEO at Launchpad

Walking through Reading town centre is a grim business at the present moment. There are lots of people begging and numerous people with sleeping bags. It is a tragedy. As someone who has worked for Launchpad for ten years it has never been this bad and it fills me with despair.

Is there a simple solution to street homelessness? I wish there was. It would help immensely if 5,000 new homes at affordable rent were built in Reading tomorrow. Many of the problems we see are due to the simple lack of housing. As there is little chance of 5,000 houses being built in Reading where does that leave us as a community?

Reading has an incredibly caring community and has a council committed to helping the homeless. In bad weather there are 40 free bed spaces available every night, half provided by Bed for the Night and half via Reading Borough Council's Severe Weather Emergency Programme (SWEP). Every morning from 5am St Mungo's will be out checking who is on the streets, trying to get them on to Reading Borough Council's Homeless Pathway and into accommodation or getting them train tickets to their home town or pointing them to places they can get advice, guidance or something to eat and drink. CIRDIC offers free meals; Launchpad has a Drop-in advice service three days a week. There are lots of services for people, but it is often difficult for them to accept help.

There is also a difficulty about the choices people on the streets make. A former client I knew called Hugh*, used to have one copy of the Big Issue. He used to say one copy of the Big Issue on a Friday night would get him £45 without ever even selling the Big Issue. Hugh was a heroin user and that £45 bought him heroin. Giving money to street beggars has inherent risks; offering food and drink doesn't. Personally I wouldn’t give money. It is highly likely to be used to buy alcohol and drugs.

If I had a magic wand what would I do? I`d build 5,000 houses at an affordable rent and give long leases so people could have real homes. This would allow families to grow up in one place and have a future which is planned rather than one that is based on moving from one property to another every 6 to 12 months.

I`d ask other local authorities to take responsibility for homelessness the way Reading does. We take homelessness seriously, unlike so many local authorities who simply move the homeless problems to other towns and other communities.

We should be immensely proud of groups such as CIRDIC, Faith and other community groups who do so much good work. We should also be proud that we have a council that takes it's social responsibility seriously.

For me the housing situation in the South East comes back to a quote from the 60s “If there is crap all around me, how can I eat my ice cream?” >

If you’re worried about someone sleeping rough, get in touch with StreetLink at any time, they are a national service that connects people to appropriate local professional support. There is no need to approach someone you don’t know to ask them about their situation. This is the job of local services and many people sleeping rough have deep-rooted issues that require professional help.

*name changed to protect people's identity

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Opening Of New Primary School In Reading

PUPILS and staff at a new central Reading primary school will be celebrating its official opening today.
Guests will be invited to attend the opening ceremony at Civitas Academy, in Great Knollys Street.
The 420-pupil school was built as part of Reading Borough Council's £61 million expansion programme to create more than 2,500 much needed new school places.
Civitas Academy is a two-form entry school which will have two classes of up to 30 children joining the Reception year each year. It is expected to reach its capacity in September 2021.
The Fairview Community Centre in neighbouring Victoria Park is being integrated within the new development with much improved facilities and its own access. The old building will be demolished and the land returned to green space.
A corner of the park provides recreational use for pupils but is available for residents to use outside of school hours.
The new school, run by REAch2 Academy Trust, was temporarily located on a council-owned site in nearby North Street until the new building was completed in November last year.
Now the pupils and staff are settled in, they are ready to celebrate their new school with an official opening ceremony.
Reading Mayor Cllr Mohammed Ayub and Reading's Lead Councillor for Education Cllr Tony Jones will be among the guests along with Sir Steve Lancashire, Chief Executive of the REAch2 Academy Trust and Cathie Paine, Deputy Chief Executive of REAch2.
Salima Ducker, Executive Headteacher of Civitas Academy, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be celebrating the opening of Civitas Academy. The new school marks the start of an exciting future for our pupils. Everything we do is about creating an aspirational and ambitious environment that will help every single one of our children to become the very best version of themselves. A huge thank you to Reading Council; it's been a successful partnership working on this project together, and to everyone who has brought the vision of Civitas to life."

Councillor Tony Jones, Reading's Lead Member for Education, said: "This new primary school offers a tremendous modern environment for local young people to learn, develop and play. I would like to congratulate everybody involved in this project which will benefit local families and the wider community by providing new improved facilities and green space. I wish the Headteacher, staff and pupils every success for the future."

"The opening of Civitas Academy marks the completion of the council's £61 million school expansion programme which has provided more than 2,500 desperately needed school places. This hugely successful programme has involved officers from different councils working with several partners in co-operation with schools and their local communities. Their hard work and commitment will ensure we have sufficient good quality, modern classes and facilities for our children to learn in for years to come."

Friday, 3 February 2017

Schools Should Not Need Begging Bowls

Caversham Primary (picture courtesy of Reading Chronicle)
The news that Caversham Primary School has asked parents to pay for their children's education is deeply depressing.

As the Reading Chronicle reports Ruth Perry, head teacher at Caversham Primary said "We are struggling financially because of the cuts being made to the education budget".

And to be clear, education funding comes from central government, not the council.

We often hear from our MPs that we have a strong economy yet in 21st century Britain good, well-led schools like CPS feel they have no alternative but to hold out a begging bowl to parents and ask them to pay. 

This is not good enough.

And next year we are led to believe that the Conservative government's new "Fairer Funding" scheme for schools will see savage cuts to school budgets in Reading as elsewhere.

Fine words of concern from our representatives in Westminster make them no more than empty vessels - we need action and results to help schools like Caversham Primary now.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

More Bottle Banks For Redlands

Metal caps can now be recycled with bottles
Redlands Labour Councillors have requested that the Council, in conjunction with the waste and recycling partnership Re3, increase the number and locations of "bottle banks" in Redlands.

The ward currently benefits from glass bottle collection points at Cintra Park (Northumberland Avenue entrance), two in Erleigh Road (near Fruit Bat and near the elecricity sub-station close to junction at Addington Road), and Hexham Road (near 116/122 Hexham Road flats).

We also have the bottle banks at Palmer Park and Whitley Street near by, just outside the ward bounadries.

However, particularly in the densely populated old Victorian terraces in "old Redlands", there may be opportunities for more collection points so we've asked the council to investigate.

PS Did you know that you can also "leave your cap on" when recycling empty wine bottles!

Monday, 23 January 2017

A New Dawn In Residents Parking

This morning saw a new dawn in residents parking in Redlands.

After five years of throwing ideas to and fro, Monday 23 January 2017 saw the start of the roll-out of the biggest single installation of residents parking in 40 years.

As we have said time and again, the new arrangements will take time to settle in - may even need tweaking - with the Pay and Display machines not arriving until next month.

If you have any early observations or questions, please do get in touch. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Changes Proposed For Residents' Parking Permit Scheme

A RAFT of changes to the Residents’ Parking Permit scheme is being proposed following a review of the operation.
A Task & Finish group was established in June 2016 to take an in-depth look at parking pressures in the town and the obvious impact on local residents. Reading’s Residents Parking Scheme is now 40 years old and the cross-party group looked at how it currently works and how it could continue to operate in the future.
A number of recommendations are now being made, including the introduction of a charge for the first parking permit, expanding the areas which could be considered for inclusion in the scheme and a tightening of the eligibility of applicants.
There could also be a number of improvements for permit holders, such as upgraded IT to allow residents to manage their parking permit requirements online, improved enforcement of permit zones and more flexible visitor permits.
The proposals are being reported to the Traffic Management Sub-Committee (TMSC) on 12th January, who will in turn be asked to recommend the changes to the council’s Policy Committee for consideration four days later (16th January).
Unlike many other local authority areas, residents in Reading have never been asked to pay for their first parking permit since the scheme was introduced in 1976. The recommendation is that a first permit charge should now be considered to cover the costs of running and enforcing the scheme.
Savings totalling £65 million have been made by Reading Borough Council since 2011, due to unprecedented cuts in Government funding and increased demands on services. A further £42 million in savings need to be identified by 2020.
Most other local authorities who run residents’ parking schemes - including West Berkshire, Wokingham and Slough - already charge for a first permit.
Members are being asked to consider a number of charging options for the price of a first permit, ranging from £25 to £50. The potential income generated from the charges for first and second permits range from £357,750 to £552,360, depending on the option chosen.
A new set of charges are also being proposed for a range of discretionary permits which are also currently free.
Other options to be considered are changing the rules for permit allocations to schools so they are dealt with on a case by case basis, stricter controls on proof of vehicle ownership and more discretion for households in newly created permit zones.
Improvements could include an upgraded online permit application process, increased parking attendance presence in permit zones, a new tool to report illegal vehicle parking, renewal of visitor permits without the need to re-apply and online booking of visitor permits by session rather than AM/PM.

Councillor Tony Jones, who led the cross party Task & Finish Group, said:
“A lot has changed since Reading’s Residents’ Parking Permit scheme was first introduced 40 years ago. As demand for parking continues to grow, more and more households are asking for their streets to be included in residents’ permit zones to allow them to park near to their homes.
“The level of demand means it is no longer sustainable to issue first vehicle permits free of charge, which is why we are recommending a charge is introduced to cover enforcement and administration costs. This would bring Reading into line with neighbouring councils like West Berkshire, Wokingham and Slough, and London boroughs which face similar pressures on limited parking spaces.
“The review has also identified a number of other areas where changes could be made, including expanding the areas which could be considered for inclusion, making it easier for residents to manage their parking permit requirements online, improved enforcement of permit zones and more flexibility with visitor permits and permit allocations for local schools.
“I’d like to thank every resident who took the time to contact me as part of the scrutiny process, and fellow councillors for their input into the recommendations which will now go forward for consideration.”

Cllr Tony Page, Reading’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, and Chair of the Traffic Management Sub-Committee, said:
“There were more than 26,000 permits issued in Reading last year and we know that demand will continue to increase with more houses and former offices being converted into flats.
“The residents parking scheme was first introduced in 1976. While there have been a number of changes to it over the years, this important piece of scrutiny was long overdue in light of the increasing demands on limited parking spaces in Reading.
“I’d like to thank Cllr Jones and the Task and Finish Group for the work they have put into this piece of scrutiny. The recommendations include a number of changes which, if approved, will result in a more effective and fairer residents parking scheme.”
Members of the Traffic Management Sub Committee will be asked to recommend to Policy Committee, meeting on 16th January, that a charge be introduced for the first permit and a number of discretionary permits.
If approved at Policy Committee, the charges could be introduced from 1st April 2017 for new permits issued, and would apply to existing permits on subsequent renewal dates.
The full Residents Parking Scheme report can be found at: http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/9637/Traffic-Management-Sub-Committee-12-JAN-2017

Residents Parking Scrutiny Task and Finish Group
The Terms of Reference for the scrutiny task and finish review were agreed at a meeting of the Council’s Traffic Management Sub Committee on June15th and are: “To review the performance and current and future arrangements for delivery of Parking Services with a focus on the services relating to residents parking schemes.”  Cross party members of the Residents Parking Scrutiny Task and Finish Group are: Cllr Tony Jones (Chair); Cllr Debs Absolom; Cllr Sarah Hacker; Cllr Liz Terry; Cllr Ed Hopper; Cllr Rob White

Current Residents Parking Scheme
There were around 26,000 different types of parking permits issued in Reading last year and there are 13,700 households located across the existing 19 residents parking zones.

First residents permits are free, with a charge for second permits. In 2011/2012, the parking permit service and the zoning system was updated. 52 zones were re-organised into 19 larger zones, with a better split between the number of permits being issued and the number of on-street parking spaces available. Despite the extra capacity and flexibility built in as part of the changes, increasing demands mean many of the zones are near to 100% capacity, with more permits issued than parking spaces available in three of the existing 19 zones.