Sunday, 31 December 2017

Best of 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, here are three highlights from the year.

1. Thank You For Giving Us A Labour MP!

Thank you to all the door knockers, envelope stuffers, polling station counters, leaflet deliverers and countless other helpers who delivered the campaign to make Matt Rodda our Labour MP in Reading East.

In Redlands we pride ourselves in working all the year round and now we have an MP who will match that commitment.

Get in touch if want to be part of our winning team. 

(posted on 11th June 2017)

A quick glance at our Key Stage 2 results shows that of 152 councils in England, Reading was judged to be 149th in 2013, 130th in 2014, 103rd in 2015 and 50th in 2016. 

And this year for the first time in 10 years schools in the borough achieved above the national average results.

This progress should not be taken for granted. We can note, but not be complacent, that the majority of children in Reading already study in good or outstanding schools. Our vision is for ALL pupils have that facility as soon as possible.

We must continue to offer school leaders, teachers, pupils and their families, a positive message of hope and constructive help. Practical steps have already included:
  • Undertaking a £61million school expansion plan, ranging from 10 new classrooms at Alfred Sutton Primary to a completely brand new school at Reading Girls.
  • Launching a 3 year schools’ performance improvement plan, which specifically includes support for closing the gaps in academic achievement and reducing the obstacles to recruiting and retaining teachers and school staff.
However, it is frustrating how little direct power the council actually has on the delivery of education in the town. For example:
  • The long-awaited decisions on the possible development of a new primary at Mapledurham is stuck somewhere in Whitehall
  • Oxfordshire County council recently launched a consultation on closing a secondary school where the majority of pupils come from Reading without even telling us.
  • Free schools can pop up anywhere rather than where a new school may be needed, regardless of the impact on existing schools.
  • Schools can decide to turn themselves into academies without any refunding of millions of pounds borrowed by the council for their improvement.
I am proud of the work Reading Council does in a relentless search to improve schools for all.

( posted on 5th June 2017)

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. 

(posted on 23th January 2017)

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Redlands Ward Public Surgery - Saturday, 9 December

Cllrs David Absolom, Jan Gavin and I will be holding our regular Labour Councillors' Ward Public Surgery for residents at Hexham Road Community Centre, Hexham Road, 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 (RG1 5LR) and the Hexham Road Community Centre (RG2 7UD).

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

Friday, 8 December 2017

Labour demands Commons vote on 'secret' plan for NHS

Party says ministers are trying to push through changes that could lead to greater privatisation and rationing of care

Denis Campbell Health policy editor

Labour is demanding that MPs be allowed to debate and vote on “secret” plans for the NHS that they claim could lead to greater rationing of care and privatisation of health services.

The party says ministers are trying to push through the creation of “accountable care organisations” (ACOs) without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, has written to Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, urging her not to let “the biggest change to our NHS in a decade” go ahead without MPs’ involvement.

NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, and the government see ACOs as central to far-reaching modernisation plans that they hope will improve patient care, reduce pressure on hospitals and help the NHS stick to its budget.

ACOs involve NHS hospital, mental health, ambulance and community services trusts working much more closely with local councils, using new organisational structures, to improve the health of the population of a wide area. The first ACOs are due to become operational in April in eight areas of England and cover almost 7 million people.

Labour has seized on the fact that the Department of Health plans to amend 10 separate sets of parliamentary regulations that relate to the NHS in order to pave the way legally for the eight ACOs.

In his letter, Ashworth demands that Leadsom grant a debate on the plans before the amended regulations acquire legal force in February.

“Accountable care organisations are potentially the biggest change which will be made to our NHS for a decade. Yet the government have been reluctant to put details of the new arrangements into the public domain. It’s essential that the decision around whether to introduce ACOs into the NHS is taken in public, with a full debate and vote in parliament,” he writes.

A number of “big, unanswered questions” about ACOs remain, despite their imminent arrival in the NHS, he adds. They include how the new organisations will be accountable to the public, what the role of private sector health firms will be and how they will affect NHS staff.

Ashworth also says “the unacceptable secrecy in which these ACOs have been conceived and are being pushed forward is totally contrary to the NHS’s duty to be open, transparent and accountable in its decision-making. The manner in which the government are approaching ACOs, as with sustainability and transformation plans before them, fails that test.”

Stevens’s determination to introduce ACOs has aroused suspicion because they are based on how healthcare is organised in the United States. They came in there in the wake of Obamacare as an attempt to integrate providers of different sorts of healthcare in order to keep patients healthier and avoid them spending time in hospital unnecessarily.

A Commons early day motion (EDM) on ACOs also being tabled by Labour on Thursday, signed by its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and other frontbenchers, notes that “concerns have been raised that ACOs will encourage and facilitate further private sector involvement in the NHS”.
In his letter Ashworth adds: “There is widespread suspicion that the government are forcing these new changes through in order to fit NHS services to the shrinking budgets imposed from Whitehall.” The EDM also notes “concerns that ACOs could be used as a vehicle for greater rationing”.

The King’s Fund, an influential health thinktank, denied that ACOs would open up NHS services to privatisation. “This is not about privatisation; it is about integration,” said Prof Chris Ham, its chief executive.

“There is a groundswell of support among local health and care leaders for the principle of looking beyond individual services and focusing instead on whatever will have the biggest impact in enabling people to live long, healthy and fulfilling lives,” added Ham.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the British Medical Association, backed Labour’s call for greater transparency but said care services should be integrated.
However, he added: “ACOs will not in themselves address the desperate underfunding of the NHS and may divert more money into processes of reorganisation. Current procurement and competition regulations create the potential for ACOs to be opened up to global private providers within a fixed-term contract and with significant implications for patient services and staff.”

The Department of Health refused to say if MPs would be able to debate ACOs. “It is right that local NHS leaders and clinicians have the autonomy to decide the best solutions to improve care for the patients they know best - but significant local changes must always be subject to public consultation and due legal process.

“It is important to note that ACOs have nothing to do with funding - the NHS will always remain free at the point of use,” a spokesman said.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Breaking News: 24 hour Domino's Pizza bid rejected

News update here

A bid for a new Domino's Pizza outlet in Christchurch Road, Reading, to open 24 hours a day, every day of the week has been thrown out by Reading Borough Council following opposition from local residents and councillors ... but they do get to stay open until 2am.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Chiltern Edge School Saved!

I am delighted to hear that Oxfordshire County Council has decided today not to issue a notice to close the Chiltern Edge School.

Well done to the campaigners, Matt Rodda MP and staff at Reading Council - I am glad to have been part of a team which has achieved a great outcome for so many Reading children and families.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Redlands Ward Public Surgery - Saturday, 14 October

Cllrs David Absolom, Jan Gavin and I will be holding our regular Labour Councillors' Ward Public Surgery for residents at Hexham Road Community Centre, Hexham Road, 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 (RG1 5LR) and the Hexham Road Community Centre (RG2 7UD).

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

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

School Budget Cuts

Remember before the general election earlier this year when the Tory candidates promised there would be no cuts to school budgets ...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Labour's Policy On The NHS

At last month's Labour Party Conference the Shadow Secretary of State for Health Jon Asworth announced that the next Labour Government will reinstate the Secretary of State's responsibility for universal care and end the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships, including Accountable Care Systems.
The full text of the motion on the NHS passed by the Conference is included below:
Conference notes:

The NHS Accountable Care System contracts announced on 7 August impose a basis for 44+ local health services to replace England’s NHS, bypassing Parliamentary debate and legislative process.
On 9 August, the House of Commons Library revealed a doubling of the number of NHS sites proposed for sale. 117 of these currently provide clinical services.
Like their US templates, Accountable Care Systems will provide limited services on restricted budgets, replacing NHS hospitals with deskilled community units.  This will worsen health indicators like the long term increase in life expectancy, stalled since 2010. The ACSs and asset sell-off result directly from the 5 Year Forward View currently being implemented via ‘Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships’.  The 5 Year Forward View precisely reflects healthcare multinationals’ global policy aims.
Conference reaffirms its manifesto commitment to restore our NHS by reversing its privatisation and halting Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships.

We therefore call on the Party to oppose and reverse funding cuts (ideally meeting Western European levels) but also 5 Year Forward View policy:
  • creating Accountable Care Systems;
  • replacing 7500 GP surgeries with 1500 “superhubs”;
  • downskilling clinical staff.reclassifying NHS services as means-tested “social care”;
  • cementing the private sector role as Accountable Care System “partners” and as combined health/social care service providers.
Conference recognises that reversing this process demands more than amending the 2012 Health & Social Care Act and calls for our next manifesto to include existing Party policy to restore our fully-funded, comprehensive, universal, publicly-provided and owned NHS without user charges, as per the NHS Bill (2016-17)

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Broken Britain

The Tories have been governing Britain since 2010.

In the past few days and weeks this is what the Prime Minister and other senior Tories have had to say about some key aspects of our country and economy:

"We have a fractured health and social care system"

"We need to fix the broken housing market"

"The energy market is broken and needs to be fixed"

"For too many children a good school remains out of reach"

"Remains below where it was in 2007 - such a period of stagnation is unprecedented in modern times"

But just don't ask them to take any responsibility for this mess.

Or as Lord Heseltine described the situation earlier today "A deeply divided cabinet, a deeply divided country, a deeply divided party" and, of course, "the Tories do not want an early general election"

speaking on The World This Weekend, BBC Radio 4, today

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Labour's National Education Service

Angela Rayner & Tony Jones discussed the charter this week 
The Labour Party has explained more about its proposed National Education Service, in a draft charter that all schools would be required to sign up to.
Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, launched the charter during her speech at the party’s annual conference in Brighton last week.
The National Education Service is Labour’s umbrella term for a raft of reforms, including increases in schools funding, free adult education and the return of the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16- to 19-year-olds.
They’re binning their manifesto, we are building on ours
Rayner accused the government of failure on education issues, claiming the Conservatives have spent the last few months “ripping up their own manifesto page by page”.
Unlike the government’s policies, the National Education Service will be “lifelong, providing for people at every stage of their life”, she will say, and “not just another structure, not another new sign on the school gate”.
“Theresa May’s education ministers have spent the last few months ripping up their own manifesto page by page. They wanted to open new grammar schools. But they can’t. They said they’d build 140 free schools. They couldn’t. They pledged the healthy pupils fund would not fall below £400 million. Now it will. They promised they’d provide free school breakfasts. But they won’t.
“In fact, I went through their manifesto line by line. There are more education policies that they are reviewing or abandoning than that they’re implementing. They’re binning their manifesto, we are building on ours.”

The charter

According to the charter, the National Education Service will do the following:
1. Be guided by the principle that education has “intrinsic” value in giving all people “access to the common body of knowledge we share, and practical value in allowing all to participate fully in our society”.
2. Provide education that is “free at the point of use, available universally and throughout life”.
3. Provide education “for the public good”. All providers within the National Education Service shall be bound by the principles of the charter.
4. Work alongside the health, sustainability, and industrial policies set by government.
5. Commit to “tackling all barriers to learning”, and providing high-quality education for all.
6. Provide all forms of education, integrating academic, technical and other forms of learning within and outside of educational institutions, and treating all with equal respect.
7. Be structured to “encourage and enhance” cooperation across boundaries and sectors.
8. Be accountable to the public, communities, and parents and children that it serves. Schools, colleges, and other public institutions within the National Education Service “should be rooted in their communities”, with parents and communities empowered, via appropriate democratic means, to “influence change where it is needed and ensure that the education system meets their needs”. The “appropriate democratic authority” will set, monitor and allocate resources, ensuring that they meet the rights, roles, and responsibilities of individuals and institutions.
9. Aspire to the “highest standards of excellence and professionalism”. Educators and all other staff will be “valued as highly-skilled professionals”, and appropriate accountability will be balanced against giving “genuine freedom of judgement and innovation”. The National Education Service shall “draw on evidence and international best practice, and provide appropriate professional development and training”.
10. Have the “utmost regard to the well-being of learners and educators”, and its policies and practices, particularly regarding workload, assessment and inspection will “support the emotional, social and physical well-being of students and staff”.

(The original form of this article by Freddie Whittaker appeared in Schools Week on 26 September 2017).

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Henley Standard - School Expansion


I wish to address some points made in the letter by David Maynerd headed ‘What about other option?’ published in your newspaper last week.

Mr Maynerd recounts a conversation in which the process undertaken by Reading Borough Council to address a shortfall in primary school places is questioned and the actual need for any more primary school places is called into doubt.

The Council conducted a lengthy consultation regarding the expansion of schools in the borough. This included a primary school place planning summit with headteachers in June 2012 and the launch of the Let’s Talk Education consultation in October 2012.

A series of discussion events were held across the borough in which the Council put forward its needs and communities were invited to have their say. Detailed conversations were held with headteachers and governing bodies of schools.

All the schools were assessed for viability in order to achieve best value from the capital available. As a result, Caversham Primary School was not included in the recommendations for the expansion programme.

A major expansion programme involving 13 primary schools was agreed. The Council won £19.1m funding from the Government and embarked on a £64 million primary school expansion programme which was completed this year having delivered more than 2,500 extra primary school places.

Over the next 10 years the demand for primary school places in Caversham will increase slightly.  The Heights free school has been at its capacity in its first three years and we predict it will remain so in the foreseeable future. Only one school in the Caversham area has places available - with just seven places.

I hope these details demonstrate the robust process undertaken by the Council in its school expansion programme and clarifies the current situation regarding demand for primary school places.
Councillor Tony Jones
Lead Member for Education

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

#muralgate update: "No cash upfront"

Picture courtesy of Reading Chronicle
According to the Reading Chronicle:

"A community company has threatened to report the council to the Information Commissioner if it reveals the truth behind a secretive bid to save a much-loved building.

Reading Aspire claims it has made a £10m bid to buy Central Club in London Street from Reading Borough Council. However, the bid does not include any cash upfront." writes Courtney Friday (@ChronCourtney).

You can read the full story in the Reading Chronicle here.

Nice Mural, Shame About The Green-Wash

Reproduced in full below is the question and answer at Reading Borough Council's Policy Committee, held on 25 September 2017, concerning the future of the Central Club Building and mural in central Reading.

Cultural icon: The mural on the wall of the Central Club

Councillor White (Green Party) to ask the Leader of the Council:

Reconsider Aspire's bid to buy the Central Club Building

Green Party councillors have backed and will continue to back Aspire's bid to buy the Central Club building and save the mural.  The benefit  which Reading would gain from the bid in terms of heritage, culture and practical support is priceless. Does the Council agree that there were some inaccuracies with the summary of Aspire's bid in the report which went to the Policy Committee on 17 July 2017?

REPLY by Councillor Lovelock (Leader of the Council)

Firstly the Council completely rejects any suggestion that there were inaccuracies in the summary of Aspire's bid in the July Policy Report. By asking the question Councillor White is deliberately misleading the public and insulting the integrity of the officers who wrote the report.

The July Committee report explicitly listed the bidding documents as background documents that supported the recommendation on the night. The individual bids were available on request for inspection by Policy committee members and a hard copy of the bids - including any all (sic) correspondence on clarifications - was also lodged with Members services for ease of inspection. While the Council is still unable to make the bid public, unless Aspire gives permission for that, Councillor White as a member of Policy Committee is welcome to read the whole bid if he has not done so already.

However, from his question I can only conclude that Cllr White did not bother to read the background information and any of the bids, prior to coming to a decision on this very important matter in July. If he had done, surely he would have raised the alleged inaccuracies when the item was considered in closed session - he did not.

I understand that officers briefed Councillor White on this matter last week, and provided extracts of the bid documentation to address his concerns.

Since July the Council has been repeatedly frustrated by the fact it cannot make full details of Aspire's bid public. Despite requests to Aspire to waive confidentiality, this has been refused by Aspire. The fact that the Council cannot divulge the full detail of the bid has been used to mislead the public and I'm afraid your question tonight, Councillor White, is another example of that same tactic.

Once again, I will reiterate that Reading Borough Council remains  fully committed to securing the future of the mural. It is wholly inaccurate and disingenuous to suggest otherwise. It is also misleading to imply only Aspire bid would secure its future - that is simply not true. The mural is a cultural icon and remains of huge importance to the black community, the wider community and the Council as it represents Reading's long history of celebrating different cultures and promoting tolerance.

The Council is clear what it expects any offers received in the next round of bidding to include plans to secure the mural's future. We have also contacted the mural artist to invite him to discuss its future treatment and preservation.

The Council continues to make it clear that all bidders - including Aspire or any other community group - can either carry forward existing bids, or submit a fresh offer for the building as part of the new bidding process this autumn.

At a time when Government funding for public services is failing to keep pace with huge increases in demand, the Council owes it to the local tax payer to understand the full value of the property, what people ar willing to pay for it and to compare these bids with ones which make offers to keep elements for community use. The Council has asked Aspire to update or confirm their bid as part of this process so that it can be considered alongside alternatives.

I can only hope that Councillor White recognises the potential damage to wider community relations that such deliberately misleading statements can have and act more responsibly in future. Councillor White has a long history of jumping on any bandwagon with little regard for the facts - after all his time as a member of this Council I would have hoped he would have learned some integrity.

- End of answer -

The broadcast of this debate can be found on the Council's website here.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Tories Broken Promise On Private Schools

Tories: Another Broken Promise
The Tories have quietly dropped election manifesto promises to force private schools to provide "public benefit" in order to maintain their charitable status.

The plans had been to force independent schools to forge formal partnerships with local schools or offer a significant number of bursaries to poorer children to retain their tax status, earning them favourable business rates and VAT exemptions on fees.

However, it has now been revealed that such measures have been watered down and are to be left to voluntary arrangements.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Reading Gateway: Local Employment Opportunities


The Reading Gateway development in Whitley, near M4 junction 11, takes another step forward tomorrow (Wednesday 13 September) with the holding of a "Local Employment Opportunities" event.
With employment opportunities within the construction sector, as well as future chances in other industries, anyone interested should get along to the South Reading Community Centre, 252 Northumberland Avenue, RG2 7QA, between 1.30pm and 3.30pm.
The Reading Gateway scheme, which is due for completion in September 2018, will see the opening of a 120 Premier Inn Hotel, a Beefeater restaurant, a Toys R Us store, a Burger King and a Costa drive through.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Are You Registered To Vote?

Your Vote Matters - Don't Lose It

Did you know that registering to vote can help you:

Open a bank account
Get a mortgage
Buy a mobile phone
Get a loan or store card

To check to see if you are registered to vote or to register to vote please call 
0118 937 3717 or visit

Register to vote

You can register to voteOpens new window at the website if you are over 16 - you should do this well in advance of an election. If you change your name or move house you will have to register again.

Postal vote

After you register, you can apply for a postal voteOpens new window. This is useful if voting at your local polling station is not convenient for you. You should apply at least 11 days before an election.

Proxy vote

After you register, you can apply for a proxy voteOpens new window. This is useful if you cannot get to your polling station because you fall ill or are abroad.


Students can register at home or in the place they are at college or university. However, they can only vote once.

Electoral register

Once you register to vote, you are added to the electoral register. There are two versions:
  • the full register - this is used for elections, law enforcement and by credit reference agencies
  • the open register - businesses and charities can contact us to purchase a copy to confirm name and address details
Contact us to exclude your details from the open register.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Vote To Help Berkshire Womens Aid

Berkshire Womens Aid (BWA) are applying for a grant to fund the installation of solar panels at one of their refuge's - you can help by voting for them!

Back in the 1970s Berkshire Womens Aid (BWA) opened Reading’s first refuge for victims of domestic abuse. And through that and our other local refuges we have supported numerous local women and children over the years.

Now BWA and Reading Rotary are funding the renovation and extension of that first refuge.
We need a refuge that brings accommodation for these desperate women and children into the 21st Century.

The plan is for an 18 room building that will help at least 90 families in its first 5 years. It’s a big undertaking but we’re up for the challenge! We’ve done surveys and energy assessments and will take a holistic approach to energy use reduction involving, fabric improvements, more efficient use of natural gas by introducing gas condensing boilers with highly efficient control systems, and to top it off solar panels that will actually help power the building.  We do have some budget for energy efficient improvements but unfortunately not sufficient to cover the costs of solar panels and new boilers.

In summary, our project:
  • Provides a better living environment and better quality of life for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse
  • Being able to generate some of its own electricity reduces our carbon emissions and generates cost savings which help the charity become sustainable.  Which is especially important given the cuts made by the local authority
Please support us in helping to change local lives

You can vote for BWA's project here

Thank you.