Friday, 23 June 2017

School Holiday Dates In Reading

Following representations from parents and headteachers, Reading Borough Council will adopt new school term dates for the academic year 2018-19, so giving everyone time to plan for the changes.

This will mean that Reading will adopt the October holiday (22nd-26th Oct 2018) and Easter (8th-23rd April 2019) in line with other local authorities.

There will be no change to the dates already published for 2017-18.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Reporting Illegally Parked Vehicles

The extension of the residents parking scheme in Redlands has proved hugely popular.

However, there are times when vehicles without permits ignore the rules.

If that's the case you can report them by visiting the enforcement service at: 

Click on "Report an illegally parked vehicle" and then you can either log on or "continue without an account".

You will be asked for details of the vehicle, registration number, colour, location. The reports are sent directly to the Civil Enforcement Officer base for them to review and action. If there is a CEO in the area, they can be directed to the road ASAP.

Let us know how you get on.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

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 as 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.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Redlands Ward Public Surgery - Saturday, 10 June

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 tomorrow.

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 coming through your letter-box!

And The News Keeps Getting Better ...

Anneliese Dodds and John Howarth
With the largely expected news of the election of Anneliese Dodds in Oxford East thoughts will soon turn to her position as an MEP.

The European Parliament procedures say that should she choose to resign that position in order to concentrate on her new role as an MP in Westminster, then her place would be open to be taken by the next candidate on the Labour Party South East list at the time of the last European Elections in 2014.

That person is former Reading and Berkshire councillor John Howarth.

If it works out this way John would be a great advocate for Reading and the South East in Brussels.

Reading East: Job Done

Well done Matt Rodda, Labour MP.
A pretty rotten night for all the other parties in Reading East.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Schools In Reading Are Improving

This is a copy of my opinion article in this week's READING CHRONICLE

Schools in Reading are improving

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.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Councils hold positive meeting on future of Chiltern Edge School


Senior officers and political leaders from Oxfordshire County Council and Reading Borough Council have held positive talks over the future of Chiltern Edge School.
The school has been put into special measures following an Ofsted rating of ‘Inadequate’, and an ongoing consultation is looking at all possible options for improving educational opportunities for children in the local area.
Although closure cannot be ruled out at this stage, both councils have agreed they will work together to find a solution that enables the school to stay open, and which will also deliver the improvements required by Ofsted. Both councils are in discussion with the Regional Schools Commissioner, who is in the process of looking for a potential academy sponsor to secure the school’s future.
Following yesterday’s meeting at Oxfordshire’s County Hall, Oxfordshire County Council Leader Ian Hudspeth said: “This was a very constructive meeting and it is clear we all want to find a solution that will enable the school to stay open. The key issue above all else, is how we can improve the education of children who live in both Oxfordshire and Reading.
“We’re well aware of the strength of feeling around this issue and the high regard in which the school is held by local families, despite the recent Ofsted report. I would urge anyone who has not already done so, to take part in the consultation.”
Reading Borough Council Leader Jo Lovelock said: “No one wants to see the school close, but there must be a solution which delivers the improvements Ofsted have said are necessary. This is about finding a way to improve the education of children – not just those currently attending Chiltern Edge, but those who might attend in the future. I was very pleased to meet with colleagues in Oxfordshire to discuss these issues, and both our councils are continuing to work closely together during the consultation period to identify potential options to keep the school open.”
To take part in the consultation, please visit

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 giving advice to parents. The admissions team are also taking calls from parents on (0118) 937 3777 and emails can be sent to
Meanwhile, we encourage parents to respond to the consultation directly by visiting 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

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