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.