Thursday, 28 September 2017

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Henley Standard - School Expansion



LETTER TO HENLEY STANDARD

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

READING GATEWAY WILL OPEN IN SEPTEMBER 2018


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 www.gov.uk/registertovote

Register to vote

You can register to voteOpens new window at the Gov.uk 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

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.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Monday, 4 September 2017

A New Secondary School In Central Reading

Find A Site For A New Secondary School In Reading
In recent years Reading Borough Council has invested heavily in meeting the demand for extra places in the town's primary schools. 

However, by 2019/20 that expanded school population, together with a general growth in population, will be needing places to move on to secondary schools, with a large proportion based around central Reading.

The problem for Reading and the government's Education Funding Agency, is where can we find an appropriate site?

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Residents Parking: Latest Addition Launches On Monday

Cllr David Absolom - Cintra Ave / Warwick Rd
Residents parking protection schemes in Redlands have proved to be hugely successful - so much so that many other parts of the town are crying out for similar plans.

The latest addition to this process goes live next Monday, 4th September, with residents in Cintra Ave and Warwick Road being added to zone 15R following a long consultation led by Cllr David Absolom.

Local Labour councillors are also currently compiling residents' views on the round of schemes introduced in the spring. These may include changing some of the hours of protection and relaxing over-night parking in some pay and display areas: feel free to contact us with your ideas!