Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A New Pool For Palmer Park - The Next Steps

One of the options for the new swimming pool in Palmer Park
Plans have been published revealing the next step in the building of a new swimming pool for east Reading in Palmer Park.

Reading council's Strategic Environment, Planning and Transportation Committee will consider a "development framework" for public consultation at its meeting on 21st November.

The document is intended to:
  • Set out a vision and framework for the future development of a swimming pool and associated spaces within the park;
  • Recommend improvements to the public realm and spaces in the park;
  • Respond to planning policy in relation to the swimming pool development;
  • Identify and resolve constraints and other barriers to development.
Redlands Labour Councillor Tony Jones said "I very much welcome this public consultation as an important and necessary next step towards delivering the new swimming pool in east Reading. I know that many local residents are excited by the prospect of the provision of a new modern, accessible community swimming pool at Palmer Park."

Monday, 5 November 2018

Social Care - Avoiding The Difficult Decisions

Social care funding decisions kicked into the long grass
"Age UK is concerned about the state of Social Care in the country and are worried that the long promised Green Paper on Social Care is going to be ‘kicked into the long-grass’ by the Government.
They are calling on the Government to bring forward their plans for a social care Green Paper which includes meaningful consultation with older people.
They highlight a number of issues to be addressed:
  • Underfunding – in the last 5 years there has been a £160 million cut in total public spending on older people’s social care despite a rapidly increasing demand because of our ageing population
  • Postcode lottery – despite the 2014 Care Act introducing a national system of eligibility, local variation is still leaving many older people without any support
  • Unmet need -1.2 million people aged 65 plus don’t receive the care support they need with essential living activities
  • Declining access – cuts in local authority care services have placed increasing pressure on unpaid carers
Age UK want  to make sure that Theresa May keeps her promise, made in March to ‘put the state-funded system on a more secure and sustainable footing.’
They are asking the Government to follow through on its commitment to a Green Paper consultation without delay."
Unfortunately Age UK's plea above was made in December 2017 and still the wait for the government to publish the Green Paper goes on. 
The Green Paper was promised by Chancellor Philip Hammond in his March 2017 budget "later in the year (2017)" which would "set out options for resolving the financially and politically pressing question of how to fund social care in the long term, giving the population is set to continue ageing.".
After that failed to appear the then Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt repeated promised then delayed the Green Paper.
Most recently Hunt's successor Matt Hancock "committed to a comprehensive green paper on social care in the Autumn". Nothing yet - when does Autumn turn to Winter?
But still the wait goes on.
All the council's budget could be spent on social care
And every day that passes, the pressures on council budgets grow. As far back as 2012 the dangers were being highlighted (including the "Graph of Doom" opposite) and nothing much has changed: unless things do change, very soon all of the council's budget will be consumed by supporting social care costs - to the exclusion of all other services.
So, when will this government get real with the public, open up an honest debate by publishing the Green Paper, instead of kicking these most "pressing questions"?
Given the shambles over handling of "Brexit" I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Reading - a positive view from outside

A while ago, when I was Chair of Reading Buses, it was not unusual for someone to comment to me on the operation of our local bus company, often in negative terms. However, when pressed, it would be revealed that the commentator (a) didn't use Reading buses and (b) didn't use buses in any other town or city: views based on ignorance or prejudice with no reference point.

It remains the case today that more often than not the strongest critics of our town can usually be found from amongst us, talking the town down or complaining that somehow we should be delivering a Rolls-Royce service on a Fiat Punto budget.

So when an outside, independent voice is heard, I think it is always worth considering, so I've added a link to the recent Demos/PwC survey on Good Growth For Cities index, which placed Reading second in its national survey.
Yes we need more affordable housing, yes we have areas of deprivation, but overall it's a  pretty good story for Reading. 

Perhaps sometimes looking beyond the borough boundary helps with perspective.

Monday, 20 August 2018

What do councils legally have to do for their residents?

Informative article on BBC website Reality Check (9 August 2018)

man putting rubbish in bin

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

As cash-strapped councils propose stripping back their services to the "legal minimum", BBC Reality Check asks what councils in England have to do for their local residents.
They provide a sometimes bewilderingly wide range of services, but not all of these are things they have to do by law. There are over a thousand legal obligations on councils, although many of them are vaguely worded and open to interpretation.
When faced with financial pressure, functions they are not legally obliged to carry out are often the first to be cut.
And local government has seen a 49% reduction in the funding it receives from central government since 2010.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government acknowledges that "all of the public sector has had its part to play in helping to reduce the deficit, and we know that councils have been going the extra mile to deliver efficiencies" but it says "we are providing councils with £90.7bn over the next two years and are giving them more powers to retain the growth in business rates".

Adult social care

Demographic changes mean over the next 15 years, the population over the age of 85 is likely to increase by 1.3m, meaning more people who are likely to need care and support in their day-to-day lives.
And this is one of the biggest challenges facing councils which have been spending a growing proportion of their budgets on social care.
Councils have a legal duty to make sure care is available for people who are unable to do certain things in their daily lives - getting themselves up and dressed, cooking or taking medication for example - without help.
That includes older people and anyone with a disability or condition that makes these things difficult. The care might be provided by the council itself or by a charity or private company, in a care home or in the person's own home.
That doesn't mean councils have to pay for all of this care, though - unlike the NHS, councils can charge people for care, unless their income is below a certain level.

Children's services

Councils have around 200 legal obligations in relation to children, including ensuring that they have a school place and that classes don't exceed a certain size.
They have duties to assess and provide services for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and young people who were previously in care, among other things.
Local authorities must assess whether a child referred to them is in need of support due to disability or illness, a parent's disability or illness, low income, abuse or neglect.
They must also investigate cases where a child is considered to be at risk of significant harm and put a plan in place to keep that child safe. In the most extreme cases they must intervene to remove a child from its parents.


Councils are obliged to arrange for the collection of household waste, although there's nothing to say how often they must collect bins.
This has allowed some councils to shift to fortnightly - rather than weekly - collections.
Rules on recycling are clearer and there are legal targets in place, some of which require each council to collect at least two types of recyclable waste and to push for recycling rates of at least 50%.

row of recycling and rubbish binsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES


Councils are obliged to maintain local streets so they are safe to use. That includes the surface of the roads, as well as lighting and traffic signals.
This duty has been interpreted by judges as meaning that roads must kept in a condition that's safe to use in all seasons - including taking reasonable steps to make sure road-users aren't endangered by snow and ice.
And councils have been taken to court for failing to do so when it resulted in someone being injured.
So does that mean they are legally obliged to fix potholes? Well, they could be open to a legal challenge if someone gets hurt as a result of their failure to maintain the roads, and they cannot prove they'd taken "all reasonable care" to ensure it was safe for road users.


Local authorities must provide free advice for people at risk of becoming homeless, and accommodation for homeless people in "priority" groups.
They must also provide facilities for disabled people in their houses and work with the fire service to ensure that buildings adhere to general health and safety regulations.

block of flats with balconiesImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Public health

In 2013, councils in England were given new responsibilities to improve the public health of their local area.
They must make sure sexual health, drug and alcohol misuse and smoking cessation services are provided.
And they must take steps to help people live healthier lifestyles - providing advice about healthy eating and exercise, or encouraging people to stop smoking during pregnancy, for example - as well as minimising risks to their health from their environment, for example improving poor housing.
Councils also have to make sure arrangements are made to protect their local residents' health against things like infectious disease, environmental hazards and extreme weather events.


Local authorities are required to maintain a "comprehensive and effective" library service, but this commitment is also to be done "within available resources."
However, what counts as comprehensive is up to interpretation - in 2014 it was decided that it did not mean that "every resident lives close to a library", but that an authority was "delivering a service that is accessible to all residents using reasonable means, including digital technologies".
They can also hand over the running of libraries to volunteers, rather than pay for it.
Residents can demand an inquiry if they feel a local authority is not doing enough to promote the improvement of libraries.
Libraries are a bit of a special case - there's no law that says councils have to provide parks or many other leisure facilities.
There are hundreds of other things councils are responsible for, from registering births and deaths to issuing licences to pubs and clubs.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

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.

Today's surgery is at St Lukes Parish Hall, Erleigh 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.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Happy Birthday NHS!

On 5th July 1948 Labour created the National Health Service.

The NHS is our proudest achievement - providing universal healthcare for all and free at the pint of use.

Labour will always stand up for the NHS. But under the Tories our NHS is in crisis. Patients are waiting for hours in overcrowded A&Es, waiting lists are rising and hospitals are in financial crisis.

As we celebrate the 70th birhday of our NHS, it's time to fight for it again.

  • Fully fund our NHS and social care
  • End Tory privatisation and fragmentation by properly integrating health and care services
  • Halt Tory hospital closure plans
  • Bring waiting lists down by guaranteeing treatment within 18 weeks and ensuring 4 hour A&E target is met
  • Give every child the healthiest start in life by prioritising children's health services
  • Expend mental health services, delivering genuine parity of esteem
  • Invest in modern equipment and facilities for the future.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Government and NHS must improve communication of health and care reforms

The Health and Social Care Committee say the Government and the NHS must improve how they communicate NHS reforms to the public in their report on Integrated care.
(Report published today, 11th June 2018 - links at end of this report)
NHS and social care services are looking after a population which is living longer and with increasingly complex health and care needs, including multiple long-term conditions.

Services need to change 

Services need to change to reflect that and to be better organised around patients. Rising demand and costs for health and care are taking place alongside an unprecedented and prolonged squeeze on resources.

Integrated care 

There are many examples of NHS and care services coming together to deliver better care and this kind of integration has been happening at local level for some time. However, further integration of services, and the organisations planning and delivering them, is too often hampered by current legislation.

Government and national bodies have yet to explain the case for change

  • The Government and national bodies have yet to explain the case for change clearly and persuasively. 
  • There has also been a failure to consistently engage with local leaders in the design of service changes. 
  • Overuse of jargon and poor communication confuses both health professionals and the public alike. 
  • Changing acronyms, titles and terminology have allowed misunderstanding to fester and suspicion of the underlying purpose of reform.

Debate on NHS reform is often polarising. This has been true in the case of sustainability and transformation partnerships, STPs, and, more recently, accountable care organisations, ACOs, – forms of healthcare services that share their name with but are essentially different to models from the US.
Rather than threatening the integrity of the NHS, reforms to better join-up the organisation of services, including health and social care, present an opportunity to row back the NHS-internal market. 
However, the litmus test must be whether these changes (ACOs, STPs and integrated care systems) improve the care, outcomes, and experience of patients. 

Potential benefits of further integration

The Committee recognises the potential benefits of further integration and calls on the Government to bring forward legislation to remove legal barriers imposed by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Many of the necessary changes require primary legislation. To rebuild the trust that previous and repeated top-down reorganisations have eroded, the Committee recommends representatives from the health and care community – the NHS, local government, professional bodies, patient groups and the voluntary sector – lead on the development of new legislative proposals for the Government to lay before the House in draft and present to the Health and Social Care Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny. 
If a decision is taken, following a careful evaluation of pilots, to extend the use of ACOs in the English NHS then the Committee recommends that these should be introduced in primary legislation as NHS bodies. The Committee does not believe that the introduction of ACOs in England threatens the founding principles of the NHS or that they are likely in practice to be private sector led, but recommend establishing these as public bodies would reassure on that point.
The Government’s announcement of a long-term funding settlement is welcome. This will be essential not only to alleviate immediate pressures on health and social care services, but to facilitate the transition to more integrated care. In particular, the Government must recognise the importance of adequate transformation and capital funding to effective service change.

Chair's comment 

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said: 
"It is the triumph of our age that more people are living longer, but as MPs we too often see our constituents, their families and their carers grapple with local services that may be poorly organised around their needs and struggling to cope with the rising demand for care. 
As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday national leaders, and politicians from across the political spectrum at national and local level, must help to make the case for change to the public. Any effort to transform care will flounder and lose support unless it can demonstrate that patients and their families will benefit."

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Redlands Public Surgery - Saturday 9 June

Cllrs David Absolom, Jan Gavin and Tony Jones will be holding their regular Labour Councillors' Ward Public Surgery for residents at Hexham Road Community Centre, Bamburgh Close, RG2 7UD, 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 Tony also undertake "street surgeries" on other Saturdays and weekdays - so watch out for the window poster coming through your letter-box!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Whiteknights Studio Trail - 9 & 10 June

Take 36 individual artists, a Fine Art degree show and 22 venues shake them up and what do you get? A cocktail of some of the best art in Britain right on our doorstep in Redlands! 
Yes, its the annual Whiteknights Studio Trail. Now in its 18 year this is where to see some wonderful glass, hand-made furniture, jewellery, photography, ceramics, printing, painting and drawing and so much more.
All venues will be open between 11am and 6pm on two consecutive days, Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 June. Our friends at the University of Reading will exhibit their Fine Art Degree final show and The Museum of English Rural Life has again invited us to exhibit, so this is a wonderful chance to not only see outstanding world class art but also some very interesting venues and interiors in this fabulous Whiteknights area of Reading.
But the Studio Trail isn't limited to just the University - venues also include Redlands School, St Luke's Hall and private homes in Denmark Road, Elmhurst Road, New Road and at The Mount.
Find a map and a full programme of all the artist exhibitors here.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Labour Shuffles The Pack At Reading Council

Changes At Reading Council Leadership Team
The Labour Party administration at Reading Borough Council will confirm a reshuffle of lead member positions and revised portfolios at the Annual General Meeting of the council tomorrow (Wednesday 23rd May).

The revised line-up will be as follows:

Leader - Councillor Jo Lovelock
Deputy Leader - Cllr Tony Page

Lead Member Portfolios

  • Adult Social Care - Cllr Tony Jones (replaces Cllr Rachel Eden)
  • Children's Services - Cllr Liz Terry (replaces Cllr Jan Gavin)
  • Corporate & Consumer Services - Cllr Jason Brock (new position)
  • Culture, Heritage & Recreation - Cllr Sarah Hacker (revised portfolio)
  • Education - Cllr Ashley Pearce (replaces Cllr Tony Jones)
  • Health, Wellbeing & Sport - Cllr Graham Hoskin (revised portfolio)
  • Housing - Cllr John Ennis
  • Neighbourhoods & Communities - Cllr Sophia James (revised portfolio, replaces Cllr Liz Terry)
  • Strategic Environment, Planning & Transport - Cllr Tony Page

Committee Chairs

  • Adult Social Care, Children's Services & Education - Cllr David Absolom
  • Housing, Neighbourhoods & Lesiure - Cllr Richard Davies
  • Licensing Committee - Cllr Paul Woodward
  • Planning Committee - Cllr Chris Maskell
  • Strategic Environment, Planning & Transport - Cllr Debs Absolom
  • Transport Management Sub Committee - Cllr Mohammed Ayub

The following other nominations will be made:

  • Mayor - Cllr Deborah Edwards
  • Deputy Mayor - Cllr Paul Woodward

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Cintra Park Upgrade

Work started this week on a £70,000 upgrade in Cintra Park.

The multi-use games area at Cintra Park which opened in July 2006 has now reached the end of its life and is to be refurbished. As well as a new surface, new perimeter fencing will also be installed and the floodlighting will be inspected.

The work  will be carried out the work during May and June, thus avoiding the football season and the school summer holidays. Regular hirers should not be affected by the five week closure as alternative pitches will be offered. It is anticipated that the courts will be open to coincide with the start of Wimbledon.

In addition, the bark chippings in the play area will be replaced by a wetpour/rubber surface. This will reduce maintenance costs as there will no longer be an annual top up required. In addition a new large basket style swing to replace the rotating unit.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

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.

Today's surgery is at St Lukes Parish Hall, Erleigh 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.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Reading Education Leader To Stand Down

Councillor Tony Jones has overseen big improvements
Reading's lead member for Education, Councillor Tony Jones, has announced that he is to stand down from the role at the annual meeting of the council later this month.

Reflecting on his time at the helm of school education across the town Councillor Jones commented:

"When I took this role on in 2015 I said that I would only do it for three years and that time is now up. I made improving standards in schools my priority and I'm pleased to say that progress has been made, though faster and further in some areas than others. 

Reading was judged to be 149th out of 152 councils when I started, now we are a top 50 education authority. But we can never be complacent and there is still a lot more to do, so it is now time for someone else to take up the challenge and move things on to another level. 

I am immensely grateful for all the support I have received from council staff and, in particular, I would like to thank the many school heads, teachers and governors, who face the on-going daily challenges of school under-funding while trying to recruit and hang-on to good classroom staff in an area of high housing costs, yet are crucial to bringing good education to the town's children. They have my sincere admiration."

Saturday, 5 May 2018

University of Reading - Street Support Team


A pilot community support scheme

The University of Reading has recently launched a new Street Support Team. The trial scheme is part of the University’s plans to promote positive community relationships between students and non-student neighbours.

The Street Support Team will provide advice to students socialising late at night, encouraging them to be responsible, respectful and safe when travelling through residential areas. The team will also help students feel safe and supported late at night and clean up any bottles/glass left on the streets, as they go.

The highly trained and highly visible team will be working in residential streets around the campus between 10pm and 4am several nights a week. They’ll primarily be based between:

·        Redlands Road and London Road, including St George’s Hall.
·        Whiteknights Road and Wokingham Road, including Bridges/Wessex Halls and the number 17 bus stop.
·        Northcourt Avenue and Christchurch Green, including St Patrick’s/Sherfield Halls and the number 21/21a bus stop.

"The University has created this trial based on views from local residents, neighbourhood police teams, Reading Borough Council and other community partners in the town. We are grateful for all the input and support.

The scheme will run as a trial over the summer and autumn terms. We’ll be reviewing the scheme regularly and we’d be very grateful for feedback so we can make sure the team are working in the best way possible. We will also use the feedback to consider long-term delivery."

Please send any questions or feedback to Sarah Gardner, Community Relations Manager at community@reading.ac.uk