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 - again

"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.