Manifesto for the council elections to be held on 3rd May 2018
Despite the ongoing onslaught on public services by the Conservative Government Reading’s Labour Council continues to do its best to keep vital services available to those who need them most.
We also remain ambitious for Reading and have been successful in securing special funding for projects such as the new train station at Green Park and the restoration of the Abbey ruins.
We are proud of the fact that Reading remains one of the most successful local economies in Britain, but we take nothing for granted and are very conscious that there are too many people who are struggling to make ends meet and we will campaign for changes to government rules which do damage to so many people.
Our Labour Council will:
· Continue to challenge the Conservative government on their damaging cuts to Reading.
· Work with other local authorities, where appropriate, to protect frontline services.
· Continue to review the number of buildings owned by the Council to help maintain frontline services.
· Maintain the Council’s commitment as an accredited Living Wage Employer.
· Ensure that funding for the voluntary sector is directed at those most in need of support.
· Actively work towards Reading Borough Council becoming a Stonewall-accredited employer.
Above all, we will work to our values on tackling inequality, protecting frontline services, and looking after the most vulnerable. We’re making Reading Safer, Stronger, Cleaner.
Housing and Development
· Work with local charities and others to reduce homelessness including through exploring new and innovative ways of providing housing in addition to continuing to find sites to build Council Housing and acquiring properties through the Council’s new company “Homes for Reading”
· Continue to fight for more housing with high-quality standards on environmental and energy-efficiency.
· Ensure that new housing develops to build communities, and is supported by good local public service and infrastructure.
· Continue to develop our Private Sector Rental Strategy to ensure that rogue landlords are held to account for poor-quality housing.
· Explore innovative methods of enforcement to allow tenants to report inadequate housing.
Charter for council house tenants
· Ensure no sell off of council house stock to a private or housing association provider. Council housing will remain under control of Reading Borough Council under public ownership.
· Give Full tenancy rights and security for tenants who have passed their probationary period.
· Continuous long term investment in the council housing stock to maintain the Reading Decent Homes Standard.
· Ensure council rents are fair and affordable for tenants and that investments in the housing stock can be maintained over a long time period.
Promote full tenant participation in the decision-making processes involving council housing.
· Build a large number of council houses in Reading to meet the demand for affordable council homes for families and individuals.
· Work together with partners in ensuring that people registering as street homeless are given advice and assisted in obtaining suitable accommodation.
· Work with community groups and partner agencies, including charities to assist people who are homeless and have complex needs obtain supported accommodation.
· Raise awareness within the communities in Reading of the damage the Tory Government austerity programme.
· Reduce the number of people in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation by providing high quality temporary housing units for individuals and families who are homeless.
Private sector renting
· Work with private sector landlords to increase the supply of good quality homes which offer affordable rents, particularly benefiting young professionals who are struggling to get onto the housing mortgage ladder;
· Introduce the Private Rented Sector Charter, working with tenants and landlords to achieve good quality affordable rented properties;
· Continue to prosecute rogue landlords exploiting tenants and champion good landlords;
· Continue to implement the Rent Guarantee Scheme to enable individuals who are finding it financially difficult to rent find affordable accommodation;
· Prioritise the Empty Homes Strategy in bringing empty properties back into use by working with owners of the properties, using legislation to force owners into getting their properties fit for habitation and, if necessary, taking the properties into council ownership in the event of non-co-operation of owners in sorting their empty properties;
· Promoting Labour Party policy of tackling a lack of affordable housing by promoting council house building, cheaper rents and rent controls to assist Reading residents find decent, affordable accommodation.
Transport and Environment
· Continue to ensure our roads are safe and environmentally-friendly through exploring speed control measures where they are appropriate.
· Encourage car users to move to alternative forms of transport, such as our award-winning buses and our innovative ReadyBike scheme.
· Encourage and expand the park and ride scheme.
· Look to develop innovative new ways to encourage walking through local initiatives.
· Complete work on the new Green Park Station and begin plans to re-develop Reading West Station.
· Continue to work on an agreement with neighbouring authorities to build a third Thames Bridge
· Maintain our long-term goal of introducing a Low Emission Zone for Reading, reducing large vehicles and lorries using Caversham and other areas as short cuts to the M4.
· Look at the possibility of introducing advisory cycle speed zones so that cyclists and pedestrians can better use shared spaces.
· Continue to work with neighbouring authorities to promote and increase Park and Ride and Mass Rapid Transit services to Reading, reducing congestion.
· Continue to improve and promote cycling routes, whilst also introducing uniform cycling route signage.
· Support and promote Reading Buses, our award-winning Council-owned bus service, while working with the community to ensure that it continues to provide an excellent service at an affordable price.
· Continue to work with local community groups and residents to increase the number of 20mph zones, where appropriate.
· Continued to promote residents’ parking zones.
· Build on our previous commitments to reduce Reading’s Carbon Footprint so that we can do our part to protect the planet.
· Ensure local councillors will have special responsibilities to support local businesses.
· Encourage recycling as much as possible, including exploring new methods of recycling, and work with Re3 partner to find a way to introduce food waste recycling
· Continue to celebrate our natural environment, including green spaces, corridors and path.
· Continue to prioritise community safety, including pressing for additional police resources.
· Continue to develop and promote community clear-ups as part of the award-winning Love Clean Reading initiative including extending the very popular RAYS (Reading Adopt a Street)
· Work to improve the accessibility and rental of Council properties for community groups and associations, including extending community centres where possible
· Develop neighbourhood hubs to improve access to co-located services, including the Weller Centre, South Whitley Community Centre and Southcote Community Centre
· Continue to lead the Community Safety Partnership – which has seen a significant reduction in crimes such as burglary – and make use of new powers to protect vulnerable people from exploitation.
· Increase what people can add to their red bins including mixed plastic, pots tubs and trays cartons and foil.
Children and Education
· Listen to children and families, intervening early and supporting families to succeed and thrive.
· Support the work of the new Council owned Children’s company, building capacity in families and communities to improve the life chances of children.
· Continue to work to develop another secondary school in Reading.
· Use innovative methods to protect funding for education and children’s services from the savage and ideologically driving Conservative cuts.
· Work in partnership with the Police, healthcare providers, schools, and the voluntary sector to safeguard children against neglect, CSE, FGM, and all forms of abuse
· Promote and recruit local foster carers to help ensure that majority of Reading children we look after can live in or close to Reading.
· Recruit or train an in-house children’s workforce to reduce our dependency on agency workers.
· Work in partnership with other statutory services and the voluntary sector re-focus our ‘Early Help’ offer to target those children, young people, and families most in need.
· Work with communities and families to build resilience.
· Work to reduce the stigma attached to mental health, with a specific focus on campaigning to increase funding from the government for mental health services for children and young people.
· Ensure that every child in Reading attends a school that is rated as ‘Good’ or better by Ofsted.
· Aim for Reading Borough Council to be among the top 25% councils in the nation for educational achievement.
· Ensure enough new school places to meet the needs of our growing population, including the provision of a new secondary school in Reading in the next three years.
· Promote the advantages of Community Schools and encourage all schools to work collaboratively with Reading Borough Council.
Health and Adult Social Care
· Continue to stand up and fight for our NHS, including mental health services, from the chronic underfunding forced by the Conservative Government for ideological reasons.
· Explore options to provide disabled people with greater flexibility to receive those services which would suit them best by providing them with choice and control over their treatment and services.
· Continue to promote and support those voluntary and community groups that bring residents together helping to combat loneliness and isolation amongst older residents.
· Increase the provision of trim trails, to allow increased use of parks and green spaces for physical activity and healthy leisure should continue to be pursued.
· Continue to work with local communities to support GP surgeries.
· Work with groups and communities across the town to ensure Reading becomes a ‘Dementia Friendly’ town
· Work in partnership with our NHS colleagues whilst holding the Accountable Care System (ACS) to account, and ensure transparency in the council’s dealings with it.
Arts and Leisure
· Lobby the Ministry of Justice to use the Reading Prison site to be a cultural hub for all Reading residents.
· Review and develop Reading Passport further, to ensure that it continues as a benefit to all Reading residents.
· Promote tourism in Reading as an opportunity to develop a new economic sector in the town. We will develop a tourism economic strategy to achieve this.
· Work with partners to provide new swimming pools in East and Central Reading
· Continue to work with external partners and funders to ensure the best Leisure and Arts facilities for Reading, including
· Developing the Cultural Partnership, and creating a Strategic Vision for Art, Culture and Heritage
· Delivering the Cultural Strategy
· Supporting local art and cultural groups
· Supporting the Great Places Scheme and Reading on Thames Festival
· Continue to engage children and young people in art and culture through the Cultural Education Partnership
· Develop our Libraries into Community Hubs, more in tune with the needs of the residents around them, delivering a range of high quality cultural activities, talks and services, and maximising opportunities to co-locate a range of services.
· Open the Abbey Quarter development by summer 2018, and celebrating the Abbey Quarter, allowing public access to the site alongside new and exciting events and activities. We will also open Abbey Gateway and new galleries at the museum, to celebrate Reading's history.
· Continue our work to provide high quality leisure facilities across the town including two new swimming pools, competition standard pool and diving facilities, restoring the commitment scrapped under the previous coalition administration.
· Continue our work to revamp the Passport to Leisure system with the goal of increasing usage as well as expanding access to facilities.
· Continue our work to maintain our long-term commitment to provide a new Theatre for Reading, replacing the aging Hexagon site by seeking partnership funding to achieve this.
· Make Reading a town recognised for its good quality cultural events.
· Support our Food safety team ensuring high standards of food safety.
· Tackle fraudsters and those praying on the vulnerable through trading standards.