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10 Jan 2018

Policing Our Neighbourhoods - My Meeting with Superintendent Gilmour

In October Thames Valley Police and the Police & Crime Commissioner did a presentation on activity in the Thames Valley and Reading area and there were some worrying statistics around drug crime.

You can see the papers and watch the meeting here.  My questions and response were reported in the papers.  I was concerned about daylight drug dealing in Battle ward.  Several residents had reported this to me and felt their calls to the police were not being responded to.

“My residents are extremely concerned about drugs in their area.
“You can now see people dealing drugs on the streets - in broad daylight it’s no longer a hidden activity, it’s happening on a daily basis.
“What can people do to make sure daylight drug dealing is a thing of the past in Reading?"

So Superintendent Gilmour and I promised to meet up.

Our meeting last week was a very productive one.  First off I made it clear I understood police budgets are being cut and that the police are under a lot of pressure, just as council budgets are being cut.  These cuts are all part of the Conservative government's austerity programme, something I believe is damaging lives and communities across the country. 

He told me how the neighbourhood teams are being realigned with borough wards and how they are taking pro-active action against crimes.  I asked that the results of this action be better communicated - criminals are being caught but we don't always get to hear about it.

He stressed that is it vital that incidents are reported to either 999 in an emergency or 101.  It's these reports and the intelligence they contain that helps the police allocate resources.  You may not have an officer call round but you will be helping highlight an issue in your area.

We have arranged to hold a series of events in Battle ward so residents can have their concerns heard.  I will be at all of them.  So we are going to:
  • Hold a World Cafe at Battle Library.  We will have tea and cake and discuss three or so 'hot topics'.  Tel me what they should be.
  • Get the bus! We will borrow a Reading Buses bus, park it somewhere in Battle ward and hold a Have Your Say meeting where you can pop along to chat to me or the police about your concerns. 
  • Hold street surgeries.  These are always popular.  We pick a date, time and a couple of streets and come to you.  You will have a notice popped through your door a few days before which you display in your window if you want us to call by.  Tell me which streets we should visit.
We didn't just discuss Battle ward.  I've been contacted by residents across Reading West about crimes ranging from anti-social behaviour, dangerous scooter riding and car break ins.

Superintendent Gilmour assured me that these events are available to any community is Reading so even if you're not a Battle resident you can contact me, or your local ward councillors, with a suggestion about the location of future events.  I can be contacted on cllrsarahhacker@virginmedia.com or sarah.hacker@reading.gov.uk as well as on social media.

We had a few minutes spare at the end of a very productive meeting so we took part in an exercise Superintendent Gilmour does pretty much everyday - decide on the priority of police activities.  It was quite difficult.  Do you prioritise staff training over catching burglers?  Here's what I had decided on after 5 minutes.  I could have done with a lot longer!

I fully appreciate the hard work our police force undertake to keep us all safe however budget cuts are reducing the preventative work they can do.  Remember, these cuts are being made by a Conservative government.  It is reported that Thames Valley Police are to see a further £22 million cut from their budgets over the next three years with a reduction of 59 police officer roles.  This needs to be reviewed and the police properly funded as our communities deserve better!

3 Jan 2018

Our NHS is in crisis - the Tories are failing it!

You can't move today for headlines shouting about how our NHS is struggling this winter.  It's not because the staff don't care, it's obvious they are all working extremely hard!  In Reading the Royal Berkshire hospital is asking staff to do extra shifts to ensure patients get the help and treatment they need.

From Twitter @RBNHSFT

This month tens of thousands of non-emergency operations are being cancelled which can be distressing to those waiting for them.   A&E units are under huge pressure because people are simply ill.  They are being asked to go to their local GP but getting appointments is getting harder and harder.  A £4.5 billion cut to social care funding has also heaped pressure on our health services.

Simon Stevens, the NHS chief executive told the Conservative government the NHS needed an extra £4 billion in 2018 however the chancellor Philip Hammond only allocated £1.6 billion.  The government did allocated an extra £350 million for the NHS but this is clearly woefully inadequate.

According to Theresa May, the Conservative Prime Minister, "The NHS has been better prepared for this winter than ever before". Well, Ms May, you've obviously not done enough.  It is very clear the NHS is not safe under the Conservatives. 

Here's is what the Labour Party will do for the NHS when it forms a government: 


2 Jan 2018

Save the date! Reading Pride 2018

The date of the 2018 Reading Pride has been announced!  If you want to come to the best (in my opinion) free Pride then pop:

Saturday 1 September 2018

In your diary.  Reading Pride is about equality and celebrating our LGBT+ community and I am very proud to be a patron since 2016.  It is a fun, family friendly event with community stalls,food, music and dancing.  Will Pride 2018 be even bigger than last years record smashing event?  I hope so!  Stay up to date by following them on social media or by bookmarking their website: Reading Pride

Here are a few photos from last year's event so you have an idea what's in store. 


22 Nov 2017

The Budget - a lost opportunity to improve lives

I've just seen the budget.  I'm not sure what I was expecting - certainly not an end to austerity, despite it being clear it's failed.  I was hoping to see the government had listened and understood that living standards are being squeezed and people are struggling. I was wrong.

Forecasts for growth have been down graded from 2% to 1.5%. Pay continues to stagnate and public sector workers still face a pay cap. People are struggling to make ends meet and the budget has done little to lighten their load.  Food bank use continues to grow with ReadiFood delivering 135 parcels a weekFood prices are rising as are energy costs, rents and house prices.

Stamp duty is being scrapped for first time buyers purchasing properties up to £300,000.  That's all very well but you have to be able to afford to buy the house first, have the salary to back up a mortgage plus be able to save a deposit. According to RightMove the average terraced property sold for £314,479.  Property ownership is now out of reach for many and rents, on average £1,079 for a two bed property in Reading, are also becoming unaffordable.

We face another winter where people will be faced with the choice of eating or heating.  This is nothing new, the government have not been taken by surprise. 

Some money has been thrown at the NHS.  There's £350m to address pressures in winter 2017/2018 but that won't go far when you take into account how far it's to be spread and additional pressures caused by cuts to council social care budgets and a GP service stretched to the limit.

Schools gets nothing extra in their budgets.  There is money available for secondary schools and collages for pupils taking maths at higher levels but nothing for the primary schools who have already resorted to asking parents for money to plug their budget gaps. The government really is just papering over the already deep cracks they have created.

The future really does look bleak under the Conservative government.  After 7 1/2 years of austerity it's still very much pain with little gain for the average family.

We need a change of government if we really want to see living standards improve, properly affordable housing, a well funded NHS and school budgets that provide a good quality and varied education for our children.  

We need a Labour MP in Reading West who stands up for every community, regardless of its prosperity.  

We need hope.

See Jeremy Corbyn's response to this shambles of a budget here:  Jeremy Corbyn Budget 2017 response

What would Labour do instead?  Find out here: Manifesto

17 Nov 2017

#PrematurityIs - my experience

It's World Prematurity today and this year's theme is #Prematurityis - what prematurity means to those affected by it.  I am one of those people.

My youngest son was born 9 1/2 weeks early and it was a complete shock.  My previous pregnancy produced an overdue and very healthy 9lb 15oz baby.  There were no indications that my second pregnancy would be any different until my waters broke when I was 20+6 weeks pregnant.  Steroids were given, I had a 3 night stay in hospital and was sent home to take things easy to give baby as many days as possible in utero.

I only managed two days at home before I went into labour and my son was delivered by crash emergency cesarean under general anesthetic weighing 3lb 9oz.

The next 4 weeks 2 days were spent:

Visiting him in Buscot Ward at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. 

Initial deep worry, fear and distress when he was covered in wires and monitors when he was first born.

Balancing the needs of a toddler with those of his new brother whilst recovering from major abdominal surgery.

Slowly getting to know this tiny person through a perspex incubator.

Having precious cuddles, changing tiny nappies and clothes and feeding expressed breastmilk through a tube.

Marveling at his strength as he moved through the wards, off oxygen and into a normal cot.

Helping him learn to suck and feed.

Finally taking him home when he was a still tiny 4lb 9oz.

It's once I was home the enormity of what had happened hit me hard.  His first birthday was even harder, remembering what had happened and it's always at the back of my mind.

No two parents of premature babies will have the same experience, feelings, concerns and outcome. 

Prematurity is different for everyone.

 Image may contain: one or more people and people sleeping

Please take a few moment to find out more about prematurity and how you can help premature babies across the UK and the world: http://www.bliss.org.uk/Pages/Category/world-prematurity-day