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Question to council: William Marshal

Richard Stainthorp to ask the Lead Councillor for Culture Heritage and Recreation: William Marshal As I am sure the Lead Councillor is awar...

31 Dec 2011

Cow Lane bridge - time lapse video

Very impressive to watch and at one point it looks like the old embankment is being eaten by yellow dinosaurs.  They are going to line the inner walls with bricks which will look nice.  Can't wait to go under it!

This really is a historic moment for Reading. I have a friend whose relative helped build the bridges which then where in farmland.  They were never designed as road bridges, their name makes that clear, so it is great we are getting something fit for purpose.

26 Dec 2011

Boxing Day at the new Cow Lane bridge

The embankment and rails have gone.

Biggest and a big truck.

Loads of people watching.

The new bridge being moved into place.

24 Dec 2011

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year
My eldest son and Father Christmas (or is it?)

21 Dec 2011

Walk away the Christmas excesses

Random post alert.  I was wondering what to blog about before Christmas.  Crime figures (good news as they are down), bin collection dates (available here) or about last nights Carols in the Community at Battle Library (which was great with a surprise presentation for Marjorie)?  I then glanced upon my latest Current Archaeology magazines and thought I would share some of my favourite winter walks with you all instead.

My family and I often go for a winter walk to blow away some of the Christmas cobwebs that set in after a few days of TV and Christmas food.  Last year we went to Uffington White Horse.  Took a while to get there and was very cold but offered stunning views.

The head of the horse
One of our favourite walks is Lardon Chase overlooking Goring.  It is a short drive outside Reading and again has great views over the Thames Valley.  We go to this one all year round as it's so easy.

One year we fulfilled my ambition to go to Wittenham Clumps.  I had seen them from afar on many journeys but had never actually 'found' them.  I always seemed to miss them.  I love learning about the ancient history of Britain so visiting a Bronze age hill fort was a worthwhile journey.

Another favourite from years ago is Calleva Atrebatum or Silchester.  We are yet to take the boys but I am sure they will love the ampitheatre as much as I did as a young girl.  I would love to go to the field school the University of Reading run each year and have a go at archaeology.

So far we haven't decided where we will go this year - suggestions welcome.

18 Dec 2011

Carols for the Community

I am in the middle of watching Countryfile (love Countryfile) and they are examining Christmas and community.  They are suggesting the current period of austerity is making people want to come together as a community again for support, encouragement and some festive cheer.  The recent Let's Talk events highlighted Reading residents drive for community activities, especially the Town Hall event where residents had some wonderful ideas for local groups and activities. 

16 Dec 2011

Today I visited the new Cow Lane bridge.....

Today Battle councillors Chris Maskell, Gul Khan and I visited the new Cow Lane bridge along with Cllr Tony Page (Lead Cllr for  Transport, Planning and Regeneration) and Network Rail.

We were shown the new bridge and it was explained to us how they are going to lift, then drive the bridge, into place over Christmas.  They will then replace the road surface and create the footpath and cycle way.  We were not expecting the footpath and cycle way to be in place so quickly (although only under one bridge) and the benefit will be immediate as there is no footpath under this bridge at the moment.

The work that is being put into this project is immense and I shall try to watch the new bridge being driven into place on Boxing Day.  Further information on the road closures and viewing platform can been read in my other post about the project here.

Cllr Chris Maskell, and former Battle cllr and Redlands candidate Tony Jones fought hard for this project which will be of great benefit to the residents of Battle ward.

Below is a short video on the Cow Lane project which was shot today:

15 Dec 2011

The problem of fly-tipping

Fly-tipped items this month

Fly-tipping is still a problem in Battle ward.  Here's how you can report it:

  • Contact one of your councillors.  You can contact us through councillor services here or directly here.
  • Call the council on 0800 626540.
  •  Complete this online form.
  • You can report litter and fly tipping problems by texting the Council GROT number 81722.
  • You can even report it via www.fixmystreet.com as the council is sent reports from this website.

If you have bulky waste you cannot remove yourself, the Council can remove it for a fee.  Complete this form to arrange collection.  Alternatively you can take it to Household Waste Recycling Centre or donate it to charity.

 For more information on fly-tipping from Reading Borough Council please see here.

12 Dec 2011

Civic Carol Service

Below is the press release about the wonderful Civic Carol Service.  I have been to a few now and they are really special.  Reading Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin is a beautiful church and I am looking forward to attending this year and singing my socks off.

9 Dec 2011

Battle site medical centre a victim of NHS cutbacks

It has been confirmed by the local health authority that the much anticipated medical centre on the Battle Hospital site will not be built.  To say this is disappointing would be a massive understatement.  For years Battle residents have been waiting for the medical centre and it was something they decided they would like on the former hospital site after being consulted in 2005.

In a press release from NHS Berkshire, financial constraints were given as one of the reasons for abandoning their plans.  This is a very real demonstration of how the Tory/Lib Dem's plans for the NHS are effecting  the people of Reading already, before the highly damaging health bill is passed.  For example the number of patients on waiting lists for more than 18 weeks has risen 153 % in Berkshire West since May 2010.

Battle councillors believe the Primary care Trust (PCT) will sell off the land in West Village for further housing.  Battle councillor ChrisMaskell said: “This is a betrayal of the Oxford Road Community. In 2005 we held a series of public meetings and surveyed the entire ward to find out what people wanted to come from the redevelopment of the Battle Hospital site. The overwhelming response was that people wanted a medical centre to replace Battle Hospital. “

Battle councillor Gul Khan said: “This is a devastating blow to the Oxford Road Community. We believe the Coalition Government is “cleaning up” the NHS in preparation to sell off the profitable bits to the highest bidders wherever they may be in the world but only time will tell. However, what we do know is, cuts to the NHS are happening now even though the Coalition Government’s NHS reform bill has not yet passed into legislation. What the PCT is proposing is a disgrace.”

Here is the press release from Reading and District Labour Party about this weekend of action.  There will be a stall outside Battle Library from 10-1 tomorrow (Saturday 10 December 2011) and you can sign the petition to drop the bill here:

7 Dec 2011

Cllr Gul Khan our candidate for 2012

I am very pleased to confirm that Cllr Gul Khan will be standing in Battle ward in May 2012 after Battle Branch Labour party selected him as our candidate.

Gul has lived in Battle ward for many many years and has been one of it's councillors since 2008.  He was Mayor in 2010/2011 and is Deputy Mayor this year.  Gul is a popular character within the community and works well within our team of councillors.  Cllr Chris Maskell and I are delighted he is standing again.

You can view his blog here.

5 Dec 2011

Cow Lane to close again

This Christmas the project to replace Cow Lane Bridges will take a huge step forward with the replacement of the bridge closest to Salisbury Road.  The road between this junction and the Safestore entrance will be closed from 19 December until 23 January 2012.  The road between Safestore and Cardiff road will then be closed 23-30 January 2012 for preparation work on the second bridge.

It will potentially be a difficult time for residents of Battle ward as there will be disruption to traffic flow however it will be for a huge benefit once the bridges are complete, as large vehicles and through traffic will no longer need to use the Oxford Road.

This video very neatly shows the improvements to the station and, near the end, Cow Lane Bridges!

You can check if your train journey will be disrupted here.  You can also visit the Network Rail pages for this project here.

You can even go and watch the bridge being moved into place from a viewing platform in the Dairy Crest yard on Boxing Day.

I am going to try and go along.  I will never forget watching a bridge being pushed under the main line to London.  It was part of the Maidenhead flood defences.  They ran wires through the railway embankment to freeze and stabilise it, dug the bank away and pushed the bridge underneath all while the trails continued to run over the top (slowed down though).  I saw it as part of my Degree course.  Fascinating.....

UPDATE:  Just received notification that  Cow Lane will be shut between Safestore and Cardiff Road for three nights 8pm until 6am from 5 to 8 December for safety reasons.

3 Dec 2011

Good news for families in need

Reading Borough Council Press Release

Families in need are to benefit from £300,000 worth of extra investment over the next three years as part of a new and expanded Community Family Support Service for Reading.

The Community Family Support Service provides a valuable lifeline for vulnerable families who are struggling to cope due to circumstances. The service sees trusted volunteers go into family homes and provide parents with the skills and confidence they need to eventually help themselves and to turn their lives around.

In recognition of the vital role the Community Family Support plays in Reading, the Local Strategic Partnership has committed a new grant of £300,000 over the next three years to helping vulnerable families who would benefit from the service. Added to the £58,000 a year the service receives from Reading Borough Council, the total funding pot in this key area of work will be £474,000 over the next three years.

1 Dec 2011

Are we heading for a drought?

Drought is usually something we consider in the summer months if the weather has been glorious but it seems Reading may be at risk of drought now.  It's dark, gloomy and feels like autumn so how come we don't have enough water?

30 Nov 2011

The truth about N30 - todays strike action

Here is a video of those striking in Reading and their concerns for their futures.One day of action to try and protect potentially 30+ years of retirement.  The Government say they need to make these changes because of the economic situation.  Will they improve public sector workers pensions when the economy picks up?  Highly unlikely....

29 Nov 2011

Council to Submit Multi-Million Pound Lottery Bid For New Abbey Quarter

Reading Borough Council Press Release

Reading Borough Council is to submit an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund next week for £6.7m to create an Abbey Quarter for the town..

Reading's bid to the HLF will transform Reading 's historic heart, conserving and promoting this nationally significant heritage, to encourage more visitors and investment in the area. It will also create opportunities for people to participate and learn about their heritage whilst enjoying this hidden gem right in the town centre.

28 Nov 2011

Concessions introduced for bulky waste collection

As a councilllor I spend a lot of my time reporting dumped and fly-tipped items to the council for collection.  If I see something when I am out with the boys or on the bus I make a note/take a photo and report it.  I also get contacted by residents about abandoned items, like mattresses and sofas.

A bed in Gordon Place
It is important the streets are kept clean but these things shouldn't be dumped in the first place.  They should be taken to the tip, given to charity/recycled if appropriate or residents should arrange for their collection and disposal.

25 Nov 2011

New reward and loyalty scheme for Reading residents

There are a lot of great initiatives going to council Cabinet on Monday.  Here is the press release for proposals to revamp 'Your Reading Passport' with rewards for people who frequently use Reading Borough Councils sport and leisure facilities, libraries and arts and entertainment venues.

"Money Saving Incentives For Residents

Reading Borough Council Press Release

Money saving incentives for Reading residents could be introduced if a new reward and loyalty scheme gets the go-ahead from councillors.

23 Nov 2011

Charging for dumped trolleys......

Dumped trolleys have been a problem around Reading, and in Battle ward, for many years.  Things got worse when Tesco opened in 2008.  Despite the automatic wheel locks, Tesco trolleys were found all over the place and  residents and councillors were very cross about it.

Earlier this year they finally introduced a £1 deposit scheme.  Things improved but I still see Tesco trolleys, along with ASDA and Waitrose, in the streets and parks.  The supermarkets do collect them if they are told about them but this is usually just once a week.

The Labour administration of Reading Borough Council are now proposing to charge supermarkets for the collection, storage and return of their rogue trollies.  I see no reason why the Council should collect and store trollies for free, as is currently the case.  Councillors Gul Khan, Chris Maskell and myself welcome this proposal and hope we will see fewer and fewer trolleys scattered around Battle ward.

Council press release:

20 Nov 2011

Discounts back to fight Readings rats

A proposal to reduce the cost of pest control, and re-introduce concessions for the elderly, disabled and those on low incomes (through the Your Reading Passport scheme), is to be put before Reading Borough Council cabinet on November 28.  It has become clear that the price rises made by the previous administration made the service unaffordable.

I have been contacted by a few residents in Battle about vermin and suggested they contact the council but the price of the service was a barrier.  These new, reduced, charges should enable people to seek assistance and get their problem under control.

16 Nov 2011

Mayor packing bags at Tesco?

Despite some accusations of being anti-Tesco, it is my local supermarket and the one I use most, mainly because I can walk there with the pram.   With that in mind, this press release from Reading Borough Council made me smile.  Imagine having your bags packed by the Mayor, Cllr Deborah Edwards!  Cllr Edwards is working ever so hard to raise money for the Mayors Fund so why not take advantage and raise some money in the process?

14 Nov 2011

UPDATED: Working Better With You - The Future......

UPDATE:  I have just got back from the 'Working Better With You - The Future' event at the Town Hall.  It was very well attended and started with an overview of feedback so far and an explanation of how the evening was to run.  There were ten working groups but, rather than their theme being pre-determined, the topics for each group came from the floor. 

I visited a couple of groups, one discussing libraries and the other old and young getting together in the community.  Feedback from the event will be on the councils website shortly.  It will make interesting reading, I'm sure.
This video, from the Reading Borough Council YouTube channel, beautifully explains the Let's Talk events that have happened and invites you to  the 'Working Better With You - The Future' event.

It is at the Town Hall on Thursday 24th November 2011 at 5.30pm and is for you to hear about the views that have been gathered so far.

Whether or not you have already been a part of the programme by joining one of the Let’s Talk events, or completing a questionnaire, this is your opportunity to get involved. More information, and the on-line booking form, can be found here.

Hope to see you there!

11 Nov 2011

In Remembrance

Two ceremonies take place today  to remember the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in defence of this country.

10 Nov 2011

New non-emergency number for Thames Valley Police

This was brought to the Oxford Road NAG (Neighbourhood Action Group) on Tuesday.  Please read and share:

'The Thames Valley Police non-emergency number is due to change. On 14th November 2011 the new number will be 101. This is the new national single non-emergency number and replaces the 0845 8 505 505 number. Both numbers will run side by side until the end of March 2012, but if demand for the 0845 8 505 505 number drops it may be discontinued earlier.

7 Nov 2011

Reading Abbey: Sites of Significance & Abbey Quarter

Sometimes people accuse Reading of lacking culture and heritage - how wrong can they be?  Reading is packed with history as this video shows.  Reading Borough Council have applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop the Abbey Quarter.  Please have a look at the plans and lend your support for this exciting project.

1 Nov 2011

Getting involved - Transport

On Thursday (3 November) the Transport Management Advisory Panel (TMAP) meets at 6.30 in the Council Chamber.  The first hour of this meeting is open to public participation like the former Transport Users Forum was.  Member of the public can ask questions on transport related issues.  There is quite often a presentation and discussion following.  Anyone can come along to this meeting.

22 Oct 2011

Council forums and working groups are re-launched as Labour says “Let’s talk”

Reading & District Labour Party press release:

Since regaining control of the Council in May, the new Labour administration has moved fast to re-launch and re-invigorate the consultative forums that the Conservative/LibDem Coalition had axed as part of its budget savings.

The Coalition Cabinet voted in November 2010 to scrap the Pensioners Working Group, Access Forum, Ethnic Minorities Forum, Green City & Open Spaces Forum, Transport Users Forum, Arts Forum, Sports Development Forum and the Safer Reading Neighbourhood Action Group Forum, but, says Jon Hartley, Lead Councillor for Transforming Services, the new Labour administration has either re-established them or replaced them with new expanded consultative forums, covering the costs by cutting the servicing of internal meetings.

19 Oct 2011

Support Gurkhas - petition and council motion

Last night we had a full council meeting.  This gives the opportunity for members of the public to present petitions and ask questions.  Councillors can also ask questions, debate and vote on reports and recommendations from committee and debate and pass motions on various subjects.

One of the motions passed last night, with unanimous support was as follows:

14 Oct 2011

Out and about with Reading RESCUE

I have just got back from a very enjoyable 1 1/2 hours litter picking along the Thames towpath from the Roebuck hotel to Scours Lane.  I was working with a really friendly team from Blandy and Blandy and I would like to thank them for having me along.  It was part of the latest Reading RESCUE project.

12 Oct 2011

Tesco Express Oxford Road plans rejected!!!!

Just heard the great news that the Tesco application at Parsons Garage on the Oxford Road has been rejected.  Residents and local businesses were very concerned about the impact this store would have on their lives and livelihoods.

9 Oct 2011

Garden review of the year

October has begun and the garden is shutting down.  It's been a funny growing season with a very warm start, disappointing middle and hot end.  At least there wasn't much watering to do.
My raspberries that fruited again in the late autumn heat!

My successes, once again, were the raspberries.  I got loads of them early in the season.  I am going to halve my existing canes and get some autumn ones to extend the season.  I also got a good handful of blueberries in my first year with the new bushes.  The carrots did well in troughs and the potatoes OK in pots.  The most prolific being the variety Vivaldi.  The strawberries did well but I think I moved them too late and I expect next year to be better.

30 Sept 2011

What a week!

I was trying to think what to post about after such a busy week then it struck me - why not talk about the week I have had?  Being a councillor is a very varied role, one which I am really enjoying.  Not all weeks are like this one but it does give a good snapshot!

22 Sept 2011

Oxford Road NAG public meeting - open to all

The Oxford Road Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) meets on a regular basis and is attended by local residents groups, clubs, community teams, the neighbourhood policing team, Reading Borough Council officers and councillors.  I try to go as often as I can as it's a useful forum for sharing concerns and information.

The NAG has been running a residents survey over the last few months both on paper and online.  There will be a public meeting next Tuesday (27 September) 7.30-9 at Oxford Road Community School where they will announce the top three priorities identified by the survey. 

The NAG does a lot of work in the community, for example litter picking and tidying the Central pool carpark, working with the council and police about safety concerns in Kensington Park and a recent tidy up based around the YMCA.

Please do come along.

14 Sept 2011

We Need To Talk - Your Invitation

The council 'We Need To Talk' conversation is continuing, this time with a series of events throughout the town attended by the council and your local councillors.  There will be small group activities designed to identify the things that matter most to you and your community.

I will be attending the sessions at Battle Library:

29 September 7-9 pm &
30 September 1-3 pm

To book your place please call 0118 937 3787 or visit www.reading.gov.uk/letstalkevents

Here is the press release with further information on events all over Reading as you don't have to go to the event in your ward if it's not convenient:

9 Sept 2011

Battle on Thames?

No, I'm not suggesting we change the name of the ward to sound fancy, but it's easy to forget how close we are to the Thames in Battle ward.  The boys and I walked to feed the ducks during a brief dry day a week or so ago and it only took 20 minutes (at the pace of a 3 year old).  We had a lovely time, saw fishermen (and boys), ducks, swans, tiny fish and the preparations for the Reading Festival.

There will be a clean-up of the tow-path happening in October and they are looking for volunteers.  Here is the press release with information on how to get involved:

6 Sept 2011

Completely free disabled travel returns to Reading!

I wrote a post in March about the awful treatment of Readings disabled bus users who were notified they would no longer get free travel before 9.30 on the day the change came into force.  Naturally people were outraged, including many Battle residents I spoke to.

This time I am writing a happier post as around 5000 letters go out to disabled bus users and their travel companions to confirm free travel, in Reading, before 9.30 will be reinstated from September 19. 

3 Sept 2011

More resurfacing - Connaught and Cranbury Road

Cllr Chris Maskell has spent a long time pushing to get Connaught and Cranbury Roads resurfaced as you can see here.

We got confirmation yesterday:

9 Aug 2011

Back to my roots!

This weekend I was in Derby for a friends Thanksgiving service.  I was born in Derby and lived nearby until I was about 2 1/2.  It was lovely to see the places I have been told about - Kilburn, Belper etc.  I have very few memories of my time there but it still felt special.  I didn't get the chance to visit my old house so I think we will all go for a trip and visit the places of my toddlerhood.

Reading is very much my home though, especially Battle ward.  When we moved to Reading we moved to Battle and I live here now.  I love the community and vibrancy of the place.  I am glad my boys will grow up here and go to the same school as I did.  My love for the area is one of the many reasons I wanted to become a councillor.

4 Aug 2011

Battle councillors surgery on Saturday!

On the first Saturday of every month (excluding Bank Hols like New Years day) Battle councillors hold a surgery at Battle library.  We are there 10.30-12.  You don't need to make an appointment and all conversations are treated confidentially.  If you have a comment or concern or would like advice on council matters, please do pop in.  The next surgery is this Saturday 6 August.

Future surgeries are:

3 September
1 October
5 November
3 December

29 Jul 2011

The Oxford Road resurfacing starts!

Tomorrow will see the first sections of the Oxford Road resurfaced - the sections from Western Elms Avenue and Beresford Road and Grovelands Road to Norcot Junction.  These sections will be closed to through traffic but the buses will continue their normal routes.

On Monday the Oxford Road will be closed between Beresford Road and Grovelands Road for the main body of work.  The de-cluttering of Oxford Road will also be carried out.  Residents will still have access where possible.

19 Jul 2011

We Need To Talk

Today Reading Borough Council launched 'Difficult Times, Big Questions, We Need To Talk', a new parternship and conversation with residents.  Unlike previous consultations, we aren't asking for your views on a chosen list of topics, we are asking you for your views and concerns on anything you feel is important.  Every resident can share what is valuable to them, what they feel needs improving or changing.

I was at the launch at Battle library today.  I am usually at Rhymetime anyway so hanging around afterwards to hand out leaflets and talk to people was easy for me to do and very enjoyable.  I was joined by Cllr Chris Maskell.

Councillor Jon Hartley, Lead Councillor, Service Delivery and Improvement says:

'You can help us to transform the way the council operates, so it more effectively responds to your views and those of your community, and so that Reading remains a great place to live. 

In return, we promise that we will:
  • listen to what you say
  • publish what you tell us
  • provide feedback to you on what you have said
  • ensure your community’s views influence our decisions
  • and keep on talking to you as we go forward'

Leaflets will be available at council buildings open to the public and you may find them dropping through your door.  They can be returned to council buildings too.  You can also complete one of them online here.  It will only take a few minutes to complete and your views are important so please take the time to fill one in.

13 Jul 2011

Oxford Road to be resurfaced - but closed for 5 days

The Oxford Road, from West Reading bridge to Norcot roundabout, will be resurfaced this summer and at the same time improvements made to the layout of the road and pavements.  This is a great 'gain' for Oxford Road residents but it does come with some 'pain' because, for a full resurfacing to be completed, a large section of the Oxford Road will be closed for 5 days. 

12 Jul 2011

Live in the Oxford Road area? Please read on......

The Oxford Road Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) is a group of local people, organisations, councillors and council officers working together to improve the Oxford Road Area, of which Battle ward is a part.

11 Jul 2011

Buying British

I always try and buy British.  I only buy British meat because we have such strict laws in this country.  I try and but British fruit and vegetables and focus on seasonal produce (although it can get a bit dull in winter).  I buy British bread and butter, use a British brand of skincare and the baby wears British made cloth nappies. 

I feel I am buying good quality if I am buying British.  I choose to buy British to support our farmers and manufacturers.  It's important that we try and grow as much of our own food as possible.  In the first instance it reduces the carbon footprint of things as they don't have far to travel it and it also means we are less reliant on other countries produce.   Buying British supports the economy and jobs.

Sometimes you have to buy from abroad - bananas, tea and coffee for example, and when that happens I try and buy Fair Trade so the farmers and producers get a fair deal.  Some of the ingredients of the skincare I use have been ethically sourced overseas because they simply don't grow in our climate.  I think it's important you make an informed decision when you buy things as your decision could have far bigger consequences than you realise.

5 Jul 2011

Happy Birthday NHS!

The NHS is 63 today.  I sincerely hope we have another 63 years of this wonderful service and many more after that.  I have used the NHS many times over the years - broken ankles, dodgy tonsils, two babies one of whom needed special care after arriving 2 months early.  It's not perfect but it saves lives and you never have to worry about being able to afford treatment.

I am very worried about what the NHS will look like after this Tory-led government have made the changes they feel are necessary, changes no-one voted for and very few people agree with.  Very worried indeed.

22 Jun 2011

New community group launched today

The boys and I attended the launch of Our Community today.  This is a community group set up by local resident Ali.  Today she had organised first aid training for local shop keepers and has plans for many other events in the future.  It was well attended, despite to torrential rain, and the Mayor popped in to show her support too.

This is what Ali says about the group:

'What is it? A new community group that aims to help build, grow and support the wonderful people and small businesses that we have here in Reading West by bringing them together'

If you would like to find out more Ali can be contacted on 07796192276 or by email alisonskuse@hotmail.com

15 Jun 2011

Have you seen drug dealing?

I have been hearing that drug dealing is happening in Salisbury Road and around Kensington Park.  Have you witnessed this or drug dealing in another part of Battle ward?

Battle councillors will not accept this behaviour in our ward.  If you have seen something please either get in touch with one of us here or contact the police on the police non emergency number 0845 8 505505 (if your call is an emergency then dial 999).

If you have information about crime or anti-social behaviour in your area but you do not want to speak to the police, please call the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555111.

14 Jun 2011

Weekly bin collections dropped by government - good!

It's a subject that provokes strong feeling - how often should your waste be collected?  In Reading it's been fortnightly for some time - household waste one week, recycling the next.  Recycling rates have gone up and despite fears of a plague of rats, the Pied Piper hasn't had to visit.

In our house we recycle a lot of our waste and it's the recycling bin that is often the most full.  We sort waste as we go along with two swing bins in the kitchen and two small bins in the living room.  It makes it so much easier (although it does give the baby two targets for attack). Using cloth nappies also helps as we don't fill the bin with disposables.

The government had planned to force councils to collect waste weekly (a vote winner?) - this plan has been dropped (see here.)  I am glad.  Why?  Because there are better things to spend your money on.  Weekly collections would likely halt the increase in recycling rates, maybe even reverse them as people would'nt need to be as careful with their waste sorting.  It costs money to dump household waste and, when the government were told they would have to find £100 million centrally, as councils couldn't afford the costs, the idea was dumped - good!

7 Jun 2011

Peat free please

I was watching the One Show today and it had an interesting piece on peat used for compost.  Peat bog is a fragile and precious ecosystem.  It takes many hundreds of year to form and is made of layers and layers of vegetation preserved in an wet, acidic environment. 

Archaeologists learn a lot about past climates and vegetation from peat bogs  They can take core samples that reach back many hundreds of years and look at the vegetation, insects and pollen that was around at the time giving an indication of climate and agricultural use.  Many important archaological finds are discovered in peat bogs ranging from preserved bodies to causeways and offerings.

This precious peat is dug up and used in our grow bags and compost.  It isn't replaced, nor can it be.  Only nature can create peat.  You can now easily buy peat-free compost, which is something I make sure I do.  If we all made the effort to buy peat-free we could make a real difference as shops aren't going to stock what they can't sell.

30 May 2011

Reading Community Carnival - rainy but spirits far from dampened.

The boys and I have just got back from watching the Reading Community Carnival.  Despite the rain there were lots of people along the Oxford Road waiting and watching.  The procession certainly lifted the mood on an otherwise grey and dreary day.  We decided not to go up to Prospect Park but to go home to the warm and watch the Reading v Swansea football match.

It makes me proud to be a resident of Reading to see so many people come together for the Carnival and the football.

(Sorry for the sound quality - I recorded it on my camera)

25 May 2011

The hard work begins

The Mayor has been made, the Deputy elected and leader of the Council in place (despite Tory and Lib Dem heckling and protestation and Cllr Swaines Green goody bag).  Labour are back in control with a manifesto to deliver.  It will be a challenging year as we have to work with the Tory/Lib Dem budget and further cuts from the Tory led Government.  We also need to act quickly to protect our NHS.

Battle Ward councillors will continue working hard for Battle.  Some of the issues we have in progress are:

Fly tipping
Anti-social behaviour
Drug use
Street workers
The Oxford Road Area Study

Please get in contact if you have any comments or concerns and report any issues so they can be dealt with.  You can reach us by email, phone, through the Council website and, of course, by post.  You can also pop into to our monthly surgeries at Battle Library.

I have also taken on a few more responsibilities this year:

Arts Forum
Transport Management Advisory Panel & DiscretionaryParking Permits Appeal Panel
Internal Overview & Scrutiny Commission
Vice chair of the Labour Group

I am looking forward to the next municipal year, serving the people of Battle Ward and Reading.

The real reason the Tories/LibDems are cross about Mayor

Last year the Tories and Lib Dems got a taste of power and they want more.

Without a Tory or Lib Dem Mayor they are unable to win the vote in the council chamber without support from the Greens.  Why you ask?  Simple. 

In the event of a tie the Mayor gets the deciding vote.  If the Greens abstain from a vote it will be 22 votes to Labour and 22 to the Tory/Lib Dem/Swaine 'coalition'.  The Mayor decides who wins.  With a Labour Mayor, the Labour Group will win.  If it was a Tory or Lib Dem Mayor, the 'coalition' would win.

For there to be a stable administration we need a Labour Mayor.  It is a shame the tradition of deputy becoming Mayor couldn't continue but I am sure, if they were in our position, they would do exactly the same.

19 May 2011

How my garden is growing

It's not all politics and, as things are still uncertain regarding who will form an administration (although Labour looking  likely), I thought I would do a garden update.

I had a lot of work to do this year as the garden was neglected after last years election and my youngest arriving 2 months early.  I weeded, dug in compost and manure, cut the lawn, got the weeds out from between the slabs in the path and refurbished the water feature.  I can now go out there and not feel guilty!

I am growing more fruit and veg than I thought I would:

Veg - peas, courgettes, lettuce, tomatoes, salad leaves, potatoes, cabbages, carrots, chillis, radishes, spring onions, french beans & runner beans.
Fruit - strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherrys, tayberries, blackberries, rhubarb, apples and nectarine on dwarf trees.

I don't have a big garden so a lot of the veg are in containers and a very clever hanging veg kit.  It's so exciting to see the first shoots of something and I think we will get our first strawberry soon.  I will then have the fun task of preventing the 3 year old from helping himself!

9 May 2011

What will the Greens do?

Last weeks election results left the Greens in an interesting position.

Labour have 22 councillors and 39.9% of the vote.  The Conservatives have 16 councillors and 34.1% of the vote.  The Lib Dems lost all the wards they were defending and have 5 councillors and suspended Lib Dem Cllr Swaine remaining.  The means last years coalition does not have enough councillors to lead the council, their total also being 22 (if Cllr Swaine is included).  The Green now have 2 councillors.

There has been talk of a 'rainbow coalition' consisting of the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Cllr Swaine and the Greens - a total of 24 councillors.  I think this would be a huge mistake.

The Greens won in Park ward with 1585 votes and Labour came a close second with 1213.  The Conservatives came a poor third with 735 votes.  The people of Park have made it clear - if they didn't have a Green councillor they would have a Labour councillor and they don't want much to do with the Conservatives (and even less to do with the Lib Dems with just 123 votes).

If the Greens side with the Lib Dems and Conservatives to form this 'rainbow coalition' I think they would be doing the Labour party in Park ward a huge favour and irreparably damaging their reputation at the same time.

6 May 2011

Congratulations Cllr Chris Maskell and Reading Labour

Well, what a day.  Election time is always stressful and exciting at the same time and never more so at the count at Rivermead.  You can usually get a rough idea as to how the voting has gone when they start separating the votes into parties.  They then count the ballots into 25's then the 25's into 100's and the 100's into 500's.  Once they get to this stage, where the winner has a large lead, you can almost count the ballots and guess the result.

This is what happened in Battle ward today.  The Tory candidate had one 500 and some extras and Cllr Chris Maskell had two 500's and some extras so it was obvious he had won.  The final result was:

Chris Maskell (Labour): 1373
Imraan Ishtiaq (Conservatives): 690
John Oakley (Lib Dems): 230
Alan Lockey (Green): 181
Michael Diamond (Common Sense): 81
Jean-Marie Pascual (Roman): 30

It is an excellent result for Cllr Maskell.  He has worked hard for Battle in the past and will continue to do so.  You can visit his website here.

For the full results you can visit the Reading Borough Council website here.  Reading Labour as a whole had a great day holding all seats and gaining Redlands, Church and Katesgrove.

Congratulations Cllr Chris Maskell and Reading Labour.

26 Apr 2011

Cllr Maskells committment to Battle & Reading Labours manifesto

As we head towards the local elections next week I thought I would share Cllr Chris Maskells committment to the residents of Battle ward and Reading Labours pledge to the people of Reading:

Labour will:

• Stand up for a cleaner Reading by making clean streets the Council’s priority.
• Radically re-organise the Council and its services to deliver savings and protect people in need.
• Use the Council’s watchdog powers to stand up for your NHS.
• Stand up for those least able to care for themselves
• Involve the public more effectively.
• Ensure that all voices in Reading are heard equally – not just those of the politicians and those who shout loudest.
• Create a New Local Partnership to stand up for Reading.
• Work with our partners to continue the regeneration of our town.
• Review the Green Bin fiasco.
• Maintain the Council’s committment to paying a living wage.

The full manifesto can be viewed here.

Cllr Maskell has a proven record of fighting hard for the people of Battle ward and will continue to do so.  Past editions of Into Battle, our long standing ward newsletter can be viewed here and past editions of Battle Councillors Reports can be viewed here.

They really do show how hard Cllr Maskell, alongside other Battle councillors, works for the people of Battle ward.

Vote for Cllr Chris Maskell on 5 May 2011!

20 Apr 2011

Dumb blondes? Let's not feed a stereotype.

As you can probably imagine I was quite surprised to see that I  was mentioned in a small article in the Reading Post discussing Cllr Daisy Bensons hair colour.  I am sure it was meant in jest but all it does is reinforce the stereotype that blondes are dumb.

I quote Cllr Benson, in an article where she said she wanted to shake of any notion of being a dumb blonde. 'I've been blonde for quite a while, but I can't remember when I first had highlights. I guess serious times call for serious measures, and politics is a serious business'.

Eh?  Politics is a serious business, representing the people of Reading is a serious business.  Hair colour isn't.

Changing the colour of your hair doesn't change your intellectual powers, how seriously you take your work or your abilities.  Hair dye isn't magic.  Isn't it time we dropped stereotypes based on appearance?

14 Apr 2011

Big changes to Reading town centre

On Monday there will be massive changes made to the way traffic flows around the town centre.  The council will have staff in town to help people with these changes and to direct them to their bus stop if it has been moved.  More information can be found here.

Information on the changes to bus stops can be found here.

Information on the changes to traffic flow can be found here.

6 Apr 2011

Local elections less than a month away!

I remember last time this year well.  I was super busy in the run up to my election and wondering how the national mood would effect local results.

I am now wondering the same thing but this time the mood has changed, and it's not my turn to stand for election - phew!  There are a lot of people unhappy with the decisions made by both the Tory-led Government and the Tory-led council - green bins, disabled/oap concession removal, loss of free bulky waste collection for the elderly and those on benefits - the list goes on.

Chris Maskell, long running Battle councillor, is standing again - the list of candidates was announced today and can be viewed here.  He has worked so very hard for Battle ward over the years and will obviously be getting my vote!  Please visit his website at http://cllrchrismaskell.com/ for up to date information on what he's been up to.

In order to vote you must, of course, be registered.  Time is running out and you have until the 14 April.  Details of how to get registered can be found here.

30 Mar 2011

Green bin deadline moved but what about slashed disabled travel?

So the Council have realised that asking people to respond to the letter about green bin collection charges in just 5 days is unreasonable - good!

But what about the thousands of disabled bus pass holders who, on Friday, will be losing free travel before 9.30?  Those letters hadn't even been sent as of Monday this week.  We have known for a while the OAP's free travel will revert to the national standard - free after 9.30 am and before 11pm weekdays but not so the disabled bus users and their travel companions.

Last night Labour group put forward a motion asking for consultaion on these changes before they are passed - this was rejected by the Tory-led Council. This means people will have just a day or so's notice before changes are made to their travel arrangements without being consulted.

I believe this first letter should have gone out months ago welcoming comment/complaint, warning of potential changes and giving people enough time to make other arrangements.

Not fair in the slightest.

28 Mar 2011

UPDATED: Green bin & bag charge? I'll do it myself thanks.

UPDATED 12 July 2011 - Great news - the Labour administration have indentified savings within the Council are are scrapping this stealth green tax.  I am going to be filling my green bags as I don't seem to be very good at making compost.......

It's safe to assume that those of you who have bought green bins and bags on the past have had your letters asking you to pay for their collection.  When I bought my green bag I got it because I thought free green waste collection was an excellent idea and so good for the environment.  I was never patient enough to make my own compost so it was an ideal solution.

Well, I have just spent the afternoon making a compost bin. £22.50 for bin collection and £7.50 for bag collection just seemed a bit of a waste of money to me when I could buy a compost bin for about £20-£25 pounds, save the collection fee and keep the compost. I have bought compost accelerator though because, although I have bought a compost bin, I still don't have that much patience.

If you don't want to pay for green bin/bag collection don't forget to ring 0800 834 035 to cancel your collection otherwise you will shortly be receiving an invoice.  I know there are other people out there not happy with this new charge and also not happy with the short notice given to avoid an invoice.  The call only takes a minute or so so you still have time.

UPDATE:  The Council have extended the deadline to refuse to pay for green bin/bag collection until 12 April which, considering letters only started dropping onto doormats at the end of last week, is a welcome move.  Read about it here.

26 Mar 2011

Back from the march

Goodness that was tiring but completely worth it.  We marched from the Embankment to Hyde Park and I didn't see a single act of vandalism or violence.  It was lovely to see so many different people on the march ranging in age from a few months to pensioners. We were all there to show the government that we believe their policy of drastic cuts to reduce the deficit is damaging our country and communities.

It's a shame that a few violent people, not connected to the march, choose it as a cover for vandalism and aggression.

25 Mar 2011

I'm Marching for the Alternative

Just back from a short seaside break and batteries recharged for the March for the Alternative tomorrow.

I believe the the Government is moving too quickly to reduce the deficit.  Last year we had an economy that was starting to recover and now we have an economy that didn't grow, but shrank last quarter.

The cuts being made are damaging and putting people in fear for their and their childrens futures.  I am marching against these cuts - there is an alternative.

19 Mar 2011

UPDATED: It's a sunny day so the fluff's on the line!

You must be thinking - eh?

Fluff is cloth nappy users speak for cloth nappies because they are cute, pretty and, sometimes, fluffy.  I have used cloth nappies for both my boys.  We decided to use cloth because we would save money, landfill space and help the environment.  This is what www.goreal.org.uk say about real nappies and the environment:

'Real nappies can be up to 40% better for the environment than disposables.  This was the finding from the 2008 update to the Environment Agency’s Life Cycle Analysis Report on nappies.  Unlike disposables, Real Nappies put parents in control of the impact they have on the environment, with the carbon savings directly related to how you choose to wash your Real Nappies.'

Reading Borough Council currently offer a £30 cashback scheme that you can read about here.  You can claim it once per child against the purchase of cloth nappies.

Real Nappy Week  is running from 16 - 22 May and I have asked the council if they intend to do anything to promote cloth nappies during this week and also to check if the cashback incentive will continue.

UPDATE:  Reading Borough Council have finally confirmed the cashback scheme will continue which is great news.  That, combined with real nappy week bargains, makes for  inexpensive cloth nappies!

16 Mar 2011

Lovely new paint job

I reported not long ago about the state of double yellow lines in Gordon Place and the illegal parking taking place there.

I'm pleased to report that the double yellow lines have already been repainted - the first part of Gordon Place and the corners with Sherwood Street.
Unfortunately the illegal parking continues and you will often see one or two cars parked on this stretch of Gordon Place.  Not only is this illegal but also dangerous as people turn from the Oxford Road to be confronted by cars on the wrong side of the road trying to get past.

I reported this to the Council several weeks ago and they have assured me they have increased the number of visits by the traffic wardens.  Doesn't seem to be working!

14 Mar 2011

Dirty George Street

I have been contacted by concerned users of George Street about rubbish and dog waste causing problems for pedestrians and the parents and children attending Oxford Road Community School.  I have reported this to the council and asked that the area be tidied up.

9 Mar 2011

UPDATED: Coming to a street near you - a cabinet and an old bed.

On my travels around Battle ward I have yet again discovered fly-tipped items.  This time it was an entire living room cabinet and broken sink or toilet in Little Johns Lane:

I have reported these items and asked that they be removed.

UPDATE 17 March 2011:  The site has now been visited and the items will be removed shortly.

With the collection of bulky waste items going up 40% in a months time I can only see dumped waste being even more of a problem.  Added to that increase, all OAPs, and those receiving benefits, will have their two free collections a year removed.  Will they have £32.90 available to pay for their waste to be collected?  There are also new charges for the collection of boilers (£98.11), bathroom suites (£122.65) and radiators (£33.10).

Some of these things can be put in a car and taken to the household waste recycling centre but what can you do with the large items apart from pay up?  If they are in good condition you could offer them to charity, some of which will collect large items, or free via a site like Freegle.  Nows the time to consider the mantra 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle'.

8 Mar 2011

International Womens Day: What Can We Do?

The first International Womens Day was celebrated 100 years ago.  Society has changed a lot in that time.  Women have the vote and the right to equal pay but there is still a long way to go until we are truly equal.  We are moving towards equal pay but it has yet to be achieved.  Women working full-time in the UK are still paid on average 15.5% less per hour than men.   Women have the vote but are under-represented in local and national Government. 

Maybe it's the under-representation of women in Government which has led to us being badly effected by the recent emergency budget.  Only four of the 29 ministers allowed to attend Cabinet meetings are women. We have seen cuts to Child Benefit, Health in Pregnancy Grant and Surestart Maternity Grant to name a few. Support for children is being cut by £2.4bn. A further £560m cut from the Child Trust Fund.

What is clear is that women should not accept these cuts.  We should make our voices heard and stand up for our, and our childrens, rights and future.  Today you could pledge to attend the March for the Alternative in a few weeks time, you could contact your local MP or councillor about an issue that concerns you or you could sign a petition asking that services vital to you are protected. Do something on International Womens day because you can make a difference.