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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...

29 Mar 2012

You don't have to vote Green to be green.

I believe green and  environmental issues are very important so was very pleased when Reading & District Labour Party announced it's Green Policy Forum.  I haven't made it to a meeting yet but hope to do so in the near future.  I try and do what I can to help our environment as you can see by reading through some of my past posts but there is always room for improvement.  

 I look forward to seeing  what comes out of these meetings.

Reading & District Labour Party Media Release 

22 March 2012

Labour is talking about Green Policies
The first meeting of Reading and District Labour Party’s Green Policy Forum took place on 21st March, attended by members of the public, Labour Party members, and Paul Gittings, the Lead Councillor for environmental matters. The meeting identified a wide range of topics that could be addressed by the Forum, but decided to work initially on a short list - getting developers to provide district heating schemes, using coppice to provide fuel for heating public buildings, systems that encourage green modes of transport, the relationship between health and environmental factors, and creating a vision of more locally focused commerce.
Forum organiser Roger Sym was very pleased with the start made by the Forum and will be arranging further meetings through the rest of the year. If you have ideas on recycling, saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or other green policies, this is a chance for you to get them put into practice.
The next meeting will be at RISC (35-39 London Street, Reading RG1 4PS) in Room 3, on Wednesday 16th May, starting at 8pm.

27 Mar 2012

Some thoughts on tonights full #rdg Council meeting

Just got back (via the shops for milk) and thought I would pop a few bits about tonights meeting down.

Firstly I have to say how moved I was by Cllr Jamie Chowdhary's farewell speech.  He appears to have been treated terribly by Reading East Conservative Party, who are yet give a full explanation as to what has happened.  He received a standing ovation by Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and Cllr Mark Ralph. Very sad indeed.  I wish him good health and happiness for the future.

On a more positive note I am pleased to say Reading Labour's motion on job substitution, which you can read here, was passed.  I seconded the motion and spoke briefly about how it was designed to ensure work substitution did not take place at a time when people are worried about their jobs and supporting their families.  The Conservatives wanted to amend it to the point the monitoring of job substitution was no longer in the motion, but this was not accepted.

Other motions, among others, were passed on the NHS, against the forced acadamisation of schools and supporting super (or was it super duper) fast broadband.

It was a long night, finishing just past 11, but I must say I did enjoy my short walk home in the relative peace this time of night brings, especially when the night sky was so beautiful.

25 Mar 2012

Changes to residents’ parking: Labour keeps its promise

' Last June Reading Borough Council’s new Labour administration made a commitment to reverse the changes brought in by the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition council, which had resulted in visitors’ permits being cut by half and the time of departure of overnight visitors being brought forward to 8am from 10am.
As your councillor I am writing to let you know that we have kept our promise after I and other members of the Labour group pressed the council to make changes.
Earlier this year we reversed the cut in visitor parking permits – and residents were given an extra book free of charge.
We have also now confirmed that overnight visitors will be able to stay until 10am on the same permit, rather than having to use a new visitor’s permit from 8am. (This will come into effect for new visitor permits issued after April 2nd).
As well as this Labour confirmed in the council budget for next year that the cost of second residents’ permits would remain the same (at £60).
In addition, other changes have been made to simplify renewal procedures for permits. From this year residents will be able to renew permits on line where there have been no changes to vehicle ownership. (The council has asked DLVA to put the process for new vehicles on line as the DVLA currently ask for new ownership documents to be seen by councils).'
Pinched from Battle Labour candidate for May 2012 Cllr Gul Khan : because good news needs sharing.

22 Mar 2012

Work experience must not mean job substitution #workfare

Reading & District Labour Party Media Release 

18 March 2012

Work experience must not mean job substitution - Labour
Fears that some employers in Reading may be using unemployed people from the Government’s Work Experience scheme to substitute for workers who would expect proper wages are the subject of a motion to the next meeting of Reading Borough Council from Labour’s Pete Ruhemann.

People who are on Jobseekers’ Allowance paid by the Government are being encouraged to accept eight-week placements with major retailers and others and, Cllr. Ruhemann says, there is evidence that part-time workers for those same firms are therefore being refused an increase in hours, and some companies may even not be taking on new staff, because the firms can have people on JSA essentially for nothing.
“The Service Level Agreements companies taking part in Work Experience schemes sign,” Cllr. Ruhemann says, “do say that placements should be in addition to existing or planned vacancies, but the whole operation of the scheme is shrouded in ‘commercial’ secrecy and it is not clear how that condition is being monitored. What is clear is that job substitution would mean that work experience was not a real path to employment, would increase the actual level of unemployment, and would result in less money being available to spend in local shops and with local businesses.
The motion asks Council officers to see how they can identify and report abuses of the work experience system in Reading, and Cllr. Ruhemann would also be happy to receive any evidence directly by email to Pete.Ruhemann@reading.gov.uk
For information on Reading Labour Party and its campaigns visit www.readinglabour.org.uk or follow @ReadingLabour

19 Mar 2012

Let's Talk Health Question Time

Reading Borough Council Press Release

A special 'Question Time' event will take place later this month as the culmination of Reading Borough Council's 'Let's Talk Health' consultation.

15 Mar 2012

Exciting Project For Portman Road: Urban Pollinators

UPDATED 12 April 2012

A bit of Portman Road will soon be dug up as part on an exciting experiment investigating the occurrence of urban pollinators - insects like bees, flies, butterflies and beetles.  It is a country wide project studying pollinating insects in urban environments, farms and nature reserves, Portman Road being selected as an urban environment.  

The project will take two years and will involve sowing flowers in fifteen parks with each having an area of 300 square metres.  Within these fifteen areas five will be sown with perennial flowers and ten with annual flowers.  Portman Road has been chosen to be sown with perennial and this will take place before the end of the month (March).  The preparation work will involve spraying the area to kill the existing grass, rotivation and then seeding.  Some of the flowers being sown include:

Wild carrot
Lady's Bedstraw
Field Scabious
Ox-eye daisy
Birdsfoot trefoil

The project will answer three questions:
  1. Where exactly is the pollinator biodiversity in the UK – urban habitats, farmland or nature reserves?
  2. Where are the hot-spots of pollinator biodiversity in cities?
  3. What can we do to improve their diversity and abundance in cities? 
This final question will be answered by sowing flower mixtures high in nectar and pollen in Portman Road along with other urban sites in Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds. 

I love projects like these.  I studied Rural Environmental Science at the University of Reading and one of my fondest memories is sitting on a hill in the Peak District with a quadrant counting plant species. I have asked to be kept up to date with what is happening and will visit the site.  I await the results with interest!

Photos with thanks to Claire Harrison and Lorian Hartgroves

The Reading project can be followed @ReadingUrbPolls and the projects website is http://www.bristol.ac.uk/biology/research/ecological/community/pollinators/.

12 Mar 2012

Do your under 5's love books? Reading Libraries launch new book club

 I have two little boys, both under 5 and they both love books.  Since learning to walk the youngest has loves nothing more than toddling over with a book, climbing on my knee and expecting a story.  I have taken them to Battle Library since they were very young and now the eldest will choose some books for us to share.

When I read the press release below my first thought was 'What a great idea'.  Sharing books with your children is a lovely and valuable thing to do and children should be encouraged to enjoy books from an early age.  Both my boys will be joining The Little Explorers Book Club.

All You Can Read Buffet at Reading Libraries

Reading Borough Council Press Release

Reading Libraries are challenging children aged 5 years and under to an all you can read buffet, as it launches its brand new scheme, 'The Little Explorers Book Club.'

Young children can join the scheme, which has been cooked up by Reading Libraries, in partnership with Reading Borough Council, at any Reading Borough library - all they need is their library cards. The children will then be issued with a collector's card which will be stamped every time they visit a library and feast themselves on new books. After six stamps, members of the book club will receive a certificate and be entered into a monthly prize draw.

Local children's author, Cathy MacLennan, will be helping to launch the event at Battle's children's library, Oxford Road on Tuesday 13th March, between 2pm and 3pm. Ms MacLennan will be reading from her book 'Monkey Monkey Monkey' and there will be a chance to ask her about her work..

Reading Borough Council's Lead Councillor for Culture and Sport, Marian Livingston, said:

'It's vitally important that we encourage our young people not only to read more, but to enjoy reading. I believe this book club does just that.

'I also hope this new book club helps our young children to discover the vital resource which is our libraries.'

For more information please contact Battle Library on 0118 9015100.

9 Mar 2012

Jubilee Street Parties - Book Yours Now!

Reading Borough Council Press Release

Reading residents are being invited to apply to the Council if they want to hold a street party to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee or the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer, and the good news is that in Reading it won't cost you a penny to close your street to traffic.

Application packs are being sent out to people who have already enquired about having a street party during this time.  We are hoping that even more streets take part than last year, when Reading saw 16 Street Parties take place across the Borough to celebrate the Royal Wedding in April.

8 Mar 2012

International Women's Day #IWD - This Government Has Been A Disaster For Working Women

To me International Women's Day is a celebration of all we achieved and a reminder about how much more we have to achieve for women all over the world.  We should strive for better rights for women, better safety, education, healthcare and equality. When I hear about the cuts being brought about by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition Government  I really do wonder if they have lost sight of this.

My female friends, who are mothers like me, are facing some tough choices like food vs fuel and giving up work because childcare is no longer affordable.
Here is a Reading & District Labour Party press release by Women's Officr and candidate in Park, Rachael Chrisp: 
This Government has been a disaster for working women” – Rachael Chrisp
Reading Labour Party Women’s Officer, and Park candidate, Rachael Chrisp has labelled the Tory-led Government “a disaster for working women” in a message issued to mark International Women’s Day.

Ms Chrisp points out that one of the first cuts George Osborne made was in help with paying for childcare, and goes on: “And then Mr Osborne froze Child Benefit, made women work longer before reaching pension age, and cut Tax Credits – 450 working women in Reading will lose £75 a week as from April 1st because they are working less than 24 hours a week. And those that want to work longer hours are often being frustrated because the Government is offering big retailers the chance to use people on ‘work experience’ instead, people pushed into putting in the hours without getting the pay.

“Mr Cameron promised that this would be the most family-friendly government ever,” she says, “but as with so much else he promised it has been anything but.  The truth is that working women who did not cause the banking crisis are being made to pay for it.  There are twenty-two male millionaires in the Cabinet and only 49 women among 305 Tory MPs, so perhaps that’s hardly a surprise.”

7 Mar 2012

Can't make it to the rally but I still want to #SaveOurNHS

At 6 pm today a rally is taking place in London, urging the government to drop the harmful Health & Social Care Bill.  I can't make it into London but I do want to add my support.  I have already signed the petition to Drop The Bill, regularly Tweet to #SaveOurNHS and recently shared how the #NHSSavedMyLife.  Please do something if you can. You can watch it live here.

Here are some facts from False Economy (the full factsheet can be seen here)

6 Mar 2012

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside....

English Tourism Week is 10-18 March 2012.

I have always loved going on holiday in England.  It's a beautiful and diverse country.  From the white sands of Northumberland that whipped my legs to the family favourite of Swanage. There is so much to see!  Castles, Romans villas, beautiful countryside, Blue Flag beaches, stately homes, Iron Age hill forts and so much more.

I've been to the Caribbean, Spain, Gibraltar and the Canary Islands but you really can't beat a good English seaside holiday.

4 Mar 2012

Guest post: So Whats Reading Young Labour all about?

Founded in 2010, Reading Young Labour was set up to be the youth wing of the Reading Labour party taking in all people under the age of 31 in the two CLPs. We aim to promote young people and their interests in the party and council while also representing Labour to young people in the wider electorate. We also set clear aims, to be a strong voice of young people in the labour movement, to be a campaigning machine that engages with the public in new and effective ways and to promote young people to officer roles and elected office. We do this alongside Reading Labour Students but they include students in Reading who normally live outside the CLPs. Ian Stevens is the current chair of RYL, Will Cross is Vice-Chair and I’m the newly elected secretary.

As young people in the party we use Young Labour to engage with people like us who have a passion for the labour movement and who look to the party to promote our views and interests. To a young person, agendas, AMMs, ECs and minutes can all sound a bit scary, Young Labour is there to ease young people into the party and support them. Rather than formal meetings we have informal socials and occasional discussions which have no minutes or agendas to provide a relaxed atmosphere where young people can talk about Labour and other issues.