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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 Apr 2012

From Cllr, and candidate, Gul Khan - Oxford Road Black Bag Up-date

Below is an update from Cllr Gul Khan on his campaign to get the black bags on the Oxford Road cleared away and a solution found to the mounds of black bags  seen far too often.  You can view Gul's blog here.

Action Agreed
Black bags will be collected daily until a permanent solution 
to this unacceptable situation is agreed
I recently highlighted the accumulation of bulging black refuse bags along the Oxford Road (Into Battle, local election edition 2012).
I said that the situation developing along the Oxford Road was totally unacceptable and that I would be contacting the council insisting they take strong action to stop this kind of abuse happening.
I am pleased to be able to tell you that following the discussions I had with the council and the lead member for the environment the following has been agreed
  • Black bags will be collected on a daily basis until a permanent solution to the problem can be agreed.
  • There will be a review of collection days, landlords/residents responsibilities, enforcement, lack of recycling, use of on street bulk bins for domestic waste.             
  • Agree a strategy to effectively tackle illegal fly-tipping and the dumping of trade waste.
After the election I and my colleagues and the lead member for the environment will be holding a meeting with senior members of the Streetcare team to agree how bet we can stop the kind of abuse we are seeing along the Oxford Road. It is clear that those who are dumping the black bags have no right to do so.
We will also be considering the issue of those big industrial refuse bins. I was recently in West Ealing where there are terraced shops similar in character to those on the Oxford Road. What struck me was that there were no piles of black bags and no industrial size refuse bins on the streets. As part of our review of how refuse is stored and collected I will be asking council officers to visit other local authorities to look at how they manage refuse in areas similar to the Oxford Road.
I will let you know how things progress.

26 Apr 2012

UPDATED: Schools admissions - we're here to help

UPDATED: it has been confirmed by Leader of the Council Jo Lovelock that she has asked for ways to ensure transport is available to families. It has also been asked that a special arrangement, outside the usual policy of two miles, be discussed to recognise the problem for families who have been affected by the bulge.  Councillors are also asking if different methods of assessing numbers can be looked at for the future taking location into account.  A further letter is also going out to families currently without a school place.

Just a short post to let residents know that Battle councillors Gul Khan, Chris Maskell and I are taking concerns about school places in the Battle area very seriously.  As soon as it became clear there was a shortage of spaces we asked for an update from officers and we have also asked the plans for next years intake are discussed as soon as this round has finished.  We are also being kept up to date by the Lead Councillor for Education and Children's Service, John Ennis.

Parents are clearly upset that places in the area are short and have not got their first choice school.  We know the council are doing their best and will find places for all children but questions need to be asked to prevent this happening again.

I must admit I was surprised to see the following from Green cllr Melanie Eastwood 'sometimes protecting green space should outweigh other priorities including extending schools.' when talking about the Wilson Primary school application to build school facilities on their own playing field.  I am sure the parents in the area would not agree given the shortages already experienced.

I have also been reminded by Cllr Maskell (my dad) that Battle was due approximately £300,000 from Labour's Building Schools for the Future fund which was scrapped when the Tory/Lib Dem coalition came into power. 

I have offered my help to the parents I see at the school gates but I don't see everyone.  Please contact us if you would like questions answered or if you require representation.


From Cllr John Ennis' blog: This year Reading has received applications for 2,144 children seeking a place at school for September 2012. This is an increase of 197 (10%) from last year, which follows the national trend. However in Reading only 6% fewer families have been offered their first preference at this stage.

“A £20m investment has been made by the Council, over a five year period, to increase capacity in three schools with a further £1.8 million invested this year on temporary measures to cope with high demand in part caused by the economic pressures which are restricting the social mobility that has always been common in the borough. This means as families grow they are having to remain living in the same houses, which in turn puts additional pressure on school places in those areas.

 “The Council is working closely with schools across the Borough and we are confident we will at the end of the process accommodate all of the children who applied for a place. “As always, we have done everything possible to try to meet parents’ aspirations for where their children go to school and we fully understand that some parents will be disappointed. However, in the circumstances, we have done everything we can to distribute places as fairly as possible by following the published admission policies and processes.

Details are as follows:         2012    2011
                   1st Preference   76.2% 82.3%                     
                    2nd Preference 10.7% 8.8%
                    3rd Preference 3.9%    3.9%
                    4th Preference 1.60%  0.92%

24 Apr 2012

Reading Labour Manifesto Launches

I am proud to present Reading Labour's Manifesto for the May 2012 local elections.  Please click to read the full publication:

Labour’s key pledges in this election are to:
  • Fight for a new secondary school for all 11 – 18 year olds in East Reading
  • Keep Reading clean with a crackdown on graffiti and fly-tipping
  • Promote jobs and investment
  • Use the Council’s watchdog powers to stand up for the NHS
  • Protect Reading’s green spaces
  • Continue to involve the public more effectively
  • Find further efficiency savings
  • Restore free OAP bus travel from 9am
  • Protect libraries, youth clubs and children’s centres
  • Promote environmental responsibility – the Council will lead by example and encourage others
  • Create a New Local Partnership to stand up for Reading 
    Ed Miliband at the launch of Reading Labour Party's manifesto with candidates Rose Williams, Eileen McElligot, Jo Lovelock, Tony Jones, Gul Khan, Duncan Bruce, Daya Pal Singh, Liz Terry and Haji Banaras.


22 Apr 2012

How much is the NHS re-organisation costing? £3.45 billion!

Reading & District Labour Party Media Release  

22 April 2012

Bet Tickner : Lansley’s reorganisation cost the local NHS £25M last year, and it will be much the same this year
Berkshire West Primary Care Trust was made to set aside £25,375,804 in 2011-12, 2% of its budget, to pay for the costs of Andrew Lansley’s reorganisation of the NHS, and the same %age is going to be required in 2012-13, says Cllr. Bet Tickner, Labour’s Lead Councillor for Health, quoting from a Business Case leaked from the Department of Health.

The total cost across England comes to £3.45Billion, which is the figure Labour has always quoted and the Tories have always denied.

“This news comes at a time,” Cllr. Tickner says, “when more and more jobs are being lost from the NHS (there are 4096 fewer nurses than there were at the general election), when waiting times for operations are getting longer and longer and the 18-week maximum wait established by Labour is being broken more and more frequently, and when some types of operations are just no longer being carried out at all.   The last thing the NHS locally needs is £50M+ pinched from its budget over two years to pay for a reorganisation that nobody apart from Andrew Lansley wanted.”

“But of course the millionaires who got that big tax break from the budget will have no problems paying for private health care.”

20 Apr 2012

Looking forward to the Childrens Festival

For the past three years I have been to the Children's Festival and Meadow Maddness - first with just my eldest and, last year, with my youngest too (although he was a bit small to join in).  This year both boys will be able to take part and, judging by last years event, they will have an excellent time.  If you've never attended one of the Children's Festival events, I can heartily recommend them.

'Children's Festival to kick-off a summer of Celebration.

Reading Borough Council Press Release

Organisers are getting ready to kick-off what promises to be a celebratory year to remember with a bonanza of free activities for the Reading Children's Festival.

The festival, which celebrates its 23rd year, will deliver a three-week programme full of exciting events, music, drama, sports and arts activities for children of all ages to enjoy at various venues across Reading from May 19th to June 10th.

To launch the festival, Meadow Madness returns bigger and better than ever on May 19th at Christchurch Meadows, George Street. This year, Meadow Madness features an Olympic theme and a host of attractions such as children's entertainment and workshops, charity and information stalls, tombolas, refreshments, face painting, arts and crafts and balloon modelling.

Animal lovers will have a chance to meet an army of adorable farm creatures as Miller's Ark Animal march into Meadow Madness. Children can meet Pygmy goats, miniature Shetland ponies and tiny Bantam hens.

Festival goers can also dance and get into the party spirit thanks Beatroots Bateria samba dancers, the longest established group of its kind. The group have performed at major WOMAD, The Thames Festival and Live Earth at Wembley.

Reading Borough Council's Lead Member for Culture and Sport, Cllr Marian Livingston, said: 'This will be the ninth time Meadows Madness will launch our iconic and much loved Children's Festival.

'The festival always proves to be a wonderful success, but this Olympic and Jubilee year I am convinced it will be a Children's Festival people will be talking about for years to come.'

Other highlights taking place during the festival include an array of special workshops and activities run by Reading Libraries and the Museum of Reading. There will also be a roller rink at the Hexagon theatre for the first time ever, as well as theatre master classes at the Hill School, Canoeing classes, the 35th Annual Reading Community Carnival, steel pan workshops and so much more.

For the full Children's Festival programme and for more information, log on to www.reading.gov.uk/childrensfest. Visit our Facebook page for regular up-to-date posts on the festival at www.facebook.com/readingchildrensfestival or follow festival news on twitter @reading_cf. Alternatively, call Reading Borough Council's events team on (0118) 937 2771 for further information.'

18 Apr 2012

Will Reading MP's vote against the 'Granny Tax'?

When Reading West Conservatives election leaflet dropped through my door I was quite surprised one of the headlines on the front page was 'Protecting our pensioners'.  Despite not mentioning the fact they took away free travel from pensioners before 9.30 am when they were in coalition control of the Council, they also failed to mention the 'granny tax' proposed in the budget.  This will mean 40% of pensioners will be paying more tax then expected.  

The following from the BBC explains what pensioners are likely to lose: 'Figures from HMRC show that, taking inflation into account, this will leave 4.41 million people worse off than they would have expected, by an average of £83 a year in 2013-14. 

People due to turn 65 after 5 April 2013 will miss out on an average of £285 compared with what they expected in 2013-14. The biggest loss is £322 that year.'

That's a lot of money to lose when you are on a fixed income, especially with inflation higher than expected and the cost of  living increasing.
Reading & District Labour Party Media Release 
16 April 2012
Jo Lovelock : Wilson and Sharma should vote against the granny tax this Thursday
The Labour Party is forcing a vote in the House of Commons this Thursday against George Osborne’s ‘granny tax’ and Labour Leader Jo Lovelock says Rob Wilson and Alok Sharma know their constituents agree with Labour on this issue and should vote to stop the tax going through.

“Pensioners have had a raw deal under this Government,” she says, “but with the tax raid on them announced in the recent Budget, George Osborne is making tough times even tougher for older people. Everybody I have spoken to is appalled by the fact that millionaires will be getting a tax break while 4.4 million pensioners lose out, and I am sure both Reading’s MPs have been getting that message loud and clear from their constituents.

“To members of the public I would say it is not too late to tell the MPs your views, and I would urge you to email robwilsonmp@parliament.uk or alok.sharma.mp@parliament.uk as appropriate.
“If Reading’s Conservative MPs back the Government on Thursday, they will be saying that they are only in tune with the super-rich, not the people who have worked all their lives and were hoping for a comfortable old age, and their families.  I urge them to do the right thing for once.”

17 Apr 2012

National Gardening Week! Get growing folks....

This week is National Gardening Week.   As my previous posts make blatantly obvious I love gardening.  I think I have been inspired by, and hopefully inherited the skill of, my maternal grandmother.  I have nothing but fond memories of her garden in Caversham and have chosen plants based on those memories - peonies, potentilla, lambs ears (not sure of their real name - they have soft furry leaves) and roses.

You don't have to have a big garden to grow things and enjoy gardening.  While I rented I grew things in pots so I could take them with me.  My huge bay tree started as a 15 cm plant in a pot.  I still grow fruit trees and veggies in pots and troughs as I don't have the space to have them in the ground.

It's not too late to start some seeds or buy a few plants from your local garden centre and I have picked up many a bargain from car boot sales too.  It's doesn't have to be an expensive hobby and growing fruit and veg can save money in the long run.  Definitely worth a go.

15 Apr 2012

Love real nappies!

Real Nappy Week is 16-22 April 2012.  I have blogged before about my love of cloth nappies.  We are still going strong with cloth bum number two.  I can only imagine the £1,000's we have saved using cloth let alone the tonnes of waste saved from landfill.  I never have poopy nappies in the bin waiting for collection and, unless I'm not paying attention, I never run out of nappies.

I've got plain ones, coloured ones and patterned ones.  Bamboo ones, minky ones, all-in-ones and two part nappies and wraps.  I actually enjoy hanging them on the line and folding them when dry.  I will actually be quite upset when littlest potty trains - I reckon I have a year using cloth on him max.

There are usually loads of deals during Real Nappy Week so if you are thinking about trying them out, now would be a good time.  Also don't forget Reading Borough Council offer £30 cashback on real nappy purchases.

12 Apr 2012

Into Battle: Election Special 2012

Battle Ward Labour Party and councillors produce several Into Battles a year.  There are copies of past editions linked in the pages above.

We feel it's important to let residents know what we are doing for them as their elected representatives and that we are working hard for them on the issues that are important to residents of Battle.

So, hot off the press and not even printed yet, the Into Battle Election Special.  Click on the picture for the full edition.

Battle residents should have one delivered to them shortly.  Let me know if you don't.

10 Apr 2012

Good Oxford Road #rdg NAG this evening

I try to get along to as many Oxford Road Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) meetings as possible as they are an excellent way of sharing local information.  Tonight's was attended my local neighbourhood groups, Reading Borough Council (RBC), the Oxford Road Community Policing team, RAHAB and councillors from Battle and Abbey wards.

The main item for discussion was residents concerns about prostitution throughout the Oxford Road NAG area.  The police assured us they are focusing on the problem, targeting kerb crawlers and helping the street workers get the help they need.  They are also focusing on street drinking and drugs, often linked problems.

We were also pleased to hear RBC are working on a 'hotspot' map to identify areas were dog fouling is a particular problem.  Many residents have contacted us concerned about the state of the streets.  Dog fouling is absolutely a problem caused by careless dog owners and RBC are planning a series of educational events throughout the town, similar to the one trialled in Whitley.

We also talked about the Oxford Road Fun Day on 30 June.  Hope to see some of you there!

9 Apr 2012

Since when has being born and bred in Reading been a negative thing?

Some of you may have noticed the Conservatives, namely Cllr Ballsdon and Cllr Willis, trying to stir up trouble on blogs and Twitter about a completely harmless statement on a piece of Reading Labour literature.  They are saying it's racist because the candidate's statement says she was born and bred in Reading and one of us.  Read it here for yourself:

'Eileen McElligott is a mother of three who was born and bred in Reading. She grew up on Dee Road Estate, gained a degree in Zoology and returned to live in Reading. Eileen now works in the Pharmaceutical Industry and is a School Governor. She will fight for us here in Church Ward because she is one of us.'

How is this in anyway racist?  Being born and bred in Reading is something to be proud of surely?  It is after all, in my opinion, an excellent town to live in.  Sadly I cannot claim to be Reading born and bred - just bred after my first few years being in Derbyshire.  If I was, I would be more than happy to proclaim it.

As for the statement 'one of us'.  Again, how is this racist?  Who is defining 'us'?  Reading Labour are defining it as a resident, a family, someone being effected by the harsh cuts brought about by national government, a worker, a parent, a Labour member.

To be honest their cry of racism smacks of desperation from a party torn apart with internal rows.

7 Apr 2012

You want your trolley back? Here's the bill....

Anyone who lives near a supermarket knows how irritating and, sometimes dangerous, dumped trollies are.  Battle Ward has a Tesco in it's centre and a Waitrose and Asda nearby so dumped trollies are a regular feature.  The trolleys are currently reported and the supermarket collects them once or twice a week.

If approved at Cabinet on 16 April 2012, Labour led Reading Borough Council will be able to charge for collecting, storing and returning the trolley and, if not collected, destroying it.

I hope this means Battle ward is no longer littered with abandoned shopping trolleys!

4 Apr 2012

No surgery Saturday

Battle Library is closed for Easter this weekend so there won't be a councillors surgery. If you do have any issues to discuss, please get in touch.

Pupil Premium: Reading’s children lose out while wealthy Wokingham’s gain!

Reading & District Labour Party Media Release  
1April 2012
The Government’s ‘Pupil Premium’ grant, which is a reallocation of existing school funds, is doing the opposite of what the LibDems originally wanted it to do - because the Conservatives have changed the way funding is allocated, areas like Reading with higher levels of child poverty are losing out.
Last year the Pupil Premium was calculated mainly on the number of children having free school meals, but it is now calculated on the number who have had school meals at any time during the last six years, which has meant that wealthy Wokingham and Windsor and Maidenhead are seeing a doubling of their grant at the expense of areas like Reading which is getting a much smaller increase. Because over all schools funding is staying flat this means that Reading's children will lose out on funding.
Labour’s John Ennis, Lead Councillor for Education & Children’s Services, says: “It's ironic that the Pupil Premium – which was proclaimed as helping the most disadvantaged children - is now actually benefiting wealthy areas at the expense of areas with much higher levels of child poverty.  If I had voted LibDem in the last election I would be feeling cheated by a government which is clearly committed to unfairness."
The pattern across the country is the same. The area with the lowest figure for children living in poverty is Rutland with 8%, and their grant is going up 126%. The highest figure for children living in poverty is Tower Hamlets with 51%, and their grant went up just 60% - less than half of the increase in Rutland.

Indicative main Under 16s 
pupil premium   in Poverty (2009)
Change (%)         (%)

Windsor and Maidenhead          
102                 11
West Berkshire
99                   12
Bracknell Forest
98                   12
98                   7
82                   24
67                   23

1 Apr 2012

Buds and seeds

My obsession with my garden continues and this past weeks fine weather has meant I have finally got some planting done.  The baby was in a co-operative mood and didn't climb the garden furniture so I planted:

Runner beans
Squash (I am trying to grow at least one for the third year - fingers crossed)
Cherry tomatoes

I will plant more in the next week or so.  My new dwarf fruit trees are starting to bud, my cherry is setting itself up to blossom and my nectarine tree looks stunning.