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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...

17 Dec 2014

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Barbados and Friends Assocation Independence Dinner & Dance

Catch up time!  It's been a bit busy on the lead up to Christmas but I have a bit of time so I am getting up to date.

On 22 November my husband and I had the pleasure to attend the Barbados and Friends Association (BAFA) Independence Dinner & Dance.  This event celebrated 48 years since Barbados gained independence. 

It was a great evening with wonderful entertainment from comedian Geoff Schumann and we were serenaded by the very talented Liberty Buckland.  It was also an honour to meet the Deputy High Commissioner for Barbados.  We were also made to feel very welcome by our host.

It was very interesting to hear all about BAFA and the work they do in Barbados and with our twinned town, Speightstown.  I look forward to supporting their initiatives in the future - especially those where they are supporting schools.  It would be nice to create a link with Reading and Barbados schools and give children the opportunity to learn about each others daily lives.

With my hosts and the Deputy High Commisioner - courtesy of the BAFA website.  Click this pic for more photos

13 Nov 2014

Alumnus of the Year 2015

I am pleased to announce I am going to be Alumnus of the Year 2015.  I am hugely honoured to be given this award.

I graduated from the University in 2000 with a BSc (Hons) in Rural Environmental Science.

This morning I visited the University of Reading and was given a tour of the Agriculture Department where I studied, however half the building hadn't been constructed by the time I graduated.  It was interesting to talk to the students who are now doing my course (with a different name) as it is still a subject I am very interested in.

The campus is quite different from when I was there.  There are some beautiful new buildings, coffee shops and the library is undergoing an impressive refurbishment.

I am very proud the University have chosen me and I will fulfil the role to the best of my ability.

25 Oct 2014

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Reading Fibromyalgia Support Group - Anniversary!

On Thursday evening I attended the Reading Fibromyalgia Support Group's 1st anniversary celebration however it was all tea and cakes.

I am not sure how many people are aware of Fibromyalgia.  I am, as I know people who have the condition.  It is a painful and debilitating thing to have.  You have good days and bad days.  You have a range of symptoms that effect your ability to carry out your usual daily activities.  Until last year there was no support group in Reading but now the membership is 100 plus!

The event included a presentation by Dr Antoni CHan MBChB ERCP PhD on Fibromyalgia.  I found it very interesting and gave me a even greater understanding.  I did not know it is considered a disability. I did not know how it was diagnosed or how it is managed.  The group have a very useful information pack put together by Dr Deepak Ravindran.  You can read the information here and I recommend you do:

Fibromyalgia -All you need to know

There was a question an answer session at the end and I felt I had to ask whether this information was available to employers and trade unions.  Fibromyalgia can lead to time off work or reduced activity so I feel it is vital employers and trade unions understand the condition to prevent distressing sickness
disciplinaries.  I will be sharing the above document with my empoyer and trade union.

The group is run by Alice Gostomski.  They meet at Prospect Park Hospital 7.30pm-9pm and will be meeting on the following dates:

Thursday 18 December 2014
Thursday 22 January 2015
Thirsday 19 February 2015

You can find out further date and information by calling 07789708072 4pm-8pm weekdays or email reading.fibromyalgia@gmail.com.

With my excellent host Neil Stafford

23 Oct 2014

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Caring, Chairing and Ceremony

My last three engagements have been of such variety I thought I would tell you about them all in one place.  The role of Deputy Mayor, and Mayor, is very, very varied and the following show you just how different your duties can be.

On Thursday  October I had a 'caring' engagement.  I was asked to attend the Macmillan coffee morning at Emmbrook Court retirement complex.  I had a lovely afternoon talking to residents and hearing all about their complex of flats.  I also got the chance to spend a few pounds in support of Macmillan and joined in (and lost) the tombola and raffle.  I also picked up a few cakes to share with my boys and some bulbs for the garden.

It was lovely listening to residents.  One lady I talked to worked at Wilson School which is where I went to primary school!

On Tuesday  14 October I took the day off work to take part in the ceremonial opening of the courts.  This was the 'ceremony'engagement.  I wore the full robes of the Deputy Mayor of Reading and, with the mace being carried before me, lead the mayors from surrounding towns and boroughs into St Marys church for the ceremonial service for the opening of the Crown Court.

This is an ancient tradition and everyone was in their full ceremonial dress.  The judges were be-wigged and be-ribboned, the High Sheriff was proceeded by a ceremonial sword and the choir of Eton College sang Zadok The Priest.  The singing was so beautiful the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.  It was an amazing event.

On Tuesday 21 October I attended the AGM of the Reading Association for the Blind.  The Mayor is their president so I took his place and chaired the AGM.  As well as the usual election I over saw the vote on the proposed merger with Berkshire Blind.  I made sure time was taken to hear peoples views on the proposal and that th meeting was run fairly and efficiently (good practise for full council when I'm Mayor!).

I won't share the result as that's not my story to tell but it was a privilege to be part of their AGM.

So there you go.  Being Deputy Mayor is never dull and is filled with variety, interesting stories and a little bit of magic.

9 Oct 2014

Deputy Mayor Diaries : Caversham Bridge Newspaper 50th Anniversary

This evening event, on 3 October, was my second of the day and was a pleasure to attend. The room was filled with the many people who ensure the publication and delivery of the Caversham Bridge newspaper every month. I was sent a pdf of their 50th anniversary edition which you can see here.  It was a great read.

This newspaper was the brainchild of Canon John Grimwade who wanted to see the various Christian demoninations working together for the good of Caversham and it's residents. 

Many different people contribute to the content which is then edited by a team of 6 editors.  The copy is sent to the typesetters, then Newbury Weekly News who produce the plate and print the edition.

120 distributors make sure subscribers get their monthly 25p newspaper Everyone is a volunteer!

The cake was cut by Jim Pilgrim, who was secretary and treasurer, and with the paper since shortly after it began in 1964. 

Here's to another 50 years! 

Some past editions
Jim Pilgrim cutting the cake!

8 Oct 2014

Deputy Mayor Diaries : All Nations Christian Centre WW1 Memorial Unveiling

This engagement was a privilige to be asked to attend.  

This is the centenary year of the start of World War One and the All Nations Christian Centre have refurbished their memorial stone.  On 3 October I unveiled the newly restore stone at a small service presided over by Reverend Billy Fenning.  I also laid a wreath of remembrance.

The Exhortation was recited by Mrs Christine Lewendon who is  Branch President of the Tilehurst Royal British Legion - the first woman to ever hold this position!  The Last Post and Reveille were sounded by Don Richardson of the Salvation Army.

This newly restored memorial can now be the focus of November's remembrance services.


7 Oct 2014

Deputy Mayor Diaries : Ridgeway School Sensory Room Opening

I get asked to attend all sorts of events at all sorts of times and, this one being on a Monday (29 September) at 6.30, and at a school, meant I could take my two children (now called the Deputy Mayorettes) who had been complaining they hadn't been to anything for a while.

I was asked to come and see the opening of the new sensory room at The Ridgeway Primary school.  The room was opened by Tom Homer, who plays for the local rugby team, London Irish. Why a rugby player you may ask?  Well, the sensory room was funded by the Wooden Spoon - the charity of British and Irish Rugby supporting mentally, physically disadvantaged children through capital based projects.  You see, it makes sense now.

Wooden Spoon have been working with schools withing the Whitley Excellence Cluster to deliver various projects, this being one of them.  Sensory rooms can be hugely beneficial to all children, especially those with sensory, physical or communication difficulties and I'm sure it will improve the lives of many.

Deputy Mayorettes joining in
With Tom Homer

Tom and Headteacher Madeleine Cosgrove

6 Oct 2014

Deputy Mayor Diaries : Reading & Whitley Multicultural Women's Group Open Day

On Saturday 27 September I was invited to the Reading & Whitley Multicultural Woman's Group open day at RISC.  The theme of the event was 'Women Against the Odds'.

Various speakers were asked to talks about women, their role duding WW1n and their role today and in the future.  Speakers were Cllr Meri O'Connell, Dr Jenny Woods, ReadiBus, Lee Evan J.P, organiser Uda Chalk and MP Rob Wilson.

During the event Rob Wilson commented on the Labour group's increasing representation from the various different ethnic groups in Reading, in particular the recent election of Sophia James in Katesgrove.  It was great to have this recognised.

 I spoke about women in WW1 and the challenges we face today and in the future.  You can read the outline of my speech here but, as usual when I am speaking about something I care about, I elaborated and also included:

  • The women machinists at Dagenham Ford who helped bring about the Equalities Act of 1970.
  • The Let Toys Be Toys campaign who are trying to end gender stereotyping with toys.
  • Women facing danger during and after birth - high maternal mortality.
  • Women facing adversity throughout the word such as in Syria.
  • Malala who was shot for wanting an education.
Although we have come a long way, we still have a way to go for true equality.  This is something both men and women need to work together to achieve.

As well as thought provoking talks, we were also entertained by some very talented musicians (see photos below) and the afternoon was well M.C'd by Annette Levy.

The group meet on the last Sunday of the month 4-6 at RISC March to November.  They are always happy to welcome new members.

Caribbean Serenaders were fab
Violinist Endre Adams
Organiser Uda Chalk

5 Oct 2014

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Reading Operatic Society - Oliver!

On 24 September I was very lucky to be invited to the Reading Operatic Society production of Oliver! at the Hexagon.  I am a keen supporter of the arts, but rarely have the time to go out, so this was a real treat.

I have to say I was very impressed.  The production was of a very high standard, from the children to the adults, and the set was amazing.

I particularily liked the little lad who played the Artful Dodger and the scene where Bill Sykes met his end was very dramatic and made me jump!

We are lucky in Reading to have lots of homegrown talent and there were huge amounts of talent on show.  I shall make an effort to go to future productions as this evening was so enjoyable.

A big thank you for the invite!

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Sharad Ustav 2014 & Reading Schools Art Competition

As many of you know I am very supportive of the arts so I was delighted to be asked to present the prizes for the first Reading Schools Art Competition  this afternoon.  It was organised by the Bengali Cultural Society as part of Sharad Ustav, a four day event celebrating harvest festival.

The society was looking to involve the wider community in their celebrations so the Reading Schools Art Competition was devised.

After witnessing some wonderful singing and dancing I presented the following prizes:

Commendation: Autum Butterfly (bottom piece) by  Sonia Siddique, Reading College
3rd: Layered Culture by Saffia Amin, Highdown

2nd: Calcium Tubastraca Angeola Gao, Leighton Park

1st: Upcycle Dress with Free Stitching Maisy Inston, Bulmershe

The prizes were decided by Suzanne Stallard, Jenny Halstead, Ingrid Jensen and Prabhat Basu who are well know in Reading.  It must have been a hard task as the entries were of a very high standard.

Well done to everyone who oragnised this event.

So much fun and dancing!

28 Sept 2014

Deputy Mayor Diaries: Prospects Cake Party

I have been very naughty and not kept up to date with my diaries.  It all got a bit hectic with my eldest going back to school and my youngest starting school for the very first time!  Things have finally calmed down so it's catch-up time. 

On Saturday 6 September I was invited to the Prospects Cake Party and what a wonderful afternoon it was.  It was an event to celebrate the staff, volunteers and people who use the services the charity offers.

Prospects are a charity that works with adults with learning disabilities to give them the support and skills needed to live a full life.  It also trains people to set up their own groups through churches across the country so their reach is very impressive!

We were entertained with music, dance and tricks.  Naturally I was required to join in with the card tricks!  I also got the opportunity for a little dance to the music by the excellent musicians.
Rob Wilson MP popped in at the beginning and helped me cut the celebration cake.

It was clear how much the volunteers mean to the people that attend Prospects sessions and how much benefit it felt.  It was an afternoon filled with happiness (and cake).


10 Sept 2014

Cow Lane delay?

When we found about about the possible delay to the works at Cow Lane Bridges Councillor Chris Maskell wrote this on his Facebook page.  He explains how we feel well so I have no more to add:

'Public Inquiry into Cow Lane Bridges

It is possible that the road works linking the two Cow Lane bridges could be delayed for up to a year. A number of objections have been recieved from land owners who had been served compulsory purchase orders. The CPO's had been served to facilitate the building of a road that would link the two new Cow Lane bridges and finally remove the infamous bottleneck.

As a result of the objections the Secretary of State for Transport has confirmed it will be necessary to hold a Public Inquiry. This has therefore delayed the construction programme for the Cow Lane Highway works by approximately 12 months.

Reading Borough Council officers have said negotiations with the objectors are on-going and there is a possibility that if the proposed agreements are approved and the objections withdrawn, the Public Inquiry will not be required.

It is a shame that this has happened but it is entirely understandable that some land owners felt the need to object. Hopefully, RBC and the landowners can come to an agreement that will allow the project to be delivered on time.

I am not sure when Portman Road, Cow Lane and Richfield Avenue were linked up but since that time the short stretch of road between the two bridges has bee a source of complaint from pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike.

Any delay to the completion of Cow Lane will impact on the work we are doing to improve the Oxford Road. The first phase of work can still go ahead as scheduled. The second phase will be determined by monitoring the impact the opening up of Cow Lane has on traffic flows during its first year. Any delay will impact on this second phase.

Battle councillors have been campaigning to get the bridges sorted out since 2004. We were looking forward to the opening up of Cow Lane next summer, unfortunately that may now not be possible.

When we first floated the idea that something could be done many people looked to the heavens and said: "not in your life time mate". Well, it will happen but if it takes a year longer than anticipated, so be it. Another 12 months added to the forty or so years people have been waiting for Cow Lane to be sorted out will be 12 months well spent.'

3 Sept 2014

New school for the Oxford Road - plans on show & green space expanded!

As any parent knows applying for a primary school place is a stressful time. I've done it twice now and I am glad I don't have to do it again.  West Reading is a popular place for families with good schools, facilites and a great sense of community so it's no surprise that we need more primary places.

The proposed new school will relieve pressure in the central west area of Reading, increase green space at Victoria Park and provide Oxford Road Community School, where I am a governor, with shared dedicated outdoor space.

Residents will also be pleased that the council are keeping to their promise to remove the temporary nursery on Victoria Park.

There are a group of residents keen to improve the park.  You can find out what they are up to here:

Plans for Proposed new Academy Primary School in Hodsoll Road

Reading Borough Council Press Release
RESIDENTS and potential parents and pupils can view plans for a proposed new primary school in Reading for the first time at a planning exhibition on Thursday 11th September.

The planned two-form entry school will be called Civitas Academy and will be run by REAch2 Academy Trust - a provider selected by the Department for Education following a bidding process in late 2013.

The proposed location is on land to the side of the bus depot, on the corner of Hodsoll Road and Great Knollys Street. It would be across the road from Victoria Park and no building work would take place on Victoria Park itself.

The proposals include plans to provide much-improved facilities for Fairview Community Centre by moving it into the new school building. The land on which Fairview Community Centre currently sits - on the George Street side of Victoria Park – could then be returned to green space, along with the temporary Oxford Road Community School nursery unit site, which is now no longer in use.

In exchange, a section on the north-east corner of Victoria Park would be designated for joint recreational use by the new academy school and Oxford Road Community School, but would remain fully open for public use outside school hours.

The current road closure outside the bus depot at Great Knollys Street would also remain in place as part of the proposals.

A national shortage of primary school places is being mirrored in Reading. Latest Census figures show a population explosion of 34% in Reading of children aged 0-4 years old – the second highest rise in the whole of the South-East since 2001.

A new school for this area was a well-supported option in the Let’s Talk Education consultation which took place in 2013. The proposed new Civitas Academy forms part of a major expansion programme of primary school places across Reading, creating an additional 2,520 much-needed primary places over the next 7 years.

Reading Borough Council is hosting a planning exhibition next week so that local residents and new parents can view and discuss the proposals in detail and ask any questions they may have. This is in advance of a planning application being submitted by the Council later in the month.

The planning exhibition on September 11 takes place between 3pm and 7pm at Fairview Youth and Community Centre, Victoria Park, George Street, Reading RG1 7RR. Residents can also request more information or comment on plans by emailing newschool@reading.gov.uk or calling 0118 937 4381.

Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:

“The proposal is for a new academy to be built on council owned land to the side of the bus depot and across the road from Victoria Park. The planned relocation of Fairview Community Centre into the school means not only much-improved facilities for the local community but allows the Council to return the current Fairview building back to green space, along with the temporary nursery unit which is no longer in use. In exchange, a shared space for both the new school, Oxford Road Community School and the public could then be created next to the railway line on the other side of Victoria Park. The road closure outside the bus depot also remains in place as part of these proposals.

“The planning exhibition is a good opportunity for local residents to view the plans in detail and discuss any concerns in advance of the submission of the planning application, where local residents will again get the chance to give their feedback.”

Reading’s Lead Member for Education, Cllr John Ennis, said:

“The shortage of primary school places both in Reading and nationally is well documented and this new academy is one of 13 expansion projects across the town to cater for the rising demand. As well as a place to educate young people, schools are also an important part of any local community and I would urge as many local residents as possible to take a look at the plans.”

The new school plans to open in September 2015 on a temporary Council-owned site on the corner of North Street and Weldale Street, next to the Ambulance Station. The temporary site will also have outdoor space. It is expected – subject to planning permission - that the school will relocate to its permanent location on Hodsoll Road in September 2016.

The new Civitas Academy, as a two-form entry school, will start with two reception classes of 30 children in September 2015 and gradually fill up every year until reaching total capacity in September 2021.

REAch2 Academy Trust – who will run the new Civitas Academy – will also be holding a public meeting later this year to promote the new school ahead of 2015 admissions.

26 Aug 2014

Road resurfacing in Battle!

Work is due to start on resurfacing several roads in Battle ward.  I know residents of Kensington Road will be pleased as they have contacted me asking for this work to be done.  It is part of a £368,000 project being carried out by Reading Borough Council.

Below is a list of the roads being resurfaced and the dates they are due to be done.  These dates may change due to weather conditions etc.

Kensington Road: Surfacing work starts on the Thursday, September 11, and is expected to take one day. Road-marking is due to be carried out approximately seven days later when ironworks will also be raised. The road will be closed during surfacing work with temporary parking restrictions in force.

Mason Street: Surfacing work will start on Saturday, September 13, and is expected to take one day. Road-marking is due to be carried out approximately seven days later when ironworks will also be raised. The road will be closed during surfacing work with temporary parking restrictions in force.

Edinburgh Road: Surfacing work will start on Saturday, September 13, and is expected to take one day. Road-marking is due to be carried out approximately seven days later when ironworks will also be raised. The road will be closed during surfacing work with temporary parking restrictions in force.

Wilton Road: Surfacing work will start on Sunday, September 14, and is expected to take one day. Road-marking is due to be carried out approximately seven days later when ironworks will also be raised. The surfacing work will be carried out under a road closure with temporary parking restrictions in force.