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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...

22 Nov 2017

The Budget - a lost opportunity to improve lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need hope.

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

What would Labour do instead?  Find out here: Manifesto

17 Nov 2017

#PrematurityIs - my experience

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

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

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

The next 4 weeks 2 days were spent:

Visiting him in Buscot Ward at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. 

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

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

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

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

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

Helping him learn to suck and feed.

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

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

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

Prematurity is different for everyone.

 Image may contain: one or more people and people sleeping

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

11 Nov 2017

Saving precious green space in Kirton Close, Norcot

Norcot Labour have launched a petition to save precious green space in the Watermead Estate.  Current plans would see the space covered with 18 properties causing local to lose this little green lung.

Councillor Debs Absolom said "It is a build that is proposing 18 properties on the estates green space where local people walk their dogs, children walk to school, play & learn to ride their bikes, a route for all whether off to the bus stop or get some fresh air.

When this estate was built this green area was for residents and wildlife...it must stay that way."

Cllr Absolom with Cllr Jo Lovelock, Anrysh Kaur, Ellie Emberson and residents

 You can see the planning application here: http://planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/detail.asp?AltRef=171219

You can also comment or object on the proposed development adding your voice to those already concerned about these proposals.

This map shows the area of green space that will be lost if these plans go ahead.

Norcot Labour are out with a petition Saturday 18th Nov at 10.30am meeting at Windrush Way junction on Water Road. Please join them and help save this precious space.

29 Oct 2017

Unite in Capita strike this week

Unite in Capita are striking this week. I work for Capita part-time and I'll be on the picket line Mon-Fri morning this week.

Messages of support can be sent to @uniteincapta or uniteincapita@capita.co.uk or pop along to Reading Bridge house and say hello.

This is why we're on strike:


I strongly believe that each one of my colleagues deserves better treatment than we're getting. Many of them are losing tens on thousands of pounds of retirement income because of these changes, a loss they cannot afford to remedy.  They're still working just as hard now for a potentially much reduced pay and pension package.

We're standing up for each other and our futures.

17 Oct 2017

Have you got a bit of Reading Abbey in your rockery?

Reading Borough Council Press Release:

Could You Own a Piece of Reading History?

October 16, 2017 Oscar Mortali

RESIDENTS will have the opportunity to learn more about the ambitious new Hidden Abbey Stones project at an upcoming public meeting on Friday 20 October.

The Hidden Abbey Stones Project (HASP) is an exciting new venture which aims to learn more about the lost and hidden stones of the Abbey that were removed following its dissolution in 1539. Many of the stones that once formed the Abbey still exist in Reading today, built into walls or houses or simply unrecognised in rockeries and flowerbeds.

By studying the composition and decorative style of many of these stones, it is hoped that the group will be able to reveal not just aspects of the Abbey’s architecture, but also speak of its life, musical tradition, art, and even the changing social and religious attitudes of the nation.

The meeting takes place at St James Church Roman Catholic Church, The Forbury, on Friday 20th October at 7.30pm. It will include contributions from the Right Rev Geoffrey Scott (Abbot of Douai Abbey), Toby Davies (Reading Between The lines), Dr Kevin Hayward (Reading University) and John Mullaney (one of the initiators of the project).

Entry to the meeting is free but ticketed. Tickets can be obtained by entering Hidden Abbey Stones Project Launch on Eventbrite or by using this link: 


Councillor Sarah Hacker, Lead Councillor for Culture, and a member of the project’s steering group said:

“Many people across the town may have stones that once formed part of Reading Abbey in their gardens, but simply don’t realise they own a part of Reading’s history. The public meeting is a brilliant opportunity for residents to learn more about the project and the materials that were once part of one of the most important religious buildings in Europe.”

The project forms part of the ‘Hidden Abbey Project’, which has been set up to discover the full extent and significance of the Royal Abbey, founded by Henry in 1121, which was the final resting place of the king and his Queen Adeliza. The project won a Reading Cultural Award in the category Celebrating Reading’s Heritage in June 2017.

13 Oct 2017

Never been happier to see road closures! Cow Lane bridges update

Lots of things make me happy.  My family and friends, a really good curry, prosecco, getting through a body pump class without having to stop once and a beautiful clear and frosty day.  This week a new thing was added to my list - road closures.  Not just any road closure but ones that allow the final stage of the Cow Lane Bridge widening to be completed!!!!!

Cllr Gul Khan, Cllr Chris Maskell and the MP for Reading West Martin Salter from 2008 when the current plans were approved.
The Cow Lane Bridges project has been going for a loooooooong time (see more here).  It would have been done by now if it hadn't been for an objection to a compulsory purchase order (which was withdrawn!).  Reading Labour have been fighting for it's completion for years and the end is now in sight.

From 2013 when the first bridge was put in place
Since the original plans were drawn up I have ensured the addition of a dedicated cycle and pedestrian path under the bridges so all road users can use the road safely.  Network Rail are beginning the works and they should be completed before the Reading Festival next year.  I know closures are inconvenient but the results should be worth it.

  •  3 to 6 November 2017 between 20:00 to 06:00 
  • 10 to 13 November 2017 between 20:00 to 06:00 (contingency) 
  • 6 to 9 July 2018 between 20:00 to 06:00
  • 13 to 16 July 2018 between 20:00 to 06:00 (contingency)
  • 14 to 17 September 2018 between 20:00 to 06:00

A signed diversion route will be in place throughout the weekend closures and a pedestrian diversion will be in place as required to accommodate the works and maintain all  users safety.