Friday, 25 February 2011

"Let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

Disgraced Cllr Swaine
An interesting week. At this week's Council meeting, Reading's ruling Conservative/Liberal Democrat Council made 2 awful decisions.

The first awful decision was for huge cuts in services. The cuts run from reducing grass cutting on verges, so you won't be able to see around the corners when you are turn, to a huge reduction in the services for schools.

The Education budget are truely shocking, these are a couple of the highlights which amount to cuts totalling £3.8m

  • Cutting funds for the Connexions service, so if you are a teenager, like my children, you won't get any support. 
  • Cutting support for schools so they won't get the support they need to help Park's children. 
  • 33% increase in the costs of Council after school clubs. 
They are brutally honest in their conclusions of their cuts. The report says about cuts to schools support that there will be, "reductions in service to vulnerable families".

These cuts were opposed by the Labour councillors, however the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pushed them through. After taking their first henious decision they moved from their attack on hard working families, like yours and mine to defending disgraced Liberal Democrat Cllr Swaine. You may remember that he had already resigned from the cabinet because of his racist Tweets.

The Labour group brought a motion to Council demanding that in the spirit of  Reading Declaration disgraced Cllr Swaine do the decent thing and resign. This was callously voted down by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and Swaine survived to fight another day.

Two awful decisions, a bad night for Reading, however the story wasn't completely over.

The Liberal Democrats nationally decided that enough is enough and have suspended Cllr Swaine. This seems to raise an interesting question, with Swaine suspended, does this mean he is still a Liberal Democrat councillor? If he isn't does the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition have a majority? I don't know but its fun to speculate.

So as Oliver Cromwell said, "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go."

I never thought I'd recommend Thought for the Day

I am not a big fan of BBC's Thought for the Day fan. I also don't find Ann Atkins very appealing most of the time, however I found yesterday's really inspiring so add it here . Scroll forward to about 1:48 where it starts.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Park Ward Walk

Ok, I know I should comment on the Council meeting where the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats decided to lose another 300 staff. This in addition to the staff that were made redundant before the Budget, but I think the numbers speak for themselves. But...I wanted to highlight Park Ward and the area where I live.

So here is is a slideshow of photos of Park Ward, taken on Sunday. The sharp eyed of you will notice that a couple of the pictures are taken around the centre of Reading, however the majority show Park in all its glory.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I warn you not to be old under Reading's Conservatives

Neil Kinnock warned of what would happen with the Conservatives in control, he said amongst other things "...I warn you not to be old....."

Reading's caring Conservatives have displayed once again that it is dangerous to be old under the Conservatives. The Reading Evening Post reports that they have cut the terms of the old peoples' travel card. So if you live in Park and are old it will cost you more to get in to town, or around generally on Reading's Buses.

Park Ward is known as a student Ward, however there are significant numbers of over 60's and they all had the right to travel on Reading's Buses for free, with their pass, at all times. Having seen the latest Park Ward Conservative leaflet I note that they "forgot" to add in this piece of good news, and have majored on their Councillor planting a tress somewhere apart from Park.I have just found out that the tree that Wazir is standing infront of is on Portman Road, by the Rivermead. It is a shame that he didn't join us last year when we replanted a record number of trees in one day, with the Reading effort being at Palmer Park.

Kinnock said that he warned people not to be old, not to be ill, and so on. He is being proved right, Reading's Conservatives have attacked the old people of Park Ward and Reading and do not even have the courage to tell them. Who will be next? Disabled people? Blind people? If they can attack old people then surely there is no real stopping them.

To repeat Neil's warning, with Reading's Conservatives supported by the Liberal Democrats, I warn you not to be old, not to be ill, not to be weak. Yes the they will plant a tree outside your Ward, but they will hit the residents where it hurts and hit them hard.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Out In the Streets

Richard with local residents in Hamilton Road
Just come back from a great door knocking session, I was in my own road, Hamilton, but colleagues were across the Ward.

It is really interesting speaking to your own neighbours about the issues that concern them. It seems that very few people were aware of the Conservatives new policy to fine residents for parking with their wheels on the curb. If you live in most of Hamilton or Bulmershe or Liverpool Roads it is almost the only way to park.

I was pleased ot be able to tell my neighbours and other residents that I am working with Labour colleagues in fighting the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats plans and that they are finally considering another U Turn.

So do I like door knocking, yes, and even more when I am close enough at the end of the session to walk home and have my lunch.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

BS or the Big Society

I was listening to a Radio 4 programme last night about how the Tories are making the "Big Society", also known by the Hashtag #BS, work in Oxford.

I attach a link to the prog here it really is worth 30mins of your time. I am astounded by the breath taking arrogance of the Conservatives in Oxfordshire, an area I know well. The story revolves around the plans for withdrawal of funding of the Counties libraries. It picks up the story of one Library in Sumertown, where the users are middle class and eloquent, they are able to campaign for funds and support, and probably will get something organised to either fund or support the library. The report then contrasts this with the library in Blackbird Leys where the users have low levels internet connections, high unemployment and frankly are already stressed enough with Cameron's attempts to impoverish them that they are finding it difficult to organise.

The leader of Oxfordshire, when challenged by the reporter about the Blackbird Leys library had the brass neck to say something like, "oh yes of course there are plenty of retired academics in Oxford who can pick up the mantel of runing the Blackbird Leys library. The arrogance of it is unbelievable. The Liberal Democrat interviewed says something along the lines of  "not my fault gov, I never signed up for this".

If anything should make those of use who are working to protect services in Reading against the attacks by the Conservatives and their heart felt supporters the Liberal Democrats then this programme should spur us on to fight to protect local people, local jobs, local education services and local lives. The hashtag is dead right, #BS describes Camerons service cutting Big Society perfectly.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Have you sent your letter off yet?

Just  a quick note to remind everyone that you have to email your letter to WBC tomorrow if you want to object to Wokingham's plans to change the Maiden Erlegh catchment area. For a sample letter click here .

The letters have to be in by the 14th. So send Wokingham a Valentine's card they won't forget.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Careful What You Write on the Internet

Disgraced Liberal  Democrat
Councillor Warren Swaine
Media Releases
Change in Cabinet Post at Reading

Cllr Warren Swaine has resigned as the Lead Cabinet member for Environment and Sustainability on Reading Borough Council.

Cllr Kirsten Bayes will take responsibility for the Cabinet portfolio for Environment and Sustainability with immediate effect.

I am thankful to Cllr John Ennis for posting on his website today's Council press release advising that Liberal Democrat Councillor Warren Swaine has had to resign from Reading's cabinet. This is reportedly because of racist tweets which Swaine posted about  Streatham's Labour MP, Chuka Umunna. Swaine appeared to be publishing racist comments on Twitter about Chuka Umunna while Chuka was on Question Time.
Swaine has spent the last year attacking and abusing people, including me, on his blog and his Tweets. Instead of working for his residents he spends his time throwing buckets of bile at hard working people. Now it has cost him dear and is a lesson for all of us who are engaged in politics and those Conservative and Liberal Democrat Councillor bloggers who think the best way to cover up their failed policies is to publish Tweets and articles that attack and abuse.

So now we know, there is a cost for everything. If you publish abuse, racist cant and libel about your opponents it will catch up with you. Swaine is disgraced and will have to start again to rebuild his tarnished reputation. The rest of Reading's political bloggers should take note.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Comment on the "Big Society"

Was having Twitter conversation with a friend this afternoon and they commented about something I was doing saying, " you are more than a gent-in fact you would be the living embodiment of the "big society" if it weren't a load of "Tory Bollocks" - Nough said really.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Jim Hanley

I have been wondering what to say about this all weekend. On Friday I was told about the sudden death of my friend Cllr Jim Hanley at the untimely age of 51. Frankly I am really in shock.

I had worked with Jim on a number of campaigns and found him to be a Welsh gent with nerves of steel.  It is really difficult to say everything I want to except I will miss Jim and Reading politics will be the poorer for him not being about. My first memory of him, was of him telling me how to act as a good Reading politician and then watching him act out his advice in the Council chamber and committee room.

I would like to express my condolences to Trish, his partner, and his wider family.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Wokingham wants a Valentine's Card

There are now only 9 days left before Wokingham's consultation about its new Maiden Erlegh plans closes.

Incase the issue has passed you by, these are the plans by Wokingham Borough Council to prevent South Park's children being able to attend their closest school, Maiden Erlegh. For fuller details click here .This plan will also strangely exclude a large number of Wokingham children who live on the Wokingham Road and also in the roads around Maiden Erlegh. This is also the plan that was welcomed as "equitable" by Park Ward's Conservative Councillor. I attach an extract of his letter to Park Ward above for your amusement.

I was at the drop in meeting yesterday arranged by the Parents' Group. I was surprised to see that the Conservative Councillors were there but I was glad to see that they were getting a serious earful from the parents who are effected by their "equitable" solution.

So I am urging all residents of Park Ward, and those affected in the WBC area to write to Wokingham Borough Council as a matter of urgency. The Park Parents' Group have produced a very useful letter which I reproduce for you here. Please feel free to copy and paste it to use as a basis for your leaflet.

We will keep fitting and keep working to make sure that we get a fair solution that does not descriminate against Park's children. So 9 days to save the catchment area.

Sample Letter

Secondary Schools Admission Consultation YOUR ADDRESS HERE

Wokingham Borough Council

Civic Offices,

Shute End,

Wokingham, RG40 1BN



Secondary Schools Admissions Consultation

Dear Sir or Madam

I appreciate the need to review the admissions arrangements but there is no pressing or urgent need for change in the case of Maiden Erlegh and Bulmershe (as confirmed by the Independent Review commissioned by WBC). The current DA and tie-break works perfectly well. Maiden Erlegh has a strong community from areas in both Wokingham and Reading.

It should be noted that all currently linked schools have very close ties with Maiden Erlegh and have exceptionally high transfer rates for pupils where that is possible.

I strongly object to the proposed changes to the Maiden Erlegh DA and tie-break for the following reasons:


Reasons for objection

Size of Designated Area: It makes no sense to enlarge a DA so it is massively too big for the school capacity (as confirmed by the Independent Review commissioned by WBC)

Tie Break: The proposed tie-break gives many parents no way of assessing of a child will get a place at Maiden Erlegh. It is unstable near Maiden Erlegh and prioritises pupils that live 3km away over children that might live 300m away

It makes no sense to name the alternative when other schools (John Madjeski, Reading Girls and Forest are much closer) – the Borough Boundary is irrelevant in this matter. This system is not used anywhere else in the country – for good reason!

Social/Demographic Issues: This proposal clearly does not comply with the Schools Admission Code on this matter. The first area to be excluded by the tie-break is the most deprived area of the DA. It will adversely impact the diversity of Maiden Erlegh and The Bulmershe and deprive children of a chance at an ‘Outstanding’ school

Community: All children in Reading Borough and many children in Wokingham Borough Council will be allocated a place at Bulmershe in Woodley, which is not part of our community and much further away.

This will divide our community which surrounds the school, with some getting in and others not. And with no real certainty in any year where the cut off will be. In time, Maiden Erlegh School will become detached from the community living on its door step, serving a community which lives further away.

Many local parents made a decision to be in the Maiden Erlegh catchment area and are part of the Earley community that it serves. Our community has contributed Governors, PTA members and other people who have provided both professional and voluntary skills and talents to the school for many years. Why should these parents now be penalised when other residents did not make the active and positive decision to be part of the Maiden Erlegh catchment area?

Linked Schools: This will also impact on the links between the local primary schools (Aldryngton, Alfred Sutton, Loddon and Earley St Peters) and an outstanding secondary school. The staff and pupils benefit from close links with Maiden Erlegh –through staff training (for example the visual arts department). Transfer rates for children who attend these schools and live in the current Designated Area for Maiden Erlegh are very high. Siblings who attend Maiden Erlegh pick up their younger siblings at the end of the day at all of the local primary schools. This is a benefit recognised in the Admissions code in section 2.22. Moving these children to Bulmershe, makes this impossible

Child Safety: Parents without access to a car will have to let their children make an often hazardous journey to Bulmershe School. Children will have to cross a dangerous, busy road and negotiate a narrow bridge over a railway and motorway, all in darkness in winter. They will have to walk past a lonely, expanse of grassland, on their own if they have stayed at extracurricular activities after school.

Complexity and Clarity: The proposed tie-break is impossible to understand and unclear and gives parents in many areas no chance to predict their chances of a place. Again this clearly breaches the School Admissions Code

Traffic/Green Issues: WBC traffic surveys using the national guidelines are completely unrealistic. Independent Research states that as soon as the travel distance increases over a mile car travel vastly increases (despite what certain Lower Earley residents may be saying). This will vastly increase the numbers of car journeys to Maiden Erlegh and increase the number of car journeys to Bulmershe

Greenwich Judgement: The Schools Admissions Code and the Greenwich Judgement make it very clear that neighbouring boroughs must not be disadvantaged. That this is being done via an obscure tie-break rather than a boundary line is irrelevant as the effect is the same.

Reading children are being deprived of a place at an ‘Outstanding’ school and that fact that a different group of Wokingham children is being disadvantaged is irrelevant.

Appeals and Finances: Given that Maiden Erlegh will be first choice for more than 90% of parents in the new catchments area, many will be disappointed and will appeal against the place they have been allocated. This will in turn raise the number of appeals, the costs of which will fall to the school. As an academy, Maiden Erlegh School will have to employ a full time independent appeals co-ordinator – a huge waste of public finances and tax payers’ money

Parental Choice: This effectively removes all parental choice for all except a band stretching into Lower Earley

Please add your own arguments here: (e.g., your personal situation and any personal views you might want to add, including comments about the consultation process itself or the psychological impact on older primary school aged pupils, especially year 5 who have been left in a state of indecision about their education)