Saturday, 27 February 2010

Park Ward councillors on holiday?

I just got the latest statistics through on councillor activity -- the number of items of work each councillor has put through the system they use to get answers to questions from officers and request repairs for residents. Of particular interest to me is Park Ward, which is where I will be standing in the local elections on May 6. I was amazed to see that for the period July 2009 to February 2010 the local councillors had been so inactive:

Shirley Merriott (Labour) -- 2 (0.25 per month)
Jon Hartley (Labour) -- 4 (0.5 per month)
Wazir Hussain (Tory) -- 26 (3.25 per month)

I looked back through my activity reports and for the same period I have done over 150 items of casework (19 per month) off the back of our year-round doorknocking. I think Jon and Shirley should be handing back their £8,000 each of councillor allowances! In terms of value for money Shirley is receiving £4000 for each item of casework!

For the full results click here.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Fillings and free dentistry

I just had my first filling in 10 years. It wasn't as painful as I feared it might be. No injection needed this time -- which as I remember was the most painful bit last time. Although there was a £40 pain to my wallet.

This got me on to thinking about the dire situation of NHS dentistry. Last time I was looking for somewhere to register I couldn't find any NHS dentists in #rdg who were taking on patients. In the end the Castle Hill Clinic opened up offering a mix of NHS and private dentistry, so I signed up. I've also recommended this practice to a reasonable number of people who were in a similar position of not being able to find an NHS dentist taking on patients close to them.

The Green Party is calling for major improvements to NHS dental care to ensure that everyone has access to basic dentistry. Under Green proposals, expensive dental fees would be scrapped, basic dental care would be free and dentists would be given the resources they need to ensure equal access for all.

Fair is worth fighting for.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Moving towards an end to free plastic bags in Reading

Just bought a map from WHSmith. They are now charging 1p a bag. This got me back to thinking about the campaign for Reading to get rid of free plastic bags. Other retailers that I can think of who charge are: True Food Co-op, RISC and Sea Spray. Well done to all of them! Can anyone think of anyone else? Please add as a comment and then we can get them some publicity.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Now you can recycle more in Reading

We still don't have the doorstep food and glass collections, or an increase in the range of plastic recycling in Reading that we have been campaigning for. But two small steps forward have recently been made with free electrical goods collections and a waste cooking oil collection point at the Civic Amenity Site .

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Go Green week "a great success"

Yet again Go Green week -- run by the Student's Union at Reading University -- has been a great success. Well done to everyone involved in organising it this year.

I attended the Copenhagen 'where next?' panel debate with other Parliamentary candidates on Thursday and spoke of the need for a broad movement of people from unionists, to church groups, to residents' associations to educate and build the pressure for action on climate change.

On Sunday I attended the community cleanup and litter picked Grange Avenue with students and other volunteers. We produced a good few bags of rubbish and residents commented that we were doing a good job.

Monday, 15 February 2010

AWE blockade

Just got this picture through from Green Parliamentary candidate for Reading West Adrian Windisch who is at the AWE blockade protesting against the billions which will be wasted upgrading Trident.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Robin Hood Tax or Tobin Tax

I saw a piece on the television this morning about the Robin Hood Tax and I was thinking how similar it was to the Green Party Tobin Tax policy, when they said they had renamed the tax to one with a more appealing name. Basically, bank transactions not directly involving customers -- a bank to bank transaction for example -- are taxed at a very low rate, 50p per thousand pounds for example to dampen down the global casino economy and raise funds for worthy projects such as ending child poverty at home and abroad.

My first school meal in 15 years

In my capacity as a school governor at Alfred Sutton school, I visited the school to check out the school meals today. It was roast day so my colleague went for the beef and I tried the vegetarian option, a very tasty lentil loaf, both came with roast potatoes, vegetables, home-made bread and gravy and were followed by a fruit salad. 10 out of 10 for taste and 9 out of 10 for presentation.

Following on from Jamie Oliver's campaign school dinners now taste better and are healthier for you. However, a lot of children bring packed lunches and these often contain a large proportion of sugary, salty, fatty snacks. Changing hats, the Green Party would like to see every child offered a free school meal funded by the government to ensure that each child has at least one healthy meal a day, helping to improve their health and life chances.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A month in the life of a Green Party campaigner -- January

Council meetings -- 3
Community meetings and events -- 6
Enquiries and requests for repairs from residents -- 22

-- Lobbied for Council action on the number of people on the council house waiting list.
-- Supported Unison's Million Voices campaign to protect public services.
-- Asked the police and council to look into cars parking on the Wokingham Road pavement.
-- Continued to press for better lighting on the Kennet tow path and at Kennet Mouth.
-- Supported Talfourd Road residents in resolving traffic problems on the road

-- Helped the Jolly Anglers pub get its premises licence back.
-- Got the Council to safeguard the Thames Valley University playing fields by removing them from the Sites Allocation Document.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Reading Green Party Quiz and Music Night

We are having a fundraiser quiz/social as part of Fairtrade fortnight.

Thursday 25th February 7.15 for 7.30 pm
at RISC (conference hall) 35-39 London Street, Reading, RG1 4PS.

Part of Reading Fair Trade fortnight

We’ll have teams of five, and you can either come in a team or join a team on the night. Bring your friends, relations and work colleagues.

In the interval sit back and be entertained by local musicians and our special guests, folk duo Louisa Davies-Foley and Pete Churchill from Birmingham.

Prizes, raffle, stalls.

Entry costs £5 waged, £2.50 unwaged. Please book in advance – we need an idea of numbers.

Help the local Greens stand three candidates in the General Election.

Support the campaign to get Rob White elected in Park Ward.

To book places and for further information please contact Rob on:

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

LibDem's candidate for Park Ward appears

With the local elections just three months away the LibDem candidate for Park Ward Alex Kirke has appeared on the radar just in time. No doubt as happened in 2008 there will now be a forest's worth of LibDem propaganda claiming to be best placed to win the ward even though their vote has fallen in Park at the last three local elections resulting in them finishing fourth last time.

City status: Reading or Dubai-on-Thames?

There has been lots of hot air from Labour and Tories on the new city status bid. I was going to pen something myself on this subject -- I have yet to be convinced of the merits of such a scheme -- but I saw a letter from a local activist Colin Lee in the local paper, which I thought summed up the arguments nicely:

Dear Sirs,

When will Reading Borough Council get real? Each year, I see the Centre for Cities Report misrepresented and incorrectly applied to the Local Authority by some media, Reading UK CIC, Councillors and the Chief Executive. The report indicates that the region as a whole could be well placed for the future. However the ‘Reading’ and the ‘city’ researched are the urban areas of Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell Forest – see (click on the link for “Primary Urban Areas”). Reading LA and City are not synonymous.

The recession has brought some very tough choices and what is least needed is spin, hype and over-egging. Business and particularly those people and companies who want to invest in the town require accurate data, sound economic markers and not sound-bytes and more of the mirages on which RBC policy is built.

So what are the dimensions that this town is performing well in? Does anyone know? Do we have the economic models necessary for sound planning? No. The town does not even have a cohesive master plan for the future as CABE has stated.

If lead councillors Jo Lovelock and Andrew Cumpsty want to take us forward as a city then surely we need to include at least Wokingham and Bracknell Forest and go back to a kind of Berkshire County Council again? However, I fear City status for Reading is about ego not practicalities and realities. For some Councillors it has everything to do with pie-in-the-sky aspirations – a utopian Dubai-on-Thames where 30 storey towers abound without examination of the consequences to the town, our local economy and its people.

Surely our Councillors can see that the town is a town and that their function is to serve the people, not delusions of grandeur? It would stop wastage of taxpayers’ monies too.

Yours faithfully

Colin Lee

How to look good naked -- more disabled models campaign

I caught a bit of How to Look Good Naked last night. Gok has a campaign for more disabled models. You can sign his petition here.

This reminded me of one of Mark Thomas' policy ideas, models should be chosen at random from the electoral register just like jurors.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Sustainable schools event in Reading

I went to the sustainable schools event yesterday at Norcot Early Years Centre in my capacity as the sustainability link governor for Alfred Sutton school. It was a really interesting few hours, where we had various presentations from council officers and other people involved in sustainability work locally. There was also a room filled with stalls to find out more from officers, Thames Water, local businesses, local schools etc.

One thing that I would really like to plug from the meeting is the Sustainable Schools section of the Reading Borough Council website which has material on each of the eight doorways to sustainability.

Another thing is Eco-Schools, of which we already have 20 in Reading, most bronze level, but two silver. It would be good to work with other schools in east Reading as a sustainability hub. I understand that St John's, Newtown, Redlands and Alfred Sutton have all signed up to the council's Energy and Carbon Service Level Agreement, which is a first step.