Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A budget for bankers

Caroline Lucas today branded the Chancellor's statement "a budget for bankers," saying it put the interests of international finance and big business above those of ordinary people or the environment.

"George Osborne has made cutting the deficit his one and only goal. This may please City bankers and international investors, but it means more unemployment, greater poverty, and decimated public services.

"It is also a huge missed opportunity to turn our environmental and energy crisis into an engine for a sustainable future. Investing in energy efficiency and renewables now would stabilise the economy, help people reduce their bills, help end fuel poverty and make us less dependent on oil and gas from overseas.

"Instead, the Government is cutting support for UK companies trying to lead this energy revolution, even though it has found £5 billion in tax cuts for biggest companies.(1)

"It has also turned the much-hyped Green Investment Bank into a PR stunt by preventing it from raising funds." (2)

The Green Party's alternative budget called for:

• support for the development of a sustainable economy in place of unsustainable growth,

• a crack-down on tax evasion and avoidance, with banks and corporations paying their full share,

• the extra revenue used to support public services, in place of cuts.

Caroline Lucas continued: "The Government's budget plans are not the only option, despite Osborne's claims. A combination of intelligent investment and reduced tax avoidance could have provided financial stability and also avoided job losses and service cuts. He and his Conservative and Liberal Democrat colleagues have instead chosen to follow the bankers' agenda of cutting public services as deeply as possible while privatizing what is left.

"The Chancellor says there is no money to protect services such as schools, libraries and hospitals. But he can find the £3 billion it will cost to break up the NHS ready for privatization (3) or the £3.6 billion in extra subsidy for the nuclear industry. (4)

"Further, the Office of Budget Responsibility has predicted that the borrowing requirement this year will be £2.5 billion less than expected. (5)

"But instead of using at least a proportion of this to avoid some of the worst of the planned cuts, he is holding it back - presumably to fund tax cuts ahead of the next election.

The full press release with references can be found here.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Residents' parking, visitors permits and Talfourd Avenue scheme

Last week I supported residents at the Traffic Management Advisory Panel to move a number of Park Ward schemes forwards.

At the start of the meeting it was announced that visitors' permits – for people staying overnight – could be used up until 10 AM – rather than 8 AM – which will give visitors a bit more of a lie in. This is something we had asked for, so pleased to see it happening.

Next we discussed the Talfourd Avenue to Holmes Road scheme – a one-way plug on Talfourd Avenue, 20 mph across the area and yellow lines painted on the corners of all roads. Residents clearly set out the case for moving this forwards and I was happy to say a few words in support. This went through without any problems.

Finally we discussed residents' parking in east Newtown. There were a handful of objections but given the overwhelming support this scheme had at the informal consultation stage again this went through without any problems.

This particular committee doesn't have decision-making power though. So the recommendations have been made to Cabinet which meets in under one month. But as they went through this committee without any problems then I am fully expecting them to go through Cabinet easily. At Cabinet we should also get a clear timescale for delivering both of these schemes.

Given that the new Labour candidate in Park Ward had said the Green Party is all talk no action in a recent newsletter I was surprised to see that neither her nor their outgoing ward councillor was that this meeting supporting these schemes.

Any questions please get in contact.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Reading Timebank or the Local Exchange and Trading Scheme

Earlier this week Cabinet agreed to proceed with a Timebank in Reading – where you do something someone else, build up some time and get someone to do something to you using that time. I think that this could be positive, however I was alarmed to discover that the Council had not been in regular contact with the Local Exchange and Trading Scheme (LETS) on this as there is definite overlap. They are now talking but I think earlier dialogue would definitely have been helpful.

LETS works using an alternative currency – Readies for the Reading scheme – but works roughly along the same lines as a timebank. This scheme is already up and running in Reading though. I am a member and have found it useful for transport, small repairs etc. Following my recent house move I got some help assembling furniture.

I think this sort of scheme is great for building community and in these tough times where many are unemployed and cash is tight they are even more useful.

Reading LETS has a website if you want to find out more.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

No to monarchy but yes to a party

Over the last week I have spoken to lots of people on the doorstep. Most have been happy with our hard work over the year. However I did get one telling off for being rude – never my intention – to the Queen.

This relates to the last full Council meeting where myself and Melanie didn't support a motion on the Queen's Jubilee but supported the idea of people having a party to build stronger communities locally.

Here is the Council's press release advertising the free road closures for Queen's Jubilee celebrations:

"Reading residents are being invited to apply to the Council if they want to hold a street party to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee or the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer, and the good news is that in Reading it won't cost you a penny to close your street to traffic.

Application packs are being sent out to people who have already enquired about having a street party during this time.  We are hoping that even more streets take part than last year, when Reading saw 16 Street Parties take place across the Borough to celebrate the Royal Wedding in April.

For all approved applications, the Council has waived the usual road closure fee so that residents can celebrate without any extra costs.
Any street party in Reading will not be liable for any fee on the following conditions:
-- It is for fewer than 500 people
-- It is only publicised to local residents
-- Any music is only incidental
-- No selling is involved
-- It is organised by residents rather than professional planners

If you want to have a bar where people can pay for drinks or you intend to have entertainment for the wider public or you plan to charge people for entry to your event, you will need a Temporary Event Licence, which costs £21 from the Council's Licensing Department.

However if organising a Street Party seems a little daunting why not get involved with this year's 'Big Lunch' We are encouraging residents to take part in the forth 'Big Lunch' celebration which takes place on Sunday 3 June as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  The Big Lunch is an initiative to celebrate neighbourliness across the UK by encouraging communities to come together for lunch once a year.  Reading communities are being urged to pack a picnic, head to their nearest green space and make friends with each other.  For further information please visit

For more information on the Big Lunch or for your street party application pack call Lucy Burgess on 0118 937 2771 or email All street party applications should be returned by Monday 30 April, at the latest."

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Kennet Side lighting upgrade

The Council will soon be upgrading the lighting on the Kennet Side. This will make the area lighter, safer and all for less energy. See below for more information:

"I am writing to let you know that SSE Contracting will be replacing the existing lighting columns along Kennetside between Sidmouth Street and Kennet Mouth in two phases. Stage 1 (36 columns) is scheduled to commence on the 17th March and is expected to last 2 weeks. Phase 2 (6 columns) is subject to the current Kennetside piling works being completed which is scheduled for June.
The installation of the new lamps is part of the Council’s successful £4.9 million LSTF bid which was secured from the Department of Transport last year to deliver lasting benefits to Reading residents to provide a boost to the local economy and help tackle climate change.
The 42 columns are being replaced and LED lamps are being installed. LED lamps produce a higher quality light using much less energy and lower carbon emissions. The scheme will also include a central management system (CMS) that will allow us to remotely monitor the units for faults and adjust lighting levels if necessary."