Saturday, 29 May 2010

Government cuts hit local project

RISC is the first local victim -- I have heard of -- of government cuts since the general election. I am sure that various other local projects/services will fall under the Conservative/LibDem axe which will mean more job losses and a further squeezing of public services. It is just this sort of thing which could put us into a double dip recession. It was only the Green Party at the general election which was coherently arguing against cuts.

Here is the message I received from the public RISC Facebook group:

"RISC's Global Schools Gardens Network is one of five projects to be cut within days of the general election. All other UK based projects funded by DfID will be reviewed.
Development Education is a vital part of DfID’s work, increasing support for development overseas and contributing to an informed and engaged population who are aware of the interdependent nature of the world and understand the impact
of our actions, locally and globally. RISC hopes that the new government has the vision and ambition to continue supporting quality global learning in our schools."

I should declare an interest here. I work for Food4Families, another RISC project.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Local Con-Dem coalition policy?

So, the Lib Dems locally have gone down the same route as the party nationally. But what does this mean? Nationally at the least the Con-Dems have published a policy statement. However locally, with no such combined manifesto, what policy is the coalition going to be advancing? The Lib Dems are in danger of getting the blame for the cuts which they surely must deliver without any clear local gains. Have I missed something?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

First council meeting

Last night I had my first council meeting -- the AGM. In the whole scheme of things it was a fairly simple straightforward meeting. The new Mayor was elected Gul Khan (Labour), the new deputy was elected Jenny Rynn (Conservative) and I was happy to support both candidates, neither of which was opposed, for these figurehead positions.

The real business of the meeting was electing the leader of the council and Cabinet. As had been in the papers for the last week or so the Lib Dems and Conservatives went into coalition. The main focus of their agenda -- introducing cuts to public services to save money -- will have a massive negative impact on many of my constituents directly, and society indirectly. Opposing cuts to public services was also a central plank of the Green Party manifesto. I therefore voted against the Con-Dem leader and Cabinet.

The rest of the meeting centred around setting up the various committees. It deteriorated into Punch and Judy politics at one point with Labour trying to amend a motion in favour of "openness" but forgetting to be open in building any support for this amendment before the meeting -- they hadn't talked to any of the other councillors -- meaning it fell. I'm sure it will be spun in the local papers though.

The Green Party was allocated two committee positions. I chose to be on the Corporate, Community and External Affairs scrutiny panel -- Shadow Cabinet -- and the Community Care, Health and Housing scrutiny panel. I wanted to continue to break out of the green stereotype that the other parties love to paint -- only interested in hugging trees and saving whales. I also think that Community Care will be in the spotlight over the coming years as it faces the Con-Dem axe and I want to be well-placed to fight these cuts to essential public services which will surely hit the weakest and most vulnerable hardest.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Cemetery Junction film review

I finally got round to watching the film Cemetery Junction. Very good! A few people have said to me that it isn't very Reading centric -- which is a fair point -- but there are a couple of Reading links and it is a good film. Engaging plot. Humour. Recommended. Hopefully it will make loads of money and we can convince Ricky Gervais to donate some of the profits back into the area.

Greens will not join local 'Con-Dem' coalition

BREAKING NEWS! The local media just call me for comment on the local ‘Con-Dem' -- Conservative and Liberal Democrat -- coalition.

For the record, I will not be joining the Conservatives and Liberals Democrats in a cosy coalition locally, replicating the national love-in by the same two parties. I will be working and voting on an issue by issue basis to best to represent my constituents and advance our fairness based election pledges of: more decent affordable housing, tackling crime and antisocial behaviour and better public transport, walking and cycling facilities.

Undoubtedly there are tough times ahead with the national 'Con-Dem' coalition pushing through billions of pounds of cuts. I will continue to work hard opposing cuts to front-line services, which look likely to hit the weakest and most vulnerable hardest. Fair is worth fighting for!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Ridgeline Trust picnic and True Food Co-op launch

Yesterday I had a busy day away from my computer. At lunchtime I went to the Ridgeline Trust picnic. The chocolate potato cake was extremely nice!

In the afternoon I went to the official launch of the True Food Co-op shop in Emmer Green. It was great to see the shop so full. There were a couple of speakers and Choir as Folk sang a few uplifting songs. When the shop cleared a bit I even had a chance to do some shopping.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Fair votes now

More information from the Fair votes now campaign.

Fair votes now!
Vigil outside the Old Town Hall, Friar Street
6 - 7 pm, Friday 14 May

Thanks to everyone who came along to our democracy demonstration at the Civic Centre on Tuesday and made it such a special afternoon. Around forty people turned out and there was loads of press interest in what we were doing. I've set up a little blog webpage with info about the event and our campaign, and photos from Tuesday at:

We've also got a Twitter account:

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Bike Security

Lock your bike securely! Lots of bikes are stolen because they are locked badly with poor locks. I have lost count of the number of people who have had bikes stolen in Newtown. This short video from London Cycle Campaign is very informative.

Thank you

Sorry, it has taken me a while but thank you to:

My partner Sam, and my family and friends for support.

The Green Party team: Adrian, Danny, Alan, Sarah, Sunil, Marjory, Andrew, Volker, Graham, Maitalal, Gyanraj, Buddha, Bed, Yam and the rest of my Nepalese/ex-Gurkha volunteer team, Oliwia, Tom, Tim, Kevin, Liz, Miriam, Hugh, Derek, Elise, Sid, Spencer, Laura, Darren.

Everyone else who helped knock on a door, deliver a leaflet, in the office or on election day.

Other people who supported the campaign in various ways: Jane, Andy, Hillary, Andy, Maurice, Mustafa, Mian, Khan.

Everyone who donated money to the campaign.

Everyone who voted Green.

John and all the Council staff who helped run the election.

Apologies to anyone who I have missed off by accident but I am still recovering.


Another in a long line of great events from the Ridgeline Trust:

@Ridgeline Therapeutic Wildlife Garden, RG6 7BY.




For more info, call Emily on tel: 0118 3745562

Monday, 10 May 2010

Police Newtown neighbourhood update -- may

Here is the Newtown Neighbourhood update from the police.

Good to hear that the PCSOs are now trained up on the speeding guns and so can now respond more easily to intelligence on speeding from members of the public.

Reading proportional representation protest

I got this press release from fellow Reading campaigner Peter Burt. We have never been closer to electoral reform and getting a fairer system in the form of proportional representation. But I fear that if we don't keep up the pressure on the Lib Dems, Tories and Labour this opportunity will slip between our fingers! So come along, and bring a friend family member or work colleague.

Press release and photo opportunity

For immediate release
10 May 2010

Reading demonstrates for real democracy!

Local campaigners will be calling for the next government to introduce a fair voting system in a demonstration taking place tomorrow outside Reading's Civic Centre.

Last week's general election result has provided an opportunity to make changes to Britain's flawed electoral system, in which the number of votes cast do not reflect the number of seats a party gains in Parliament, and the campaigners are determined that the next government should replace the current unfair voting system.

The campaigners will be wearing orange ribbons and clothing to reflect the spirit of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, which took place in 2005 when the people of Ukraine took to the streets following an unfair election between corrupt political parties and forced reforms in their country's political system.

The demonstration has been inspired by Saturday's protest in London, when over a thousand people demonstrated for a new electoral system outside the building where the Liberal Democrats were holding discussions on entering into government with the Conservatives.

The campaigners will be calling for the new Parliament to introduce a fair voting system based on proportional representation and hold a new election under the new rules within a year, and the demonstration will be a brief but dignified event taking place outside Reading Civic Centre on Tuesday lunchtime (11th May).

One of the local activists who will be attending the demonstration, Peter Burt, said: "The one thing that is definitely broken in Britain is our outdated and unfair voting system.

"The number of votes cast do not reflect the number of seats a party gets in Parliament, and in large parts of the country the system means that there is no realistic chance of anyone other than the two main parties with their similar policies winning. This is neither fair nor democratic.

"Tuesday's demo has not been arranged by any organisation or political party. The idea came when a few of us were chatting about the election results over the weekend. The results don't reflect the true pattern of voting, and it is obvious that we need a new system of voting in this country. We decided to organise the demonstration independently by contacting as many of our friends as possible and asking them to join us outside the Civic Centre on Tuesday.

"The new Parliament will be the best opportunity we have had for decades to introduce a fair electoral system that will reflect the number of votes cast during an election.

"However, the tabloid media and the political establishment will be doing their best to block any changes to the creaking system which represents their interests, so it's essential that members of the public all over the country stand up and demand real democracy now."

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Photographers are invited to attend the event and take photographs between 12.15 and 12.30 on Tuesday.

More info: e-mail me and I will put you in contact with Peter.
See also:


Sunday, 9 May 2010

First Green councillor in Reading

In case you hadn't heard, the Green Party has broken through in Reading and got our first councillor in Park Ward (me) -- also the first unitary authority councillor in Berkshire.

The Green Party team has worked really hard over the years, helping residents with bread-and-butter issues like getting streetlights repaired, pram crossings installed and fly tipping cleared. We have also campaigned on the bigger issues such as against cuts to the police, opposing development on local playing fields and to reopen the Jolly Anglers pub. It has been a long time in coming, but I am really pleased with this win.

Don't worry though, now that I have been elected, I won't disappear. I will continue to be visible, easy to get hold of and out in all weathers knocking on doors talking to people, so I can represent residents in the best possible way. We will carry on campaigning on our election priorities of: more decent affordable housing, tackling crime and antisocial behaviour and better public transport walking and cycling facilities. And I will stick to my values of fairness, integrity and the environment.

Thanks to everyone who voted Green, thanks to the growing team who pulled out all the stops with this campaign and last but by no means least thanks to my partner Sam for supporting me.

Now that we have done the double -- first Green councillor in Reading and first Green MP (Caroline Lucas in Brighton) -- there has never been a better time to join the Green Party.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Just polling day left to go then...

It has been a busy day, but a good ending with all of our many vote tomorrow reminders delivered to our supporters. We had a record 30 people -- including a crack team of ex-Gurkhas -- out delivering this evening! So we got everything delivered relatively quickly.

Just election day to go then...

Monday, 3 May 2010

BBC radio Berkshire hustings

I had my last Reading East hustings this morning on BBC radio Berkshire with Andrew Peach. Apart from oversleeping and nearly missing it, I thought I managed to answer the questions well.

Get the election results first

Anyone interested in keeping up to date on how the general and local election counts go in #rdg can follow me on twitter as I will be tweeting results as they are declared. #rdgpol #ReadingE #GE2010

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Google alerts and opponents

Google Alerts are a good way to keep track of what your opponents are up to. This isn't foolproof though, as with my Reading Borough Council opponents, Labour's Richard McKenzie is also busy in Henley as a Parliamentary candidate there, which I'm not interested in, and John Walker has plenty of name doubles.

Green Party on crime

A close friend was recently assaulted in a violent unprovoked attack whilst walking home in Reading. Fortunately the emergency services responded quickly and thoroughly. However, like many victims, he hasn't received any emotional or financial support to help deal with the psychological trauma or travel costs to hospital. This is grossly unfair. We think that the victim must come first and the Green Party pledges to place the onus on the offender to restore the harm they have done.

Recently, to reduce crime and keep people safe I have campaigned against cuts to Police Community Support Officers in the University area and for better street lighting. I also work closely with the police, council and community as Chair of the Newtown Neighbourhood Action Group.

The Green Party's manifesto identifies societal inequalities as a major cause of crime and if elected I will work hard to make society more equal. Additionally, we will reduce the impact of drug-related crime, through dealing with drug addiction as a health issue and not waiting for it to become a crime issue. We will also increase provisions for young people to enable them to make life choices away from crime.

Fair is worth fighting for!