Thursday, 27 October 2011

August to October update – a Reading living wage, school places and transport issues

It was supposed to quieten down a bit over the summer but this never seemed to happen.

We have been continuing to work hard in the ward with our year-round doorknocking going well and the second ward newsletter since the election going out. Holding the balance of power has also enabled us to achieve more through the council bureaucracy.

Last, but by no means least Jamie Whitham has been selected as the Park Ward 2012 candidate.

As always, if you want to be kept updated on local issues please sign up to our monthly newsletter.

Update in numbers:

Council meetings -- 5

Surgeries -- 3

School governor meetings -- 1

Community meetings and events -- 9 including the Playcafe launch, Reading Pride and the town meal

Enquiries and requests for repairs from residents -- 116 in August and September. No figures for October yet

Some of our action:

Some of our results:

  • First hundred days
  • we have continued to work on the bread and butter of local politics getting a fly tipping cleared, street lights fixed and graffiti removed.


  • None claimed.

Gifts to declare -- over the value of £25:

  • None.

My interests are published on Reading Borough Council's website.

Basic monthly councillor allowance (pay) including my Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) for being group leader before deductions: £864

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ending corporate tax avoidance

You may remember that, back in March, Green MP Caroline Lucas tabled a Tax and Financial Transparency Bill aimed at tackling corporate tax evasion and avoidance.

She has now launched a related e-petition to galvanise public support for the proposed measures - we are also hoping that this will help to put pressure on the Government to make time available for the second reading of the Bill on 25 November and raise awareness of the issue more generally. Over 1,800 people have already signed since 11 Oct.

The petition is here. Obviously the more signatures the better, so please feel free to circulate far and wide!

UK Uncut are supporting and have posted a nice piece with video footage of Caroline here.

Another Kennet Side closure

Just got this from council officers:

"On Monday 28th November 2011 work will begin work to replace a section of the Kennetside Retaining Wall between Kings Bridge and Wearside Court. This work is the first phase of a longer term programme to replace the retaining wall between Kings Bridge and the River Thames. The guard rail between Kings Bridge and Blakes Lock will also be replaced.
The work will be carried out by Grenson Construction Limited, supervised by Jacobs Engineering UK and is expected to last approximately four months. The working hours will be 8.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday. No work will take place at weekends or on public holidays.
For safety reasons it will be necessary to close the path between Patriots Place and Weirside Court for the duration of the work and a signed diversion will be in operation. Where residents are only able to enter their properties from Kennetside their access will be maintained.
In order to carry out the work it will be necessary for machinery to be operated from a platform on the River Kennet itself and we have been liaising with the Environmental Agency to ensure that our work does not adversely affect the waterway.
Due to the nature of the works a certain amount of noise and dust is unavoidable. However every effort will be made to keep this to a minimum. We will also be carrying out condition surveys of the properties fronting the area of wall affected both before and after the work takes place.
Letters are being delivered to residents between King’s Bridge and Wearside Court today to let them know that the work is taking place. Copies of the letter and distribution area are attached."

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Green surgery – how can we help you?

We will be holding the following residents' advice surgeries. No appointment necessary.

– Saturday, October 29 at the Playcafe in Palmer Park from 11 AM to 12 noon
– Monday, November 21 outside Newtown school, School Terrace 2:45 PM to 3:30 PM
– Saturday, December 10, outside the post office on the Wokingham Road from 11 AM to 12 noon

If you are unable to come along to the surgeries, but have issues you would like to raise, please get in contact.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Living wage motion success

Our Living wage motion was eventually voted through at the full council meeting earlier in the week. It was fairly heavily amended by the Labour group but I believe that their amendment strengthened the motion and furthered its aims rather than the traditional wrecking type amendment usually moved by another party.

Changing council policy is almost the easy part of the campaign though. I suspect we will have an uphill battle with the private sector in Reading. But at least things are moving now.

Feel free to support our Living wage Facebook group here.

Below is the text of the motion.

"This Council notes:

  • That one in five Reading children live in poverty;
  • The commitment to greater equality contained within Reading's Sustainable Community Strategy;
  • That the minimum wage (£6.08 per hour as of October 1, 2011) has been a step forwards but that at its current level it is a poverty wage;
  • The cross-party support which there has been for a London living wage (2011 rate is £8.30 per hour).

This Council notes that Reading Borough Council has had an anti-low pay policy for Council staff since the late 1980s and the current minimum wage under that policy is £7.64p per hour, which is 44 pence more than the amount suggested as a Living wage outside London. This Council therefore reaffirms this long-standing commitment to paying a living wage to council employees.

This Council resolves:

1. To continue to increment the Living Wage paid to Council staff in line with national pay increases.

2. To review the extent to which the Council’s Living wage policy can be applied to currently contracted-out services or as each contract comes up for renewal.

3. To include a commitment to a Living Wage for new contracts.

4. To call upon other employers in Reading to adopt a similar anti-low pay policy for their staff.

5. To work with advice agencies, trade unions and the Health & Safety Executive to identify and pursue employers that are failing to pay the statutory minimum wage.

6. To review the ratio between the lowest and the higher paid council officers.

7. To ensure that cabinet receives reports on progress towards the above at least annually, but initially by January 2012."

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Is it possible to tackle dog poo in Reading?

My morning walk took an interesting turn this morning when I spotted a woman – approximately 65 years old, grey hair, average build – not clear up after one of her two small terrier type dogs which I saw foul the pavement in Newtown – if you know who this is let me know.

I pointed this out to her but she just verbally attacked me. Plan B was to phone the police and the council to get someone to come out and issue her with a £1000 fine. Unfortunately the police informed me it was a council issue and the council informed me that although they do have the power to fine people, they don't have the power to demand someone's name and address – which is obviously needed to fine someone. But they said that the police have all the powers necessary. Doh!

By this point I had been following the culprit for 10 min. She had noticed that I was following her, was walking in a circle and was trying to make out that I was some sort of dodgy character – maybe I shouldn't have challenged her and then it would have been easier to work out where she lived.

Because of the confusion between the police and council on this issue I gave up on trying to get them involved and had another go at talking to the woman. In the end she relented, a resident provided her with a plastic bag and she cleared up the dog poo.

My experience has shown me that we have a way to go before we are positioned to tackle dog poo on the pavements in Reading. I have taken the confusion up with council officers which hopefully will move us forwards.

To round off my morning in what I can only describe as an act of animal solidarity,  at the end of the saga a pigeon dropped its load on me. Fortunately although a direct hit was scored my hat took the brunt of it.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Crescent Road free school application approved

I just saw on the BBC website that the free school application for a new secondary school on Crescent Road has been approved.

However, the article talks about a technical college for 14-19-year-olds which isn't what I thought had been applied for.

Unfortunately poor engagement with the community and a lack of information have been hallmarks of this application. I will ask officers for more information.

UPDATE: I have now spoken to officers who have informed me that the bid was for 11-19-year-olds but the government has only approved funding for 14-19-year-olds so far. There is still room for negotiation on this though and officers have assured me that they will be pressing the need for places, from age 11 onwards.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Help clear the Kennet Side as part of Reading RESCUE

Following hot on the heels of last weekend's litter pick in Palmer Park Reading RESCUE is happening this weekend coming.

The Kennet and Brunel Community Association have organised a litter pick of a section of the Kennet Side. We will be meeting at 1:30 PM Saturday, October 15 in the community garden at Sun Street and setting off at approximately 2 PM to tidy up the area.

The Council is providing litter pickers, gloves and bags etc. But if you have your own feel free to bring them.

If you want to be kept updated of future events in Newtown or Park Ward please get in contact –

Below is a picture of the Palmer Park picked last weekend.

Litter pick in Palmer Park

Monday, 10 October 2011

Make your donation to the Green Party count double

A letter from our treasurer:

"Dear supporter,

I am writing to let you know about our new matched giving fund-raising campaign, and invite you to participate by making a one-off donation to party funds.

The current financial context for Reading and Wokingham Green Party is as follows:

· Getting Melanie Eastwood elected as our second Green councillor in Reading cost us £900 and our special fund-raising effort succeeded in raising £420 – which is good, but obviously not good enough, leaving us with a shortfall of £480.

· At our recent annual strategy review we decided that next year we would target not one but three wards – Park (our third councillor), a second Reading ward, and our first Wokingham ward, Shinfield South, where we will be building on this year’s excellent result.

Clearly we will need to raise a great deal more money in order to enable us to win further electoral success in these wards.

The fundraising campaign will run from 1st September 2011 to 30th November 2011. The way it will work is as follows:

1. You decide how much you want to give – any amount between £5.00 and £100.00 - then let me know –

2. I match your donation with a pledged donation from one of our existing donors, and let you know that I have found a match.

3. You make your donation.

4. When the money has arrived in our bank account, I inform the existing donor, and he or she donates the same amount.

In this way, your donation gets doubled. Donate £20.00 and the party receives £40.00. Existing donors have pledged £375.00. This means that we could raise £750.00. A sum of this size will make a real difference.

You can donate in any of the following ways:

· Send a cheque payable to Reading Green Party to me at: Hyde End Road, Shinfield, Reading, RG2 EP

· Donate online at

· Donate by telephone or internet banking to account number 20048696, sort code 16-58-10.

Best wishes

Marjory Bisset"

Friday, 7 October 2011

Litter picking in Palmer Park this Saturday

Newtown GLOBE & Redlands GLOBE will be litter picking in Palmer Park on Saturday, October 8. We will meet at 2 PM at Reading PlayCafe – round the back of the Lodge building in the St Bartholomew's/Wokingham Road corner of the park. Everyone is welcome. We will litter pick for one hour or so. Please bring a sturdy pair of gloves, bags and anything else which may be useful. I will also bring some.