Aug 10

Trees have to be felled

lime treeFor safety reasons, sadly the council has to fell some street trees in Redlands Ward during the next couple of weeks.

In Craven Road there are 2 Lime trees with extensive decay at the base and in Eldon Square there is another Lime tree with extensive decay at the base.  It is sad to see these lovely old trees go but we will ensure that they are replaced as and when funds are available.

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May 25

Council Submits Plans to Provide 28 Temporary Homes

temp homesPLANS to create 28 temporary homes for people on the council’s housing register have now been submitted.

The proposals are for modular homes on the site of the former mobile home park in Lowfield Road, Caversham.

The scheme is part of Reading Borough Council’s Homelessness Strategy 2015 – 2020 which aims to tackle the chronic shortage of temporary housing in the borough and reduce the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families.

The planning application seeks temporary permission to install 28 self-contained units along with 32 car parking spaces, bicycle sheds, a play area and communal amenity space.

Each unit will be timber clad, have UPVC windows and doors and will contain two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen-diner and a living room.

The height of the buildings, coupled with their natural appearance and complementary landscaping aims to ensure minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

Members of the Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee agreed the principle of the project at a meeting in November 2015.

Councillor Richard Davies, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Housing, said:

“House prices in Reading are amongst the highest outside London and demand for affordable housing far outstrips supply.

“The increase in the number of families requiring emergency housing has resulted in the council having to use bed and breakfast accommodation which is unsuitable and disruptive for homeless families.

“The stock of affordable housing has been depleted for a number of reasons, including Right to Buy sales, high land prices and a declining supply of private rented accommodation available at housing benefit levels. The council’s ability to build new affordable homes has also been severely hit by recent changes in legislation.

“The Lowfield Road scheme will provide 28 decent temporary homes for people who are in urgent need of help and is just one of the many innovative ways the council is working hard to tackle the housing crisis in Reading.”

Other schemes in Reading’s Homelessness Strategy include: the creation of a wholly owned housing company called Homes for Reading which will buy properties and let out a proportion at below-market rents; the construction of at least 40 new council-built homes in Conwy Close in Tilehurst and closer co-operation with private landlords through projects such as the Rent Guarantee Scheme.

 

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May 24

Moving Out and Moving On – Clean Up

student clear upThis year’s student moving out campaign is due to start soon, with moving out packs being delivered week commencing 31 May by University staff, NAG members and Council Officers.  These packs contain information for students as to what they need to do in preparation for moving out.

This year there will be an extra Saturday collection for domestic waste (Grey bin) on 18 June for student properties, we will also collect limited presented side waste from these properties on this day.

In the lead up to students moving out we will collect extra presented recycling, along with small electrical items as part of our WEEE collection programme.  On the domestic waste collection (prior to the extra Saturday collection) week commencing 6 June we will also take a limited amount of presented side waste.

The Neighbourhood Officers and Student representatives will start patrolling known student areas in the coming weeks and work with those properties with any waste issues in the lead up to them moving out.

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May 03

Residents’ Parking in ‘old Redlands’ – Fact-check!

Over the bank holiday weekend Reading Green Party paid for a letter to be delivered to houses in old Redlands, one of our members spoke to a young person delivering the leaflets and was told they were getting £20 to deliver the letter and he really had no idea what is was all about.

This letter contains a lot of mis-leading and some completely wrong information, it is totally irresponsible to raise residents anxiety with these untruths. Cllr Tony Jones  has written to residents to reassure them that we will, as we always have, only act in partnership with them.

Dear Resident

You’ve told us that you don’t like political parties who try to score points off each other, so we were very disappointed with a recent Green Party leaflet which gave a hugely misleading picture regarding the Council’s current work on residents’ parking schemes in Redlands.

The letter from the Green Party candidate is headed “Council to consult on hospital parking scheme, but after the elections”. The clear intention of this headline is to suggest that some ideas are being held back from residents until after the 5 May ballot. THIS IS NOT TRUE—and the Greens know it. Our last Redlands Matters set out some “Fresh thinking on parking” and Council officers were asked at the last Transport Committee to report back on these ideas, which we have raised in public, at the next committee meeting in June: they could not have acted sooner.

Picture1As the picture to the left shows, ALL our newsletters over the past year have highlighted residents parking as the top priority for our work on the Council.

We are proud that we openly discuss, and consult on, both our ideas and those of residents Not all ideas are made into formal proposals, but if they are then all  proposals which go forward are ALWAYS subject to formal public consultation —WE DO NOT IMPOSE SCHEMES. So contrary to Green claims, there has been no “U turn on parking”.

A One Size Fits All Scheme Will Make Matters Worse

Our experience of working with local residents over the past five years has told us:

  • There is no convincing support for an area wide scheme—residents having rejected TWICE it in the past 5 years
  • An area-wide scheme would ignore local factors and pressures, while also undermining the bespoke arrangements already in place after much work with local residents. We have different schemes in different areas for good reasons—and we always acknowledge local circumstances such as width of road, off street parking and residents’ preferences.
  • We will not impose any scheme where a majority say that they do not want it.

Pay & Display

The council WILL be consulting on introducing Pay & Display around the hospital in conjunction with a Resident Parking scheme. The hours of operation would only be in the day time and Monday to Friday in streets where mostly there are already 2 hour waiting restrictions.

Saying one thing in Redlands and doing the opposite in Park ward

But most oddly in the Green Party newsletter, they repeatedly call for an area wide scheme in Redlands while seeming to be content to push forward individual street schemes in Park ward—as they have time and again and did so at the last Transport Committee.

There are no games to be played with residents parking—as a local resident living very near the hospital I know this to be true every day.

If you want a parking scheme that suits your street  – or not one at all—then Labour is the ONLY party to believe in putting residents first ahead of any “one size fits all” plan in Redlands.

Yours faithfully

Tony Jones

 

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Apr 17

Cllr Tony Jones Lead for Education writes:

Education: A Response to Mr Bradley Simmons At Ofsted And Mr Rob Wilson MP

Statement by Councillor Tony Jones,
Lead Member for Education,
Reading Borough CouncilWhen I was elected to the position of Lead member for Education in May 2015, I made a public undertaken not to use the organisation and performance of schools in Reading as a party political football and invited others to join with me in this approach.

Since then, discussions around education matters in the town have been held in a largely non-partisan manner.

While change does not happen “overnight”, sure and steady progress is being made in improving academic performance and attainment. At the centre of the council’s education strategy has been the establishing of a schools-led improvement partnership. There have been regular and positive meetings between council officials and Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioner (who has responsibility for academies).

Reading council’s now well documented and demanding target is to ensure that every school in Reading is in the top 25% in England within the next three years. It is also a matter of public record that any failure to achieve this outcome will trigger my resignation.

So it is with great regret that the past week has seemed at times to be something of a very public mugging of the council’s education strategy.

It started last Monday when, out of the blue at around mid-day, I was advised that Reading Borough Council’s press officer had been made aware that Mr Bradley Simmons (the new Regional Director for Ofsted in the South East) had issued a letter to the council through the Ofsted press office, under embargo. Within minutes I started to receive enquiries about the content of the letter from local and regional news journalists.

The fact that a letter of such significance was routed to council officers and the lead councillor through a press release is odd and a highly unusual departure from the norm.

Amongst those listed as recipients of the letter was the “Cabinet Member Schools Portfolio”. I do appreciate that Mr Simmons is relatively new to the South East Region (as on Sunday, 17 April 2016 the official government website still had him listed as working in the South West Region) so may not yet be up to speed on the details of Reading council, but the cabinet system of government in Reading was abolished a number of years ago.

In the first paragraph of Mr Simmons’ letter he expressed the view that “The low achievement of pupils entitled to free schools meals causes me particular alarm.”

He went on to comment on the “shocking fall in the GCSE performance of pupils eligible for free school meals. In 2014, 30.7% of these pupils achieved five GCSEs at grades A* to C … in 2015, only 23.8% achieved this level.” and further opines that “the future is bleak for these young people”.

Mr Simmons’ concludes by saying that the council “has a key responsibility to act as a champion for its most vulnerable pupils” and challenges the council to “demonstrate the political will necessary to raise the aspirations of your most vulnerable young pupils”. “political will

All very quotable, head-line grabbing language from this civil servant.

Indeed, many of these phrases were picked up and hurled at the council in the broadcast and print news media.

An Ofsted inspector took to a local radio station to describe Reading council’s approach to the performance of pupils entitled to free school meal as as “requiring improvement”..

Sadly, and if I am to be charitable to Mr Simmons, perhaps he has not been fully briefed on what had actually happened in Reading in the area he felt the need to speak in such forthright terms. This is the truth:

Six of the eight secondary schools to which he referred are academies and as such the responsibility in law of the Regional Schools Commissioner (yes, I know, not many people have heard of such a position) rather than the council (which most people still think “controls schools”).

Of the two non-academies, there was no decline in performance – in fact thing improved between 2014 and 2015.

Blessed Hugh Faringdon … 30% (2014) improved to 40% (2015)
Reading Girls’… 31% (no change between 2014 and 2015)

But in the academies, there was a notable decline in the following schools:

John Madejski Academy … 31% (2014) fell to 18% (2015)
Highdown School … 64% (2014) fell to 38% (2015)
Prospect … 32% (2014) fell to 29% (2015)

But sadly the letter from Mr Simmons did not include this information, just the overall totals where the comparative figure between 2014 and 2015 was quoted, but not the fact that it had been dragged down by the poor performance by some of the town’s academies – easier instead to use language which would be used to pillory the council.

Either by design or ignorance no mention was made in Mr Simmons’ letter of the council’s schools-led improvement partnership which includes closing the gap of those on FSM as a major priority, nor that here have been regular and positive meetings between council officials and Ofsted – though an Ofsted official withdrew at short and without explanation from a meeting with Reading School Governors last week. Now we know why.

Sadly, but perhaps inevitably, the MP for Reading East Mr Rob Wilson was very quick off the mark – with a statement hitting the airways ten minutes after the mid-night embargo had expired.

The MP’s comments talked of the Ofsted letter being “shocking to read … the most devastating terms I have ever seen.”

In one strong assertion regarding those entitled to Free School Meals:

“It is a devastating indictment of the Labour run Council that these disadvantaged young people’s opportunities are being destroyed and their aspirations stifled by failing schools and a failing local authority”.

Well the failing schools responsible for the decline in standards are all academies.

In fact one of these academies, the JMA, which is the worst performing of all, has a former Chief Inspector of Schools and former boss of Ofsted (and now a University Vice Chancellor) on its board of governors. But still they can’t get it right.

And they are all regulated by the Regional Schools Commissoner – not the council.

But Mr Wilson made no mention of these facts.

Instead, the MP simply prefers to talk about “this set of results must be the final straw” and a “scandal”.

He also pointed to the recent government announcement of forcing all schools to be come academies – whether they want to or not.

At the end of the week, when a more clear view can be taken of the issues raised by the letter from Mr Simmons’ I would say on the basis of this performance his Ofsted department should be put in “special measures” for dealing with such an important matter in a ill-informed, partial and sensational way.

To the MP for Reading East, I would say next time you think you have an opportunity to knock Reading Council, please do a little fact checking before trying to do us down – your spectacular own goal on this matter will not be forgotten.

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Mar 18

Friday March 18 is National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day

Labour Councillors promise to fight CSE in Reading

Labour Councillors promise to fight CSE in Reading

Friday March 18 is National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day.

Reading Council’s ruling Labour Administration is using this opportunity to highlight the issues surrounding CSE, encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children or children developing inappropriate relationships with other children.

Lead Councillor for Childrens’ Service Jan Gavin said:

“We are committed to the fight against CSE and supporting victims and their families who are subjected to child sexual exploitation. But we cannot succeed without the support of local communities and residents.”

“Everyone can show their support by posting Helping Hands on social media.”

Helping Hands

CSE Day 012A personal message about your support for CSE awareness day written on your hands and then posted on Twitter or Facebook, using #HelpingHands #CSEDay16

Anyone with a concern should contact: Children’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub 0118 9373641

 

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Feb 05

Make sure you can have your say – Register To Vote Today

ballot_box_1TODAY is National Voter Registration day and the Council is once again urging residents to take some time to check they are registered to vote.

In one week’s time (Feb 12) Reading Borough Council will be sending letters to all 62,354 properties in the borough. Each letter will list all of the people currently registered to vote at the address. Where the information is correct, no action is needed.

If someone living at the property is not listed, they need to register themselves to vote at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Residents are being asked to look out for the Household Notification Letters – which will begin landing on doormats across Reading towards the end of next week – and take action where someone living at the property is not listed.

Residents can also check whether they are registered to vote by calling the Council’s Electoral Registration Team on 0118 937 3717.

There are now less than 100 days left until both the Reading Borough Council local elections, and Police and Crime Commissioner elections, take place on May 5th. Residents need to ensure they are registered to have a vote on polling day.

Previously, one person in every household was responsible for registering everyone else who lives at that address. The Government’s introduction of the Individual Electoral Registration (IER) system however, now means each and every individual is responsible for registering themselves to vote.

Registering to vote is easy. You can now do it online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Residents who prefer to have a paper registration from sent to them instead, can request one by calling the Council’s Electoral Registration Team on 0118 937 3717 or writing to Electoral Registration Officer, Reading Borough Council, Civic Offices, Bridge Street, Reading RG1 2LU
Alternatively you can email Elections@reading.gov.uk

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Jan 21

Communities Invited to Join a Borough-wide Spring Clean

LOVE clean readingRESIDENTS are being encouraged to get together to help clear up their neighbourhoods during this year’s first major Reading RESCUE event.

The borough-wide spring clean, sponsored by Thames Water, takes place every year and includes communities, volunteers and council staff.

This year’s event will be taking place March 4th – 6th to coincide with the national Clean for the Queen campaign which has been launched to mark Her Majesty’s 90th birthday.

Twelve groups got to work in 14 areas of Reading in the autumn RESCUE event in October, including in Kennet Walk, east Reading; the Baker Street area in west Reading; Waterloo Meadows in Katesgrove and the Thames footpath from Rivermead Leisure Centre to King’s Meadow. They collected a total of 240 bags of rubbish containing 3.26 tonnes of waste.

Organisers are hoping to attract even more people to take part in this year’s spring clean-up which is part of the council’s award-winning Love Clean Reading campaign.

Councillor Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Neighbourhoods, said:

“We have seen great community involvement in Reading RESCUE events over the years.

“A group of people working together can make a huge difference to the appearance of their neighbourhoods in just a few hours.

“We’ll provide the rubbish bags, litter pickers and brooms. All we need are some enthusiastic volunteers to put them to use.”

Neeti Bindra, community investment co-ordinator at Thames Water, said:

“As a major employer in Reading it’s important for us to make sure our surroundings are well cared for. Reading RESCUE is a great community event which allows us to participate and engage with local people and it really does make a difference to the town.

“We’re looking forward to this year’s RESCUE and hope lots of people will join our volunteers who roll up their sleeves every year and fill as many bags of rubbish as they can. Together we can all make Reading a better place to live and work.”

Anyone interested in taking part in Reading RESCUE’s spring clear-up can sign up at www.readingrescue.org.uk or by email to rescue@reading.gov.uk.

The Clean for the Queen campaign is backed by organisations including Keep Britain Tidy, National Trust and Women’s Institute. Full details can be found at www.cleanforthequeen.co.uk.

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Jan 11

Repairs Start on Damaged Georgian Memorial Garden Wall

Eldon Sq gardensWORK will start this week to repair the wall, gate and railings at King George V Memorial Garden in Eldon Square, Reading’s only Georgian-style garden.  Distinctive features of a Georgian square include a symmetrical design, an outer belt of trees and shrubs, an inner circular walk and a central area laid to grass.

The work was necessitated after significant damage was caused to the wall when a vehicle crashed into the garden boundary last September.

Council contractors will begin work on Monday and the work is expected to take a week to complete.

There will be no public access to the gardens from the east gate for the whole period of the repairs. The other entrances will remain open at all times as normal.

Cllr Paul Gittings, lead councillor for culture and sport, said:

“I’m pleased that the unfortunate damage caused last year is going to be shortly rectified. These peaceful gardens offer residents an oasis of nature and calm amidst the hubbub of the town centre and it is one of the town’s gems along with the Forbury Gardens and Caversham Court.”

 

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Dec 31

Carers Encouraged to Put on Their Boots for New Year Walks

palmer park 2CARERS and the people they care for are being encouraged to join a walking group launching in the New Year.

Reading Council’s Healthy Walks Programme is hosting a series of gentle weekly walks around Palmer Park beginning in January 2016.

The first walk will be held on Wednesday 6th January, starting from the Chalkboard Café in the centre of Palmer Park, at 11am.

The walk will be at a gentle pace, last about 40 minutes and will be led by two trained walk leaders.

People can relax and socialise afterwards with a cup of tea or other refreshments at the café.

Apart from the refreshments, the walk is free, and although this group is primarily aimed at carers (paid or unpaid) and the friends, relatives or clients they care for, it is open to all.

This group is part of a wider series of walks organised by the council aimed at getting more people in Reading active. Walking has a huge number of health benefits, including maintaining a healthy weight, lowering the risk of disease and general stress release by offering a break from spending a lot of time indoors.

Walks take place at several locations around the borough, including South Whitley Park, the River Thames footpath and Prospect Park. People can view more information at www.walkingforhealth.org.uk/walkfinder/south-east/reading-walks-programme

Cllr Rachel Eden, lead member for adult social care, said:

“I’m delighted that the council is expanding its health walks to include a group particularly aimed at carers. A number of people have asked for this as walking is a social and fun way of getting active.

“The council faces very tough times at the moment but helping residents stay healthy means not only a better life for people but also helps to reduce the demand for other services.”

For further information on health walks please email Philip.Burbidge@reading.gov.uk
or call 07709 400986.

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