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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Dec 20

No Agreement on a Parking Scheme for Redlands

foxhill-RoadRecent editions of our regular newsletter to residents Redlands Matters have discussed the pressing issue of car parking for residents in the ward. This culminated in an informal public consultation during the Autumn to which many hundreds of residents responded.

The overall picture was inconclusive, with some respondents welcoming the idea of the introduction of new residents parking schemes in their streets, while others in the same streets being opposed.  There were no grounds to believe that an “area-wide” scheme carried a workable level of support.

As a result Labour Councillors have agreed to continue with the position that they have adopted with some success over the past four years, which is:

  • Not seek to impose any residents parking scheme in any street, where there was not a demonstrable level of support from local residents.
  • To work with any group of residents who wish to seek the introduction of parking protection arrangements in their street, if necessary on a street by street basis.

 

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Dec 16

New Safeguarding Video to be Shown at Reading FC this Weekend

safegaurdingA VIDEO which promotes the message that safeguarding is everybody’s business is to be screened before Reading Football Club’s home match for the first time this weekend.

The 90-second film is aimed at raising awareness of safeguarding issues, such as mistreatment, neglect, bullying and exploitation, and how to report a concern.

The video, which carries subtitles, is being shown on the new screen at Madejski Stadium on Sunday (December 20) where Reading FC is playing Blackburn Rovers FC.

It will then be shown at every home match for at least the rest of the season.

The video, which can be seen on the Reading Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) website, will also be distributed to GP’s surgeries and other public venues which have screens.

The black and white video talks about safeguarding issues affecting children and adults and points out that abuse can be physical, sexual or emotional and can also be inflicted online or through social networking sites.

It says anyone can be a victim, sometimes without even realising it at first, and that people can and should speak up if they are concerned about someone else.

Councillor Jan Gavin, Reading’s lead councillor for children’s services, said:

“This is an excellent video which demonstrates the many different types of abuse children and adults can face.

“It also shows that anyone can be a victim but that there are people out there who can help.

“I’m delighted Reading Football Club has agreed to show the video on match days and I would urge other locations, such as GP surgeries, to play it on their screens.”

Cllr Rachel Eden, Reading’s lead councillor for adult social care, said:

“Reading should be a good place for everyone to live and we should all be free from abuse.

“This video brings home powerfully the importance of safeguarding as the bedrock of this and we can all help. If you are worried about anyone, please ring or email in your concerns – you could make all the difference.”

The safeguarding video was initially commissioned by Buckinghamshire LSCB and was adapted for Reading, to include local contact telephone numbers.

Fran Gosling-Thomas, chair of Reading LSCB, said:

“We want this video to be seen by thousands of local people in a wide variety of settings, to raise awareness about abuse of all kinds and to encourage people to report any concerns about a child – ‘if not you, who?’

“This is a good example of agencies working together to safeguard vulnerable children and adults in our communities.”

Anyone worried about a child under 18-years-old should call (0118) 937 3641 or an adult over 18 call (0118) 937 3747. Anyone with an immediate serious concern should call the police.

 

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Dec 10

2015 Council Christmas Information

merry christmasCivic Offices

During the Christmas and New Year period Reading’s Call Centre and Civic Offices will be open from 9am to 5pm as usual, except on the following days:

  • Thursday Dec 24: Open 9am to 3pm
  • Friday Dec 25th: Closed
  • Monday Dec 28th: Closed (Bank Holiday)
  • Thursday Dec 31st: Open 9am to 3pm
  • Friday January 1st: Closed.

Libraries

All of Reading’s libraries will close at 1pm on Thursday December 24th and will re-open to the public again on Tuesday December 29th with normal opening hours. They will then close at 4pm on Thursday December 31st, with a normal opening hours from Saturday January 2nd onwards.

Leisure Centres

All Reading Sport and Leisure Centres be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

On Thursday 24th December, Arthur Hill, Central and Palmer Park will open from 7am to 3pm, and Meadway from 6.30am to 3pm.

After that, Arthur Hill will be open 8.30 – 2.30pm on the 27th and then 7am to 3pm on the 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st December.

Central will be open 8am to 4pm on the 27th, and then 7am to 3pm on the 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st December.

Meadway will open 9am to 4pm on the 27th, 6.30am to 3pm on the 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st December.

For details of sessions available people are advised to contact the centres or check www.readingleisure.co.uk

Bins, Recycling and Christmas Trees

As usual, bin collection days will change over the Christmas and New Year period. People can check their recycling calendar or visit www.reading.gov.uk/YourNeighbourhood. On the first collection after Christmas people can leave out an extra bag of rubbish next to their grey bin and any extra recycling can be left in a cardboard box next to their red bin or box.

Garden waste collections will finish for the festive season on 18th December and begin again on 18th January. There’s more information on www.reading.gov.uk/YourNeighbourhood.

Since Christmas brings a large amount of extra waste, people are being urged to recycle as much as possible. Christmas card, wrapping paper and plastic bottles can go in the red recycling bin. Please put your recycling in your bin or box loose – no plastic bags!

Glass bottles and jars can be recycled at bottle banks around Reading. Residents can visit www.recyclenow.com/recycling-locator to find their nearest recycling sites.

A handy A to Z list on what you can and can’t recycle – and where you can do it – can be found at  www.reading.gov.uk/recyclinga-z.

Christmas Tree recycling sites open on 2nd January and stay open until 19th January. They will be in car parks at the following locations:

  • Mapledurham Playing Fields
  • Clayfield Copse
  • Hills Meadow
  • Rivermead Leisure Complex
  • Kensington Road Recreation Ground
  • Prospect Park
  • Meadway Recreation Ground
  • Tilehurst allotments, Armour Hill
  • Palmer Park Sports Stadium
  • Whitley Wood Recreation Ground
  • Academy Sports Leisure Centre, Northumberland Avenue

The trees will be chipped by the Council and used in a range of landscaping schemes across the Borough. Residents are being advised not to be alarmed if they see piles of trees as it takes a few days to get round to each location.

The Reading Household Waste and Recycling Centre on Island Road is open during the holiday period, except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Opening times are 8am to 6pm, except for Christmas Eve, when the centre closes at 4pm.

 

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