Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Reading Joins Runaway Opposition to 3rd Runway

The people of Reading have spoken with resounding unity in opposition to the building of a third runway at Heathrow, and now this has been followed up by RBC's official move to join the 2M groupment of councils. 2M now comprises a coalition of 24 councils opposed to further expansion of the the transport hub.

Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead council leader Cllr David Burbage welcomed the announcement, stating
"We are delighted to welcome Reading on board. It shows just how widely the impact of a third runway would be felt across the south east."

"We have built a broad coalition which comprises councils and MPs from every party, local authorities representing rural and urban areas as well as a host of environmental and residents groups. With support from so many different areas I am confident this is a battle we can win."

LibDem parliamentary spokesperson for Reading East, Cllr Gareth Epps said in a statement that it was a pity that it had taken so long for the ruling Labour group to face up to their responsibilities to represent the people of Reading, who oppose a third runway by an 'overwhelming majority', and explained the proposed third runway "makes a mockery of Labour's commitment to tackle climate change".

The move has been under discussion for several months as Reading's ruling Labour administration was criticised for putting forward an equivocal stance and refusing to stand up on behalf of residents against their party colleagues in government.

Abbey ward's Cllr Tony Page previously hoped to allay public anger by calling for a review designed to report back after the next general election, but he was criticised by LibDem transport spokesman Cllr Ricky Duveen for "shilly-shallying" around the subject.

The proposed expansion has recently come under increasing fire as the economic downturn has raised questions over the ability of private operator BAA to afford the massive investment required following the company's debt refinancing package only recently agreed in August 2008.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport confirmed that the government had "at no time" provided guarantees for financing of the project.

Meanwhile, BAA, the corporate owners of Heathrow, have announced that they are holding a 16-week consultation exercise to gather public concerns about the noise generated by aircraft flight paths - the consultation runs until October 5th 2009 and you can have your say online.


To find out more visit the Stop Heathrow Expansion and 2M Group websites.

For in-depth coverage of the plans' local relevance click here.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Getting The Railways Back On Track

Reading Borough Council's Corporate, Community and External Affairs (CCEA) Scrutiny Panel is due to stage it's second annual session where public concerns over the state of the railways will be raised and discussed.

First Great Western Managing Director Mark Hopwood and Route Director Richard Rowland will represent the company.

They will be joined by FGW's Reading Re-Development Project Team, Tony Walker for Network Rail and Reading Borough Council's Head of Transport Pat Baxter to answer questions about the the recently submitted plans for the massive redevelopment of Reading Station.

Matt Brady advertises the meeting due to be held tomorrow, on Tuesday 30th June starting at 6.30pm in the Council Chamber at Reading Civic Centre.

Matt is angry that Network Rail bosses are paid six-figure sums while presiding over a service which is "often unpleasant and horrendously expensive", while Robin Smith adds his concern at recent 30% fare rises.


Update: Redlands LibDems, Cllr Daisy Benson and Cllr Kirsten Bayes, are taking a proactive line and will be putting the corporate bigwigs on the spot.

LibDem transport spokesperson, Cllr Ricky Duveen criticised the non-attendance of Labour members on the committee and said, "We need a dialogue between FGW and Reading rail users and will be campaigning for this to continue."

Here Cllr Benson reports back.

Matt Brady is all in favour of a rail user group to communicate with the operator.

Oranjepan says:
If you have any questions you wish to raise why not go along to the meeting yourself. If you can't make it please use this online form to post a question.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Different Sides Of The Prostitution Debate

A recent increase in on-street prostitution around Reading West station has lead to a concerted publicity campaign to communicate the dangers of the trade.

Apprently Reading has establised "such a reputation in the vice trade that the town is attracting an influx of prostitutes from other areas" and saturation levels of streetwalkers are causing greater numbers to take their clientele to the suburbs to perform transactions.

Jo Daly (who has the odd job title of 'anti-social behaviour co-ordinator') pontificated that this may be a consequence of the credit crunch, while Police reasserted a common dictum that the women who ply the trade are the 'real victims'.

Pastor of the Reading Family Church Sean Green has expressed his concern with the ongoing problem by preaching for toleration and offering prayers for the sex-workers and punters, while NHS Berkshire West recently gave £30,000 funding to support a project run by the Christian charity The Mustard Tree Foundation which advocates on behalf of prostitutes.

The announcements have caused views to polarise on this controversial subject, with a variety of different solutions from around the globe cited as examples of possible solutions, including the introduction of toleration zones away from residential areas and the legalisation of brothel-work.

Gieon Mack's typically scabrous dissection of the news is once again in evidence as he shows no sympathy for either the prostitutes or authorities who ride-roughshod through the lives of residents.

He sarcastically contrasts the comment of a crime reduction officer who says it is "too early to say" why the town is a regional centre for on-street prostitution, with the popular rejoicing taking place now that Police and the borough council have again advertised the city's status tenth year as a 'centre of excellence' for the trade. Hmm.

In contradiction of the official statements however, the Oxford Road Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) simultaneously reassured residents that none of this is necessary as the problem has actually reduced as civil authorities have learnt to work better together.


Update: Gideon Mack takes the matter personally - is politics a matter of personality?

Oranjepan asks:
Who is really whoring who out here? If civil authorities are working well together, why are they contradicting each other? Is this a deliberate campaign of misinformation? And if so, by whom, for whose benefit?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Representation Of The People In Action

Council sessions are where the different sides of the popular political debate face each other on the issues of the day, so it's not surprising that emotions often run high and opinions get heated - as can be seen by the reactions.

The two areas of greatest contention during this week's four-and-a-half hour meeting were clearly a discussion of the borough's community policy regarding efforts to tackle violent extremism in the town and the motion to impose a requirement to conduct criminal checks on councillors.

Labour's national plan designed to nip the causes of terrorism in the bud introduced at the local level were roundly criticised by all sides for their potential to do the exact opposite of what is hoped. Cllr Jamie Chowdhary said "If ever a document qualified for the charge of inciting racial hatred, then this is it," and argued that it was likely to "isolate, stigmatise and alienate" the sections of society which it was designed to build goodwill amongst.

Conservative Peppard councillor Richard Willis shows some of his lingering bitterness as he gives the fullest run-down of events.

Meanwhile Conservative blogger Wat Tyler ramps up the invective by stating how this shows Labour to be 'institutionally racist' as a whole and that the local group lacks the 'political spine' to do anything but the bidding for it's national masters.

Tyler argues that Labour has singularly failed according to their own standards and orffers the hope that his party are capable of successfully fulfilling that duty when they are expected to gain a majority next year.

LibDem Katesgrove councillor Warren Swaine could not be less convinced, describing a threatened walk-out and swift U-turn by the Conservatives' on their own motion as an example of the state of their party - he says their action was a 'complete shambles' and thinks the town will need a blessing from on high if expectations of a tory victory are realised!


Update: LibDem group leader Cllr Kirsten Bayes explained the reasons for their abstention on the extremism vote, saying,"this initiative is starting from the wrong place, and is looking at the problem in the wrong way."

Oranjepan says:
Party differences in both style and substance are once again to the fore.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Housing Opposed All Along The Kennet Valley

Local political figures have recently been very active in making representations over where proposed housing developments are to take place.

Reading East MP, Rob Wilson is due to to make a submission to the inquiry on the contentious 500-home plan for a site at Sandford Farm. He says, "this development is not in the best interest of the people of Woodley" and highlights the problems of flood risks, congestion caused by additional traffic and the potential pitfalls of building on a disused landfill.

Meanwhile to the south and west of the town opposition to development comes from the LibDems and Labour.

Theale councillor Alan Macro is concerned about West Berkshire's blueprint to add 450 houses, which he says will wreck the character of the village and effectively turn it into a suburb of Reading (in addition to worries similar to those raised by Mr Wilson).

In between Sandford Farm and Theale, the Kennet Meadows floodplain has been the location for a massive plan to build 7,500 houses, which Southcote councillor Pete Ruhemann hopes will be placed in trust to safeguard the open space and maintain it as a wildlife sanctuary available to all in the community and thereby end a 30-year threat from commercial exploitation by restricting developments to 'essential infrastructure'.


Update: Cllr Willis enters controversial territory by exposing Labour's duplicitous claim to be the guardian of the Kennet Meadows. In contrast he claims the credit should go to West Berkshire Conservatives for their consistent campaigning to protect the landscape.

Oranjepan Asks:
In whose backyard do residents want new houses?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Pub Giant Accused of Anti-Enterprise Attitude

The sudden announcement that a Reading pub is to be closed has resulted in campaigners from all political sides rallying round in attempt to save the popular community hub, The Jolly Angler.

An open Facebook group has been set up to keep interested individuals informed about developments.

Recent months have seen an amazing transformation under licensee John Westendorp from a business which had stagnated and was temporarily turned into a squat, into a thriving community facility noted for it's selection of specialist beers.

LibDem Greg Mullholland MP, who has been at the forefront of the national 'Save The Pub' campaign, described how "there are some pubcos closing pubs who want to cash in on a site... and we are fighting against uncaring, unhelpful - and all too often - ignorant councils."

He criticised pubcos for placing restrictive covenants on pubs and is pushing for changes to planning law, preventing corporate owners from applying for change of use without an overwhelming case and thereby forcing them to take their community responsibilities seriously.

Reading East parliamentary campaigner Cllr Gareth Epps supported his colleague's campaign efforts saying,
"This local example highlights a set of wider issues that require action from local and national Government. It is time that good community pubs were cherished, before they are gone forever."
Conservative blogger Wat Tyler is also saddened by the closure and agrees that it's time for the council to get assertive.

Even noted anti-alcohol campaigner, Labour's Anneliese Dodds, stated that she was appalled by the suddenness of the decision to close the real ale centre, while Green Party activist Rob White summed up by saying "There is a lot of enthusiasm not to turn it into housing... it’s part of the glue which holds Newtown together."

Reading Post has conducted several interviews all opposed to the the move by Enterprise Inns, but the editors clearly think there is still a need for some kind of celebrity endorsement.

Meanwhile locally-based TV chef and entrepreneur Anthony Worrall Thompson has got involved in efforts to amend the blanket smoking ban which he argues is excessive and is having an unecessarily detrimental effect on the pub business and has resulted in the unexpected side-effect of pushing smokers onto the pavements.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Environmental Education

Efforts to encourage greater concern for the environment has been taken to the younger generations with a number of initiatives to raise awareness of the direct impact of waste on our own doorsteps.

Pupils from Katesgrove Primary school are due to take part in an Environmental Visual Audit, while a cross-party selection of MPs including Reading West's Martin Salter have tabled an Early Day Motion calling on and end to the disincentivisation of recycling at schools.

Apparently 78% of all school waste could be easily recycled or composted, but 73% of councils do not provide this service to schools without charge.

Proposer Martin Horwood MP commented,
"it is imperative to give schools all the help we can to recycle their waste. Not only would a free service save schools money, it would allow children to gain an understanding of environmental stewardship and responsibility."
Meanwhile back in Reading, the end of the university year has seen RBC Streetcare team combine with Reading University Student's Union and the local Neighbourhood Action group deliver 600 'Moving Out' packs to student residents in a coordinated effort to minimise waste and disruption to the community during the period of transition.

The packs give advice on recycling sites, bulky waste collections as well as suggestions on disposal of unwanted items.

Chairperson of Redlands NAG Peter Kayes is proud to build on the success of the first year's initiative explining that "in previous years, the accumulated rubbish had hung around for far too long looking unsightly and smelling horrible."

All these different initiatives are part of concerted campaigning efforts by LibDems to ensure there is a coherent policy framework in the borough on waste.

But while Cllr Daisy Benson is pleased that something is now being done she is still not satisfied that it is enough - now she is calling for the university and borough council to fund a permanent liasion officer to ensure resources are even more effectively applied.

Childcare Changes Starting To Take Effect - Part3

An announcement that 17 local authorities in England are already moving ahead with plans to roll out the controversial ContactPoint database has received a sturdy response from a variety of concerns.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation said it is "almost certainly illegal", while a spokesperson for Reading NO2ID described it as "utter overkill".

Local LibDems are seriously concerned about the prospective risks of a centralised database.

Leader of the RBC LibDem group Cllr Kirsten Bayes argues forcefully that such as system - which prevents any opt-out once instigated - is not only hugely expensive, but will permanently change the relationship between individuals and the state. She says, "it is a waste of time and money, and should be scrapped."

Cllr Warren Swaine pulls even fewer punches, saying things don't get any worse than spending "£224m on a paedophiles' A-to-Z"!

And if you needed any further convincing of the risks of placing complete trust in digital systems, the matter was recently placed in stark relief when West Berkshire Council 'blundered' by sending intimate sensitive healthcare reports from a similar database to the wrong recipients. West Berkshire spokesperson Keith Ulyatt attempted to reassure the public that although human error can never be eliminated entirely, the incident was isolated.

Nevertheless despite such concerted opposition lead councillor for Children's Services Labour's Cllr John Ennis has refused to budge from his determination that anything which could save lives is worthwhile, and swept aside concerns stating warnings that information was being collected have been circulated for the past two years.

ContactPoint is due to be introduced by Reading Borough Council over the next couple of months.


Update: Mike McNamara posts a comprehensive round-up on the issues relating to ContactPoint. He is very concerned that the prospect of an all-controlling state, stating "Big Brother gets closer by the day".

Childcare Changes Starting To Take Effect - Part2

Wokingham Borough Council has appointed Andy Couldrick as the new head of it's children's services department.

Mr Couldrick currently occupies a similar position for Oxfordshire County Council and will start his new job in September. The overhaul of the service is currently being overseen on an interim basis by Steve Liddicott, a respected childcare profession, with assistance from Gerald Meehan on secondment from Halton Borough Council.

Wokingham Borough Council, along with Reading Borough Council, was one of nine councils across the nation criticised for 'fundamental' weaknesses in the service provision. Problematic safeguarding, including high staff turnover and limited management capacity in children’s social care resulted in poor child protection work and poor case recording, leading to "significant risk".

Childcare Changes Starting To Take Effect - Part1

Following the announcement of the closure of Reading University's respected School of Health and Social Care, it has been announced that Thames Valley University is to close it's doors to trainees from 2015 - due to 'falling demand'.

However the closure of the TVU campus at Slough will simultaneously send as many as 650 student nurses to it's Reading campus.

Fears are already growing that the increased barriers to study will lead to further shortages of qualified staff in one of the areas which may be expected to pick up some of the slack.

Marketing Or Medicine?

Green Party candidate Adrian Windisch proselytises on the benefits of complementary medicines, like homeopathy and aromatherapy.

Adrian reports that the treatment he has been recieving for over a year appears to have been a success and that it could help you "treat the symptoms of a wide range of problems, from depression to colds and flu".

His confidence is based on the fact that around 80% of the worlds population depend on such remedies and he seems reassured by the fact current conventional medicine disregards many traditionally recogised factors when building a diagnosis, which can be tailored for the individual.

On the other hand Steve Borthwick is rather more sceptical about such quackery.

According to Steve, beyond any dubious placebo effects, homeopathic remedies should be viewed with caution because complementary techniques are largely regulated according to different standards.

Oranjepan asks:
Is complementary medicine merely a way to treat a heavy wallet and bruised ego?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Expenses Redaction Causes Offense

After six weeks of daily revelations made in the national press Parliament has finally published the expenses submitted by MPs.

Well, almost.

Mark Reckons pities the metaphorically 'poor' people who attempt to wade through the masses of black ink, as the struggle against such institutionalised censorship would send most people "a bit peculiar!"

The normally equanimious Paul Walter is furious that the effort to cover up the scale of our elected officials theft from us has cost an estimated £2m - yes, even with sterling falling and inflation having slashed the purchasing power of the pound in our pockets that's still a lot of money to the majority (though clearly not to most MPs, who are not only millionaires in a private capacity but are subsidised by every last single one of their ordinary constituents).

Meanwhile Wokingham MP John Redwood says "people want an institution which does more, costs less, and is more open", but expresses his frustration that there is no formalised opportunity for parliamentarians to hold Parliament to account.

All three seem united in agreement that this episode continues to tarnish the name of our democracy.


Update: Howards Thomas takes his cue to give unflinching praise to the press, which is not surprising considering his links to them. Well, the Post does need all the help they can get at the moment!

Berkshire MPs Expenses Exposed

For any interested readers who wish to wade through the redacted expense claims made by elected representatives from across Berkshire, Reading List provides the figures for the past year (MPs listed alphabetically):

Adam Afriyie (Conservative), MP for Windsor [ref]
Second home - nil
London supplement - nil
Office - £17,297
Staffing - £83,261
Stationery - £534
IT provision - £1,290
Communication - nil
Travel - nil

Total - £104,652

Richard Benyon (Conservative), MP for Newbury [ref]
Second home - nil
London supplement - nil
Office - £15,501
Staffing - £75,556
Stationery - £1,189
IT provision - £1,269
Communication - £6,106
Travel - £2,472

Total - £105,728

Andrew MacKay (Conservative), MP for Bracknell [ref]
Second home - £22,575
London supplement - nil
Office - £19,303
Staffing - £75,193
Stationery - £729
IT provision - £1,060
Communication - £7,821
Travel - £7,270

Total - £136,239

Fiona MacTaggart (Labour), MP for Slough [ref]
Second home - £3,392
London supplement - nil
Office - £11,992
Staffing - £99,820
Stationery - £1,132
IT provision - £1,194
Communication - £10,031
Travel - £2,651

Total - £134,940

Theresa May (Conservative), MP for Maidenhead
Second home - £4,288
London supplement -nil
Office - £6,641
Staffing - £90,983
Stationery - £511
IT provision - £1,962
Communication - £10,123
Travel - £2,364

Total - £118,147

John Redwood (Conservative), MP for Wokingham [ref]
Second home - £22,729
London supplement - nil
Office - £10,427
Staffing - £55,616
Stationery - £457
IT provision - £1,250
Communication - £9,686
Travel - £3,911

Total - £105,917

Martin Salter (Labour), MP for Reading West [ref]
Second home - nil
London supplement - nil
Office - £20,805
Staffing - £88,865
Stationery - £1,239
IT provision - £1,113
Communication - £9,302
Travel - £7,898

Total - £132,263

Rob Wilson (Conservative), MP for Reading East [ref]
Second home - nil
London supplement - nil
Office - £16,580
Staffing - £89,718
Stationery - £745
IT provision - £1,452
Communication - £10,186
Travel - £10,585

Total - £132,218


Update: Professor Rob Waller remembers how he once worked for the Information Design Unit which designed the claims forms and reprints the declaration used: "I confirm that I incurred these costs wholly, exclusively and necessarily... for the purpose of performing my duties as a Member of Parliament"

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Shock At Jolly Angler Closure

A talk on 'vanishing Newtown' will be held at the Palmer Park coffee morning from 10-11am today, just as news reaches us that another community hub has been closed prior to an application for redevelopment.

The Jolly Angler is now closed for business and could eventually be lost forever if it is converted into housing.

Following the managerial uncertainties experienced by the canalside establishment in recent years and an aborted attempt to sell the lease, spokesperson Vicky Averis said Enterprise Inns were committed to the success of the traditional workingman's pub and had no plans to sell.

With John Doughty installed as publican the future had looked brighter, but Enterprise Inns (who held the freehold) rejected firm offers to turn it into an independently-managed and owned business, preferring instead to sell it to an unnamed developer who was able to hide their identity by acting through a holding company.

In a statement CAMRA campaigner and LibDem PPC Cllr Gareth Epps said,
"If Enterprise think or claim that they can gain planning permission for the closure of this pub, they can think again. They cannot shut successful community pubs at a whim. Corporate bullies such as Enterprise Inns are increasingly going to find that communities fight back in a united and positive way."
Cllr Epps also described Enterprise Inns' treatment of their tenant leaseholder and the Newtown community as "outrageous".

Green Party activist Rob White expressed his shock after belatedly discovering only a day earlier that the pub was under threat. The teetotaller offered his strongest assurance that he would be doing all he could to help the pub re-open by lobbying councillors and council officials (among whom Cllr Epps will presumably be included).

Meanwhile, as the campaign to get enough council votes to reject the redevelopment proposal mounts, a distant prospect of saviour may come in the form of reality television producer Twofour Broadcast - who are looking to save a community pub and will transmit the results in a programme on new UKTV channel Blighty.

Going Nuclear, Or Not

The local debate over nuclear weapons remains a vibrant one which regularly comes under the spotlight due to the presence of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston.

On the Conservative side Cllr Richard Willis recently visited the Aldermaston site noting concern among Local Liaison Committee members about protesters who were situated in the adjacent Bluebell Wood, but was reassured by reports of training exercises that any civil emergency would be capably dealt with.

Which was handy, since 11 protesters were arrested early on Monday morning during 'spontaneous' demonstrations which attempted to block a public highway, as pressure is maintained to keep this topic hot.

A coalition of people from Trident Ploughshares, Bikes Block Bombs, Scrap Cars-Scrap Trident, the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp and Eastern-region CND combined, with representatives saying their attempted blockade represents the level of public anger at Government moves to update and upgrade missile defences.

Protest organiser Angie Zelter said:
"When our Government refuses to comply with the fundamental principles of law and undermines the whole Non-Proliferation process then it is up to us, ordinary people, to prevent 'business as usual' at Aldermaston. The blockades today are responsible non-violent attempts to prevent nuclear state terrorism."
Green Party activist and supporter of Trident Ploughshares, Adrian Windisch was there in spirit, even if he couldn't be there in person.

But while some protesters are arguing a moral case, there is also a more practical case for not proceeding with the expensive Trident replacement - especially during a recession while thousands of people are losing their jobs.

LibDem councillor, Glenn Goodall describes a serious and sensible alternative to the continuous aggravation caused by confrontational tactics preferred by some across the political divide. Instead he emphasises research and says it is particularly important not to forget the numerous offshoot technologies with beneficial applications in every field - these actually help create jobs, but could not have been developed without nuclear science.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Independent Battle Ward councillor Tony Jones has attempted to profit from the public outcry against official waste as he made an unashamedly populist call to cut the number of councillors on Reading Borough Council.

He says one-third of current representatives could be culled "without in any way harming the efficiency of the council or injuring the democratic processes," arguing that the system of local government which has been around for half his lifetime ought to be updated because communication technology has improved so much in that time that the less active councillors no longer give value for money and should be hurried off into retirement.

Cllr Jones also calls for the frequency of elections to be reduced and calculates this would produce a financial saving of as much as £150,000. Such a figure reflects approximately 0.1% of the total current annual council budget.

In her report Linda Fort makes an insightful final aside, raising the question of who the final beneficiaries of any such move would be and what ulterior motives might be masked.

It seems clear that the staunch trades unionist has no residual solidarity with his former Labour party colleagues, although it could equally be likely to discourage members of the public from voluntarily getting involved with the political process - something which opponents are trying to prevent.

In the meantime Reading's top bureaucrat, RBC Chief Executive Michael Coughlin has been out and about fulfilling ceremonial duties and promoting democratic initiatives, perhaps offering an insight into what Cllr Jones' vision involves.


Update: Cllr Ricky Duveen doesn't like the idea. He says "it is not a way to enhance democracy in Reading nor a way to increase participation."

Oranjepan asks:
which councillor(s) do you think should be got rid of?


Follow the link for full coverage of the expenses scandal and the political debate about democratic renewal.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Top Marks For Triple-H

In an positive move Reading University has opened a new £17m facility for biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences.

The building will be named after the renowned late Professor Harold H. Hopkins, who worked on the campus for 17 years and helped develop modern key-hole surgery techniques. It will house Reading University's new Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research (ICMR).

Reading University Vice Chancellor Professor Gordon Marshall expressed his excitement at the state-of-the-art facility, explaining that it "demonstrates our commitment to developing further our ability to undertake internationally important research," while honouring the inspiration of Prof Hopkins "whose talent for theoretical maths and physics combined with an inventive genius led him to achieve significant life changing contributions to society himself."

Attending the ceremony were the Mayors of Reading and Wokingham, as well as Professor Hopkins' son, Kelvin Hopkins MP.

According to Michael Hawes, Rob Wilson MP echoed the sentiments of Professor Marshall, saying "Such a significant investment highlights the Reading determination to continue to be one of the World’s top institutions."

Diane Berry, Reading University pro vice-chancellor for research, agrees with the need to support a wider base of research recently arguing that "we cannot afford to conceive our science base too narrowly" because "addressing current and future global challenges depends on the successful interplay of all subjects."

Oranjepan says:
No new knowledge is ever a waste of money!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Election Special: Round-Up From the Blogosphere

The results are in and so now it's time to collect all the local reaction in another handy Reading List Round-Up.

With different parties trying to spin the results in their favour it's always interesting for Readers to pin comments side by side to ascertain which insights stand up and which fall by the way.

South East England saw no change in the distribution of MEPs returned to Brussels with 4 Conservatives, 2 UKIP, 2 LibDems, 1 Green and 1 Labour candidates elected, as they were in 2004.

Across Berkshire Conservatives were ahead, with the single-issue specialists UKIP in second place, LibDems in third, Labour in fourth and the Green Party fifth. Smaller fringe parties also did better than previously. Turnout was at a level similar to that seen during borough ballots.

From Europe
The European Council on Foreign Relations provides an authoritative summary of the main battlegrounds across the continent and a neat and nicely rounded analysis of the winners and losers.

Wilfried Martens writes an outstanding article for the Centre for European Studies making a convincing case for all the positives which European integration has brought EU citizens and which would be lost were the process to reverse.

Mr Martens is in no way disheartened by the somewhat low turnout in light of all these positive achievements and claims the simultaneous elections across the continent is actually a sign that the EU and movement towards the democratic ideal is gaining momentum.

From Across The Region
Labour's Peter Skinner MEP failed to make an impact as he touched base to urge Labour voters "to stand up for progressive policies that help ordinary people and to reject once and for all the failed policies of the Conservatives".

He ignored national politics to make an unashamedly Euro-positive case that "the European Parliament is THE main battlefield" for issues as diverse as "animal rights, consumer protection, development, fair trade, regulating multinational companies or looking out for Britons in the workplace."

Not to be put off by such Euro-enthusiasm, Howard Thomas, who previously announced his endorsement of UKIP, somewhat effusively declared the election a defeat for the pro-EU cause, suggesting that the vote was essentially a referendum on membership - rejecting the freedom of movement enshrined in European treaties.

The Libertarian Party for South East England concentrates on the national aspect, arguing that the result means Gordon Brown will hang on to power but that the general election is all but wrapped up. RobW is more cautious on the wider issue of membership, saying a consequence of the Eurosceptic majority (on a turnout of one-in-three voters) means David Cameron now cannot refuse the public a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and the wider issue of continued EU membership.

Reading Conservative Wat Tyler is wholly in agreement with the Libertarians, except on the vital point that he thinks the UK should retain EU membership.

Meanwhile left-winger Matt Blackall is less concerned about the implications for future elections or for the national or continental government, concentrating instead on the election of two BNP candidates in other regions of the country.

In Reading
Labour did better in it's Reading bastion than it did across the region, but voters in the town still tended to support the Conservatives in greater numbers.

Former Reading councillor and group strategist John Howarth looks at the picture from the Labour perspective, saying 'disunity and indiscipline' at the national level were the cause of the calamitous results for his colleagues. Public dismay at the expenses scandal hurt his party and the Conservatives, with the main beneficiaries being smaller parties.

He notes that it would be unwise to dismiss the higher proportion of support for 'other' parties as a simple protest, since the swing was as much about traditional Labour voters staying at home as it was about them switching directly to the Greens or BNP - he is defiant that despite the appearance of support for prejudiced parties the people are much more open-minded and reasonable than this.

Because the overall shares of the vote were virtually static compared with last time, the local grandee anticipates the major action a year hence at the General Election which the Euro results were only a prelude to.

Prolific blogger Richard Willis comes out of his north-of-the-river eerie in agreement with his Labour counterpart, and gives a more detailed breakdown of the voting patterns.

From this Cllr Willis makes a generalised attempt to infer the likely general election results for the two Reading constituencies. He disregards three Reading East wards inside Wokingham borough ("a relatively small addition in electoral numbers") and the six Reading West wards inside West Berkshire ("that will add hugely to the Conservative vote"), while neglecting to consider the implication of differential turnouts which are often almost twice as high when electing a Westminster representative.

Cllr Willis does however note a pattern for Greens to win votes at the Euro elections where they do poorly at local elections, but he tries to imply that this reflects a change of tendency rather than the alternative that voters are becoming more sophisticated and are more willing to vote tactically or according to the real issues. Typically, he jibes at the LibDems, who he claims put up a miserable showing.

Local Green party members take a similar view to the indistinguishable Conservative and Labour strategists, hoping that a vote in European elections will translate into votes at local elections and enable them to make their first breakthrough at the local ballot box.

The Greens make it absolutely clear for anyone who is in any doubt that they were fighting tomorrow's election today. They were even moved to celebrate an impending gain of a first council seat on RBC in 2010 - though the public will obviously have more to say about that when the time comes.

Update: Martin Salter MP is thankful for small mercies that the results for Labour "were nowhere near as terrible for Labour in Reading West as elsewhere". Typically he is polishing his own ego, rather than explaining Reading is a regional headquarters for the party and that activists are traditionally drafted in from across the region to help support them in the town.

In Wokingham
Conservative John Redwood MP denies the relevance of the wider selection of parties explaining that the vote was a defeat for proportional representation because voters are "driven to the extremes". Clearly the free-market fundamentalist isn't overly in favour of wider choice when it hurts his side!

He also manages to say in the same breath that only one out of every five votes voted for Euro-sceptic parties and that the majority opinion was Euro-sceptic!

On the other side, LibDem opponent and PPC, Cllr Prue Bray is more excited by the two results in town council by-elections which took place on the same day.

She is pleased that LibDems managed to gain a massive increase in their share of the vote in both these elections and even succeeded in winning one away from the incumbent Conservatives. She is utterly unpeturbed by the lack of catastrophe for her side.

In Newbury
Out in West Berkshire Richard Benyon MP also said the vote indicated the likely general election result, describing the evening as "a real triumph" for his side and "a disaster" for the challenging LibDems.

LibDem parliamentary rival Cllr David Rendel struck back dismissing this as spin, saying the difference in boundaries meant the totals are not directly comparable and with potentially another year to go "there is everything still to play for".

Labour activists highlighted the low turnout caused by a depressed national leadership and argued that this skewed the result giving a false picture, while UKIP declared the night a moderate success for them in the area.

Meanwhile Green party spokesperson Adrian Hollister gives a very bitter and ungracious summation of his opponents, but that's probably because his hopes of a second Green MEP in the region were dashed despite his best efforts.

Among a wide-ranging selection of posts covering the elections Thatcham-based LibDem Paul Walter defends the proportional representation system and the wider range of expression this gives voters. He thinks it is unhealthy for dissent to be masked and that open debate enables people to disagree or agree in full knowledge of the consequence of our choices.

In Bracknell
Radio Bracknell provides a neutral view arguing that the vote in Bracknell was indicative of the wider region - is Bracknell now a barometer of the political mood?

East Berkshire spokesperson for the Green Party David Young released a statement concentrating on his opponents. He said "it was a poor result for the Liberal Democrats and Labour," arguing that while Labour will recover "the LibDems are a spent force".

Mark Thompson obviously doesn't agree with that analysis as he reckons the election of a second LibDem to the European Parliament from the region (Catherine Bearder MEP) is worth celebrating.

In Windsor & Maidenhead
The Libertarians gush at the election night speech made by arch Euro-sceptic tory Dan Hannan MEP, as does Conservative leader of RBWM council Cllr David Burbage (which is less unexpected).

Finally Alistair McRonald gives a rundown on the major stories from his viewpoint and tries to digest what is a pretty mixed bag of results

Oranjepan asks:
What's your story of the 2009 European elections?

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Tagged For Exhibit

The campaign to clean up Reading's walls and signposts from the blight of taggers has started to move ahead and pay dividends as a 19-year-old from Earley and a 24 year-old from Reading were arrested and charged with criminal damage after an incident at the Co-op store on Erleigh Road in central Reading.

Meanwhile efforts to encourage budding local street artists to channel their creative energies in a positive direction have begun to follow the example of current flavour of the month and enfant terrible of the art world Banksy.

One secretive local street artist, nicknamed 'Pistol', is growing a reputation by rising above stereotypes of vulgar naive art, and is attempting to legitmise his work by donating a number of works for auction by the Artsbar cafe.

The work by 'Pistol' was eventually sold for £575 and the Wellington Road establishment has moved on to mentoring other graphical artists inspired by him.

Callum Kirkland is studying 3D Design at university and helps organise youth centre workshops to encourage youngsters dealing with issues of bullying to express their feelings through art.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Two Wheels Are Better

Reading Borough Council is repeating it's 'Bike Week' after declaring last year's initiative a 'tremendous success'.

LibDem councillor and environment spokesman Glenn Goodall says, "cycling is a fantastic way for people to improve their health" and give a list of 5 reasons why you should get pedalling.

He encourages readers to make the most of the good weather and take part in the 'commuter challenge' by cycling to work instead of clogging the roads on the daily rat run.

Meanwhile Adrian Windisch cuts and pastes a schedule of events for the week.

Labour Select Candidate For Reading West

Naz Sarkar, a 33 year old Waltham Forest Borough councillor, has been selected to be Labour's next candidate in Reading West.

The political hopeful has won selection at the third attempt and will be attempting to follow Martin Salter into parliament as Labour look to hold on to the seat for the fourth consecutive term. To find out more about his position on the issues you can find out more on his official website and campaigning blog.

Conservative attack dog Cllr Richard Willis gets his barbs in early accusing Labour of parachuting him into the seat, despite the fact that Mr Sarkar teaches at Denefield school.

Apparently, according to Cllr Willis, this will "ensure an interesting contest" - perhaps he is alluding to the campaigning style of Labour in Waltham Forest which managed to secure a 6 percentage point raise in turnout for his close colleague.

Jane Griffiths clearly makes a similar reference as she coined Cllr Sarkar's nickname - 'Nasty' Naz. She also suggests the local Labour party are looking for a weak candidate who will not exert a controlling dominance over their council agenda to the detriment of their own future ambitions.


Update: Adam Hewitt provides a quote from Cllr Sarkar after his selection. He said "If we can get our message out, I'm confident."

Jane offers a word of warning to Mr Sarkar that he will face internal opposition from Mr Salter who apparently experienced a late change of mind and wanted to be reselected.

Howard Thomas has also fallen for the line that Mr Sarkar "has been parachuted in".

Reading Guide offers the comment that Mr Sarkar was only able to win the selection "with the help of a prodigious schedule of doorstepping the 200 or so people eligible to vote, and successful garnering of postal votes."

Oranjepan asks:
Do the good burghers of Reading West need or want an 'interesting' campaign?

Friday, 12 June 2009

Recommended Reading List #28

Are you looking to explore some of the Berkshire's beautiful countryside this weekend?

The Guardian suggests a pleasantly peaceful walk taking in Cookham along the Thames, a home of both the magnificent and the eccentric!


Update: June Stoute decides Sonning is about as far as she wants to go, and is glad she has GPS navigation to find the car on the way back!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Residents Win Rebate On Tenant Tax

Local media sources report the announcement that £1.6m extra funding has been allocated by central government to help fund maintenance to around 1,000 existing council houses.

Redlands LibDems notices how this boost is targeted directly at tangible improvements for sections of society which are traditionally Labour-supporting as the government overtly bribes them in an attempt to buy their votes - that Gordon Brown can't count on this demographic is a reflection of Labour's 'shameful neglect' over the years, and potentially answers why they are in so much trouble locally and nationally.

LibDem Housing spokesperson Cllr Benson has been an active campaigner for better policies and is grateful that RBC has 'finally' reversed it's position after lengthy urging from her to support 'fair funding' for council housing and oppose the 'tenant tax' which goes straight to government coffers.

Parliamentary campaigner Cllr Gareth Epps picked apart the detail showing that some of the poorest Reading residents are losing as much as £5.5m per year to the Treasury - so the £1.6m boost is another example of being short-changed by Labour.

Local Conservative blogger Wat Tyler is angered by the proposal to spend so much tax-payers money on a public benefit, which he thinks many tenants could afford themselves. Tyler argues that a priority list should be drawn up to ensure the more needy are helped first in an effort to dissuade feckless sponging.

However this raises the questions of whether they would or should be sold off if they became an attractive market proposition, at what level 'basic' housing is acceptable and whether it is society's job to provide 'basic' housing in the first place.

Oranjepan asks:
Why are any council houses in the 21st Century still lacking basic 20th Century amenities? Is the state best placed to provide and fund social housing?

A Shave Or A Spending Cut?

Policy debate has returned to the political agenda as the question of the nations finances has come under the spotlight.

Conservative shadow frontbencher Andrew Lansley let slip his assessment of the situation by announcing the need for 10% across the board cuts in spending.

Alistair McRonald defends this plan for it's honesty, saying "the public... will appreciate someone explaining that they can't have a free lunch."

Alistair follows up by pointing out the choice is between 10% cuts offered by the tories and 7% cuts offered by Labour and flatly accuses Labour of lying to the public about their intentions.

Labour apologist Andy Peacock (who has resurfaced in Slough) argues Mr Lansley "let the cat out of the bag" and that this shows the real political choice to be
"between Labour which believes we must grow our way out of recession - and the Conservatives who have revealed that they would cut the vast majority of public spending by ten per cent."
Unfortunately he somewhat tails off after this as he is unable to give any more details (update: he has now provided details).

Irrepresessible LibDem blogger Paul Walter disagrees with both Labour and tories, picking up the baton and taking the fight to both sides.

Not only does he point out the contradiction in the tory ideology that they would still pick and choose where to swing the axe, but he also nudges Labour to remind them that they have already stated they will be fighting the election on the basis that the economy is already coming out of recession.

More locally the political debate is shown up in stark relief as ruling Conservatives imposed a near maximum Council Tax increase of 4.68% in Wokingham borough, while attempting to claw back £60,000 from scrapping 245 waste bins for dog bins and planning to sell off public libraries.

LibDem PPC Prue Bray explained that it "shows there is a considerable lack of strategic thinking [on behalf of the tories]," exacerbated by Conservative financial mismanagement which resulted in the loss of £5m council funds during the Icelandic banking collapse.

She adds on her own blog that there is a significant trend in the questions posed to the Conservative administration in Wokingham.


Update: BBC's Paul Mason helpfully gives us a graphical presentation on the figures in his Newsnight report. He says any government will quickly face a credibility test after the next election.

In the same programme Gavin Esler hosts a debate between Labour's John Denham and the Conervative Phillip Hammond.

Warren Swaine thinks Labour is foolish to promise the earth when they can't deliver it. Economic competence means you can't be a soft touch, because the consequences of profligacy always come back to haunt.

John Redwood is unhappy that the Conservatives are not prepared to pledge to make bigger, deeper cuts and wants to open up a debate on exactly how much fat needs trimming.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Is It Even A Debate?

PaulSC at Grasp The Mettle draws our attention to an excellent blog post by Richard Cable on the BBC's Blog Of Bloom.

While the changing climate is a constant, it is also pointed out that the world authority on the subject, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declares it only 'very likely' that humans are the cause of warming.

Because the chaotic nature of any effects prevents exact predictions about future atmospheric changes we should be warned about politicians who prey on our worst fears for their partisan gain. Any real action must be based on scientific evidence rather than essentially flawed computer models.

On this note environmental enthusiast and scientist Cllr Goodall has signed a personal pledge committing himself to a range of small steps he can take as an individual and hopes this will set an example to inspire others.

Meanwhile Green party campaigners got excited about a debate on Geo-engineering hosted by Reading University - which proposed to discuss some 'big-science' solutions designed to mitigate the threats posed by an uncertain environmental future.

Adrian Windisch clearly thinks this advances his political cause, reprinting the online flyer for the event which announces it will "highlight the urgency to act on climate change before it is too late", while Miriam Kennet is happy to reprint the colourful poster without giving an opinion on the issues to be raised.


Update: As if on cue, Berkshire Humanists report RBC's submission of a new Climate Change Partnership to be integrated into it's strategy with the aim of mitigating the effects of, and adaptation to climate change.

Oranjepan says:
If urgent action is required, then detailed proposals must be put forward by our political representatives - warm words will do nothing to off-set any problems caused by a warming climate.

Recommended Reading List #27

Internet psychologist Graham Jones introduces the subject of free speech, relevant to whether 'undesirable' opinions should be repressed through use of 'no platform' tactics.

This raises some interesting questions: does the person or party who shouts loudest win? Do they need to maintain media domination through an unexpressed insecurity that a better perspective may come along?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Election Special: European Elections Local Results

Datablog has collected the comprehensive list of voting splits in the European elections around the country.

From this we can see 204,567 voters (34.03%, excluding spoilt ballots) from a total registered electorate in Berkshire of 601,072 turned out.

Here is how we voted across the county (listed alphabetically):

BNP: 8315 (4.06%)
Christian Party: 2244 (1.10%)
Conservative Party: 76293 (37.29%)
English Democrats: 3391 (1.66%)
Jury Team: 1228 (0.60%)
Liberal Democrats: 28386 (13.88%)
No2EU: 1635 (0.53%)
Libertas: 1089 (0.64%)
Socialist Labour: 1308 (0.64%)
Green Party: 21840 (10.68%)
Labour Party: 22771 (11.13%)
UK First Party: 846 (0.41%)
UK Independence Party: 33081 (16.17%)
Peace Party: 993 (0.49%)
Roman Party: 570 (0.28%)

Here are the local results (turnout excluding spoilt ballots) as reported by local sources:

Bracknell Forest (32.66%)
Reading (30.82%) [1]
Slough (27.95%)
West Berkshire (37.14%)
Windsor & Maidenhead (36.61%)
Wokingham (37.07%)

Monday, 8 June 2009

Election Special: Reading Bus Driver Shows Drive

Reading's own French bus driver Jean-Louis Pascual of the Roman Party - Ave! stood in last Thursday's European elections hoping to improve on the 33 votes he gained in recent local elections.

According to sources [1, 2] he gained 0.2% of the overall total, amassing 5,450 votes - a respectable amount for a one-man team in such a huge constituency (over 6m voters), showing what is possible for anyone with the determination to try to make a difference.

Reading List applauds his idealism and is suitably inspired, but recognises the nuts and bolts of an election campaign is also necessary.


Update: Linda Fort meets our intrepid burgundian bus-driver - who will put him forward for the Pride of Reading awards?

Oranjepan says:
Get a blog Jean-Louis - the public wants to know what opinions you have!

For starters you may want to look at the issue of violence in the workplace.

Election Special: European Elections SE England Results

As Reading List waits to gather in all the promised reactions readers may be interested in some additional information.

The results for SE England were as follows:

Mr Daniel Hannan Conservative Party
Mr Nigel Farage UKIP
Mr Richard Ashworth Conservative Party
Mrs Sharon Bowles Liberal Democrats
Mrs Caroline Lucas Green Party
Mr Nirj Deva Conservative Party
Mrs Marta Andreasen UKIP
Mr James Elles Conservative Party
Mr Peter Skinner Labour Party
Mrs Catherine Zena Bearder Liberal Democrats

Reading Borough Council helpfully provides MEP contact details for the new slate of elected representatives in South East England - so get in touch with them, they are the people who's job it is to speak up for you.

Election Special: European Elections General Analysis

Top local blogger Mark Reckons provided a excellent live comment platform for as-it-happened reaction.

For the pro-Euro view EurActiv.com has a neat, well-designed mini-site.

BBC publishes the most wide-ranging and well-rounded selection of reports on UK events, insisting the 43-44% turnout 'punished the left' across the continent. The main stories are covered from each party's perspective on events.

Unsurprisngly John Redwood takes the opposite view to the national broadcaster and can't conceal the bitterness in his tone as he tries to weigh up the results.

On the one hand he argues closed-list proportional representational elections lead to fragmentation of parties and drives voters to choose more extreme parties, while subsequently despairing of the 'centre-right victory' - which he says is a victory for centralising federalists - and also stating that the majority were for Euro-sceptic parties.

Europe is obviously a topic which keeps Mr Redwood awake at night, so maybe it's sleep-deprivation causing him to self-affirm his wishful thinking.

Sky New's anchorman Adam Boulton concentrates of the implications of the Euro vote for the UK government.

Meanwhile Skylarking raises a smile at the pointlessness of trying to decipher a precise message delivered when an electorate of hundreds of millions has our collective say.

For a comprehensive round-up try delving into Google News, which has aggregated well over 500 articles up to the time of writing.


Update: Andrew Tattersall gives an insight into the voting procedures in France with a selection of photos.

Election Special: European Election General Results

After several anxious days wait voters can finally discover the results of the 2009 vote - the Eurovision Song Contest it was not!

For the multi-lingual among readers, why not try your interpretation skills through the official results service.

BBC provides several information pages detailing the make-up of the new 735-seat European Parliament which will make decisions on every citizen's behalf for the next four years.

The EPP centre-right bloc is now the largest group across the European Union with 266 seats, followed by the 'Socialists' with 184, the liberal ALDI with 83, the 'no-group' anti-bloc with 72, Greens (including the SNP and Plaid Cymru) with 50, the united 'Left' wing parties (including Sinn Fein) with 36, UEN (including the BNP) with 25 and the Independence bloc (including Ukip) with 21 seats.

The BBC also provides matching coverage of the pure UK voting figures, while the official European Parliament page (in English) gives a breakdown of results as they were declared by region and the MEPs elected as representatives.

The proportion of votes received were as follows (collected opinion polls in brackets):

Conservative - 28.6% (28%), 24 seats
Ukip - 17.4% (15%), 13 seats
Labour - 15.3% (17%), 11 seats
LibDem - 13.9% (15%), 10 seats
Green - 8.7% (10%), 2 seats
BNP - 6.5% (5%), 2 seats

The Guardian's Datablog gives a comprehensive breakdown of the voting split in the European elections according to every local authority in the country.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

The State Of The Berkshire Blogosphere

With the release of the official table listing the best Berkshire blogs it's worth looking at the local blogosphere in a bit more detail.

The first inklings that locally-based blogs were likely to have an impact on the wider world came when BBC Berkshire published a feature focusing attention on Alistair Coleman's award-winning Scary Duck blog in which he gives some tips on how to make a blog stand out.

But the big recent news has been the demise of several sites for varying reasons.

Early adopter Jane Griffiths' Jane's The One suffered a malware attack (we can only guess at the attacker), but she has resurfaced with Jane Is The One to prove that you can't keep a good 'un down.

MuckSpReading's daily satire on the local scene has also dried up, but one suspects this is more to do with time issues and potential conflicts of interests for it's creator, who has since landed himself in political office. Matt Brady mourns the passing of "one of Reading’s most entertaining and popular blogs" and hopes a new independently managed site will emerge to fill the vacuum.

The big gap in the local blogosphere is on the Labour side of the political debate, perhaps mirroring their declining force at the ballot box. Former councillor Richard MacKenzie seems only to have had enough lead in his digital pencil for six (count 'em) posts, while Reading List understands Whitley-based Andy Peacock has deleted his campaigning blog while he seeks selection as a Labour candidate for the General Election (update: he has since turned up in Slough).

All of which leaves a less-balanced collection of blogs, although this may indeed be just a reflection of the varying state of opinion within Berkshire.

In total Reading List records 9 Conservative bloggers, 8 Liberal Democrat, 5 Green Party, 2 Libertarian, 1 Liberty & Solidarity Party, 1 Common Sense Party and 1 Independent blogger in addition to the 4 'celebrity', 4 'comedy' and other unaffiliated, non-partisan sites. Reading List also claims two national journalist sites which fit the description of a blog.

Oranjepan asks:
If you are full of opinion and want to express how you feel, why not start blogging yourself?

Just don't forget to let us know so we can add you to our Reading List!

Top Of The Berkshire Blogs

When creating a ranking order popularity is only one measure to look at. Another, more reliable measure, is influence - as used by Wikio.

Here is a rundown of Berkshire's best blogs for May 2009 with their national rankings, according to Wikio:

#22 John Redwood's Diary
#58 Boulton & Co.
#68 Mark Reckons
#343 Richard Willis's Blog
#471 Redlands Libdems
#493 Reading List
#548 Scaryduck
#567 Bracknell Blog
#1376 Beasley's Place
#3924 Sloughtownsoapbox
#4498 Ticking To A Different Tock
#5834 Windsor Judo Club
#6083 Windsor Fire Station
#6793 EJBC
#8908 Libertarian Party South East
#11242 Reading Roars

Of course not every blog is listed, so Wikio's rankings can hardly be described as definitive. Reading List therefore encourages all bloggers to participate and apply to add their blog to the Wikio directory - the more the merrier!

If you want to be ranked you can add your blog here: http://www.wikio.co.uk/addblog

Don't forget to let Reading List know if you want to be added to the community.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Expenses Scandal Hits Berkshire Councillors

The reverberations of the ongoing expenses scandal continue to spread out and LibDem Wokingham PPC Prue Bray is proved right that it would inevitably suck in councillors from Berkshire.

The 52 councillors in West Berkshire were in receipt of £1/2m worth of additional travel expenses - on top of their standard allowances.

According to Liam Sloan although 14 councillors made no claims the stench of corruption surrounds Conservative Joe Mooney from Birch Copse, who racked up the highest expenses with claims of £2,830.60, while a note on the file showed a councillor had been officially warned off first-class rail travel after submitting a claim for expenses incurred attending a planning conference in Scotland during September.

In other news Conservative former leader of the council, Kintbury councillor David Rowles has been forced to apologise for a breach of the code of conduct when he did not declare an interest in a planning application.

Meanwhile Cllr Warren Swaine and RBWM leader David Burbage wash their hands of improper behaviour with a declaration of their innocence.


Update: Elsewhere, Bracknell LibDem PPC Ray Earwicker points out that allowances provided by Bracknell Forest Borough Council "have always been among the highest" despite being among the smallest councils in the country. He says Conservative council leader Cllr Paul Bettison is given £38,000 in allowances plus £5,000 in subsistence expenses.

Oranjepan says:
Isn't it a strange coincidence that Berkshire's blogging representatives are more accountable - and those that don't, aren't!

Election Special: Local By-Election Results

Alice Murphy reports the results from Loddon Airfield and Wokingham Without wards.

Glenn Goodall is proud that LibDem Matt Hayward was able to win the Loddon Airfield seat from the Conservatives, despite or perhaps in part due to the bitchy attack from dyed-in-the-wool tories he is not 'local'.

Cllr Swaine suggests it may be exactly that 'arrogance' which was the decisive factor.

Conservative David Sleight won in Wokingham Without with a massive majority following the resignation of party predecessor Perry Lewis, who left under a cloud.

Fears of a strong showing for the BNP didn't materialise, even with Labour failing to field a candidate.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

It's Always Stay, Stay, Stay

As the selection process nears it's climax to decide who will replace veteran MP Martin Salter as Labour's next candidate in Reading West, calls are mounting for him to reconsider.

Local commentators suggest a hint of desperation is in the air as none of the list of possible alternatives appear likely to be able mount a challenge to hold the seat Mr Salter won last time round with a 4,500 majority - as readers can see for yourselves, frontrunners were already resorting to self-defence in the press rather than promoting any principles they stand for before the shortlist was announced.

Former Labour colleague, Jane Griffiths, finds such a development highly dubious and points out the likelihood that it is a manufactured ruse to get Mr Salter reinstated - a high probablilty considering the close links between the prominent local politician and the media outlet it appeared in.

LibDem opponents are even more scathing. Cllr Warren Swaine suggests such a ploy is a final attempt to save the Labour party's skin and avoid complete meltdown. Quoting a long-time Salter ally who holds a key position in the local party, he argues "It could be the first time a rat has joined a sinking ship!"

Update: Jane takes aim again, explaining that it would indeed be an exceptional circumstance for Mr Salter to be added to the ballot at this late stage. Cllr Swaine suggests Salter is merely keeping his career options open. Mr Salter himself says he is looking forward to offering the benefit of his experience to charity.

Wendy suggests these problems may all just be a simple mix-up of language! Okay, then.

Oranjepan says:
It is interesting to note the unsigned REP article no longer describes Mr Salter as having an unblemished expenses record - it has softened it's support of his 'angelic' behaviour and now only states he claimed no extravagant expenses during the past 4 years - which clearly indicates evidence exists that Mr Salter did make claims against the spirit of the rules from 1997 onwards.
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