Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Phone Masts On The Horizon

Anger is growing at official behaviour over dealings with unpopular planning applications for phone masts.

BBC Berkshire and Reading Evening Post both swallow an official explanation that administrative delays were pure oversight which meant a council objection for a 10m tall microwave transmitter in Caversham's Westdene Close was received one day after the 56-day period closed.

BBC South Today offers more sceptical line in response to Council spokesperson, Oscar Mortali explanation. "Records show the council sent first class a notice to Vodafone in 2006 refusing the application before the 56 days had expired," he said, adding that there would be an internal investigation.

Community representatives and activists must be left wondering if this pattern of behaviour will be repeated as the same company attempts to build a 12m mast in Lower Elmstone Way, Tilehurst.

Oranjepan asks:
RBC can either discover that they have made a cock-up (admit incompetence), that someone deliberately prevented the legal objection being lodged in time (which means there is a conspiracy) or that Vodafone is lying about when they received the objection - what should be done to ensure it doesn't happen again?

-

Update: Howard Thomas suggests RBC use recorded delivery next time.

Reading Festival Headliners Announced

Reading Festival organisers Festival Republic have announced headline acts for the 2009 August Bank Holiday weekend shows.

Tickets (price: £175 for the weekend or £70 for a day ticket, plus booking charge and car-park fees) went on sale from selected local distributors at 7.30pm yesterday, and online today.


Google keeps you up-to-date with reactions.

A March Walk

An estimated 35,000 people attended the G20 rally in London this past weekend.

The peaceful crowd ambled several miles through Westminster to their destination in Hyde Park, among them were two local Green Party members.

Adrian Windisch was confused at the choice of 'Labour's Tony Robinson' as a speaker. He writes that he found it "bizarre" - twice.

He also links to the Guardian liveblog of the march in which Mark Thomas explains people are marching to express their anger at the economic crisis.

Adrian Hollister reports Pam Cooper, who called for a "green New Deal" and said "the message of the day is... not more [of] the same old policies that got us in this mess."

Meanwhile Robin Smith defends capitalism and wealth creation as the way out of the economic problems and argues that we "are attempting to resolve at least three existential problems, occurring simultaneously," but we won't be able to address them successfully until we define their nature in detail.

Gideon Mack is more pointed - he doesn't think the marchers knew what they were trying to achieve.

In unrelated news 11,000 people decided to run Reading's annual half-marathon.

-

Update: Twyford-based lecturer for TVU, Sean Fleming explains his 'deep-seated mistrust' of all fundamentalists.

The Bursar thinks the G20 meeting won't make much difference either way.

Monday, 30 March 2009

What Is Europe For?

It appears that Europe has been on the minds of bloggers recently - it must be because there are European elections on June 4th, just over two months away.

At this time it becomes traditional to ask fundamental questions about the purpose and direction of our involvement in the multi-lateral institutions comprising the European Union.

Local councillor Dave Luckett trumpets the popularity of arch-Eurosceptic Conservative MEP Dan Hannan's recent 'shredding' of Gordon Brown in the European parliamentary chamber in Brussels and hints that Mr Hannan may be coming to Reading sometime "later this year" to tell us his opinion.

LibDems Mark Thompson and Paul Walter noted the irony of the spectacle - Mr Hannan was using the platform provided by his position despite wishing to give up this right with Britain's membership of the union.

Elsewhere Labour parliamentary candidate Anneliese Dodds took the opportunity to get her photo taken with Labour's one (and only) MEP for the region, Peter Skinner.

Paul Robins describes Mr Skinner as the kind of representative who gives politicians a bad name and comes close to telling us which way he is going to vote.

Separately Steve Borthwick has an interesting debate going about what the EU should stand for under the question of whether Turkey should be considered for membership.

Oranjepan asks:
Will you be voting on June 4th?

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Reports: Wokingham Councillor Resigns

It has been confirmed that former Council Leader and 13-year councillor for Wokingham Without, Perry Lewis has resigned with immediate effect.

The dramatic news is said to stem from Mr Lewis' desire to "spend more time with his family" and allow his party to develop new talent, according to his official statement.

Mr Lewis was also Chair of Wokingham Borough Council's finance scrutiny committee which is overseeing the investigation into decisions surrounding the council's investment of £5m into collapsed Icelandic Banks, Heritable and Landsbanki.

Labour blogger Andy Peacock suggests the the resignation is a preemptive response to the findings of the investigation and considers the news a positive morale boost to his party, despite the likelihood that the public funds are probably unrecoverable.

Cllr Lewis was a key member of the Conservative team which ousted the former minority Liberal Democrat administration by pledging to introduce a more competent economic regime.

-

Update: Wokingham BC "did no wrong" in making the investments.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Round-up: The Complete Jesse

Rev Jesse Jackson had a full schedule during his whistle-stop tour on the campaign trail ahead of the G20 meeting of global political leaders.

He started the day with a visit to the Lewisham City Learning Centre in inner London, where he met children participating in BBC's School Report project and was interviewed for BBC Online's Five Minutes feature.

After that he hotfooted his way to Westminster where he gave evidence to Home Affairs Select Committee about the subject of youth crime. Questions ranged from his views on weapons, to drugs and violence in the media.

Strikingly, Rev Jackson testified in contradiction of prevailing orthodoxy on all these issues.

He argued in florid language that law enforcement is inconsistent as it is primarily directed at suppressing those from poorer backgrounds and that tough punishment actually perpetuates social disadvantage.

He dismissed Monmouth Conservative MP David Davies, saying that far from being effective longer jail sentences enable inmates to learn "jail culture while trapped inside their walls".

He went on to contrast the problem of violent crime in the US and UK, where banning guns and knives are respectively the topic on the minds of legislators and the chattering classes.

Most controversially Rev Jackson also derided the assertion made by Reading West's own Labour MP, Martin Salter, that the media exerts total control over the minds of people (which will have irritated the Mr Salter after he campaigned forcefully in favour of a ban on violent imagery) and refuted a follow-up by the chairman of the committee (Labour MP for Leicester East, Keith Vaz) by stating that if there is in fact a link it is a more complex interplay of economics and environment.

Jim Sterling and Francis Sykora don't hold back in their contempt for Labour's position.

Game Politics provides a transcript and a video link for the record.

Guardian sketchwriter Simon Hoggard also covers the events from the Wellington Room in Westminster Palace, and you can almost hear him rolling his eyes and crossing his arms at the flawed political spectacle (at least from a Labour party perspective).

Daily Mail sketchwriter Quentin Letts is even more scornful. But in a polite way, of course.


By the evening however, Rev Jackson had adjusted his message to suit the desired political message of his host and his handler as he accompanied Keith Vaz and Martin Salter to the main set-piece rally at the heart of deprived West Reading.

Over 1,000 people were bussed in to pack the Globe Church on Portman Road for an event which was designed to send 'a message of hope, inspiration and encouragement' to the faithful.

Ayesha Sohpal, daughter of the Chairperson of Reading Council of Racial Equality and former Labour Mayor of Reading, Rajinder Sohpal, describes the intoxicating atmosphere in the hall.

BBC Berkshire provides detailed excepts of Rev Jackson's speech.

Martin Salter concentrates on himself by publishing his own speech. With no apparent trace of irony he managed to say:
"For the rich and powerful, for the vested interests and those who represent them - activism is threat, something to be constrained and controlled."
As part of the mutual backslapping of the organised events Rev Jackson awarded Mr Salter the Labour Party's 'Diversity Champion Award'.

After this it was back to London where Rev Jackson was awarded the 2009 Global Diversity Award in a ceremony where he was also reunited with Stuart Lockwood - Rev Jackson had been instrumental in negotiations helping to secure the release of the then 5-year-old when his family was taken hostage by Saddam Hussein following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991.

The final word goes to Reading Evening Post reporter Chine Mbubaegbu, who loses her perspective as she gets starstruck by the fame of the man and credits him with the efforts of millions of individual heroic actions by unseen, unnamed and unrecognized people in their own lives.

She says "meeting the 67-year-old was like meeting Superman".

-

Update: Jane is speechless and gobsmacked simultaneously.

Ian Thorpe is amused by the incomprehensible evangelism and asks why midnight basketball, when you can have midnight cricket?

Friday, 27 March 2009

Police Criticised in Woodley 'Terrorism' Row

An official complaint has been lodged by one of the men arrested for using a laser pen during an angling expedition.

The dispute surrounds claims by Police spokespeople that the arrest was made under Air Navigation laws, rather than anti-terror legislation. However, the angler is unequivocal that he was told "We take terrorism very seriously in Woodley" and that his wife was informed that this was the case.

The man from Tilehurst explained that he is concerned that the false record will affect his employment and travel options.

A Police spokesperson has commented that it is inappropriate to comment while an investigation is ongoing.

Local MP, Martin Salter, who represents the complainant and is also chairman of the parliamentary group representing anglers, has yet to air any concern in the matter.

Oranjepan says:
It's strange that the Police weren't worried about inappropriateness in the first instance, yet now they are!

Recommended Reading List #17

E-business entrepreneur James Gurd appears to be tendering for local authority business as he answers my question about the potential applications of social media in the public sector.

Following on from the debate surrounding local authority reporting, someone should really get in touch with him.

Local Communities And The Media

With the ongoing questions about the future of the media and the threat to local democracy this poses making it onto serious television where even commentators of dubious reputation start speaking sense, it is timely that Reading Chronicle rediscovers the lost journalistic art of investigation.

Over 30 councils already provide a webcast of their public sessions, illuminating the sometimes derisory state of actual debate among our elected representatives. The costs for set-up and operation vary from £14,000 to £25,000 annually, according to the report.

There appears to be universal support from residents, commentators, activists and politicians to encourage wider engagement in the political processes which decide the pattern of local life on everything from the state of rubbish collections through to funding for often invisible services like social support and care of the needy.

Basingstoke & Deane council IT manager Geraint Davies said that their experiments were considered a definite success after attendance at meetings jumped by 500% as people gained familiarity with previously misunderstood practices.

Community activist Colin Lee said "democracy needs to be transparent... anything which puts the activities of the council into the public domain has to be a good thing."

Opposition leaders offered their backing with the suggestion that greater knowledge of the behaviour of representative may change voting tendencies, while RBC Council leader, Labour's Cllr Jo Lovelock explained that openness is always beneficial.

All sides stressed the importance that costs needed to be controlled in order to ensure value for money on any service is provided.

Conservative MP for Reading East, Rob Wilson has also been making a lot of noise recently on the issue.

Mr Wilson criticised Labour for restricting openness over the implementation of the cross-party Sustainable Communities Act 2007, as Hazel Blears' Communities Ministry responded to a white paper consultation.

The main planks of the SCA revolve around the 'Communities In Control' white paper, which was discussed at length on the Liberal Conspiracy website (Ch1: Is the community empowerment plan any good?, Ch2: Can British citizens become active?, Ch3: Access to information, Ch4: Are petitions the way forward?, Ch5: Toying with elected mayors, Ch6: How to complain to councils, Ch7: Why don't more people get into politics?, Ch8: Can community assets work?).

Mr Wilson also spoke in a commons debate, arguing that funds used to pay for in-house publications (such as the recently axed Reading LIVE magazine) would be better spent subsidising local publishers and that this could be done "without compromising political balance and neutrality"

Oranjepan asks:
Finally we may be moving in a positive direction, but surely political balance and neutrality are different things - would the independence of the press be defended under any such moves?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Recommended Reading List #16

Naturalized local resident and acting royalty, Kenneth Branagh is interviewed by BBC Radio Berkshire's Phil Kennedy as part of the promotion for his latest film, The Boat That Rocked.

Branagh spent his formative years at Whiteknights Primary and then Meadway Comprehensive School. This helped him develop his striking accent which he describes as "somewhere between Belfast, Reading and RADA".

Mixed Reception For Rebranded Radio Station

Global Radio has undertaken a major promotional push to advertise their rebranding exercise for 'local' radio station Heart Berkshire.

Cynical commentators seem not to have been won completely over as suggested playlists have covered messageboards.

Requested songs include:
'A Good Heart Is Hard To Find'
'Money's Too Tight To Mention'
'The Best Things In Life Are Free'

The move is part of a wider corporate rebranding exercise which involves cost-cutting on a national scale and reduces all locally-produced output. Now only peak-hour breakfast and evening 'drive-time' slots will be broadcast from the Calcot studios to catch potential listeners trapped in cars on their daily commute.

Oranjepan says:
This is more rationalisation in the local media marketplace happening under our noses.

If Heart truly aspires to the 'local' tag they should really broadcast more relevant local events and issues.

RACE To Save Uni Department

Protesters have gathered to demonstrate their feelings against the proposed closure of another department at Reading University.

The School of Continuing Education organises and runs around 40 classes on a short or part-time basis in a mix of day and evening schedules, including such subjects as Sandra Smith's forthcoming day school at Reading Museum on British Master Drawings on Saturday 17th October.

Reading University has said a funding shortfall has left it with 'no choice' but to close departments outside it's priority areas, irrespective of the economic viability of those departments - as was seen last week when the University Council voted overwhelmingly to shut the profitable School of Health and Social Care, which also fulfills a vital social function as the only training college for social workers in the region.

Reading Liberal Democrats have been outspoken in their criticism of the University authorities and have offered their full support to the campaigners efforts.

LibDems education spokesperson on RBC, Cllr Kirsten Bayes commented, "These cuts are absurd. They come at the worst possible time for the thousands of local people being made redundant, who are looking to retrain in order to resume their careers."[1]

The University issued a press release explaining their decision to cut the public programme of courses in which Pro-Vice Chancellor (Enterprise) Prof Christine Williams explained the cut in ELQ support will impact funding for over 55% of students enrolling on the open programme courses as well as 37% of Certificate students. She says that if the department were forced to remain open it would require a subsidy of about £500,000 per year to cover the lost grant from taxpayers funds allocated by central government.

Lindsay Mullaney who has helped set up the campaign web-site Reading Action on Continuing Education described the news as "a huge blow to hundreds of people" and hopes that the campaigners efforts will help secure alternate arrangements to ensure that high-quality courses remain available to those who want to keep their brains active into later life.

Neighbour Paul Kingston, who helped set up the site, explained that he was drawing on his knowledge from studying 'The Terrible 20th Century' to conclude that the decision to close the school is "absolutely ridiculous".

Reading University Senate will discuss the recommendation 'in the summer term' before a final decision is made in July by the University Council.

Oranjepan asks:
Is this what is meant by 'lifelong learning strategy'?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Civil Rights Leader to Address Church

Veteran US civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson is to speak at the Globe Church in Portman Road tonight at 7.30pm.

He is expected to cover the issues of faith and empowerment, drawing on his experience of four decades as an outspoken critic and activist. Rev Jackson twice contended selection for the US Presidency and operates his own political advocacy group RainbowPUSH Coalition.

Local MP Martin Salter was enthusiastic that he'd agreed to attend what is effectively a Labour party rally, as rumours abound about attempts to get the endorsement of President Obama ahead of the next general election.

-

Update: Expat Elizabeth Thomas also reports.

Salter's Fuel Poverty Sham

Martin Salter has declared himself 'disappointed' at the failure of David Heath MP's bill on fuel poverty to receive the 100 votes necessary for it to get a second reading, despite receiving cross-party support.

Mr Heath was applauded from all sides of the house for bringing the bill and gained 172 signatures in support to bring it to this stage, yet the LibDem member for Somerton and Frome failed at the first hurdle despite gaining the overwhelming support of voting members in the House of Commons - 89 for to 2 against.

Of the 94 voters, 20 Conservatives (out of 193), 28 Labour (out of 350), 45 Liberal Democrats (out of 63) and 1 independent were counted through the lobbies.

13 Tories who signed the bill did not vote, as did 58 Labour and 17 LibDem members.

Conservative shadow energy minister Charles Hendry expressed 'profound concern', while LibDems are angry at the apparent betrayal for partisan motives.

As Alix Mortimer comments:
"Labour, the supposed party of the working man and the disadvantaged, has prevented its own people from supporting the cause of some of the poorest people in society all for the sake of not having an opposition bill go through."
Conservative MP for Reading East, Rob Wilson did not sign the bill and did not vote.

Mr Salter states that he will continue to lobby ministers to take necessary action.

Oranjepan says:
If Mr Salter really cared about the vulnerable in society he would have been better advised to lobby any 11 of his 58 party colleagues who signed the bill not to leave work early on a Friday afternoon than to waste his time with ministers who have ulterior motives.

-

Update: Reading LibDems pick up on this story, attacking the inaction of their Conservative counterparts despite 'official' support for the bill.

Anarchist Underground Breaks Cover

Rasputin has recorded the 2nd L&S National Conference which took place in Reading last weekend.

The 'Liberty & Solidarity' party was only founded six months ago as a new left-wing splinter group, and has since worked to bring together class-struggle, anarchist and anti-capitalist activists, according to their statement.

The movement had been given a massive boost by the the issue of the Katesgrove Community Garden, organised through the Common Ground collective, which joined Reading Grassroots Action last year.

Here is a quick round-up of what lead to this point:
5th June 2007, the gardeners are issued with an eviction notice to allow for development of the site;
4th September 2008, the gardeners receive 'temporary garden status', defeating the eviction and agreeing the need for additional green sites;
15th January 2009, RGA agrees in principle the terms for leasing the land.

The Common Ground MySpace page provides further background. Readers can discover more ultra-local actions through the Guerrilla Gardening noticeboard.

Rasputin claims L&S is motivated by the failure of the Labour party to organise workers interests in the interests of the workers themselves.

He reports that the party agreed to formulate organising and fundraising departments, training programs and work to modernise trade union procedures. Additionally motions were passed agreeing the need for an 'organisationally disciplined, united and pragmatic anarchist international', a 'reorganisation of the international labour movement' and a framework for domestic and global solidarity action.

L&S welcomed Reading Grassroots Action into their alliance and set out a framework for recruitment applications.

Rasputin also described optimistic cameraderie of the atmosphere among those present as the discussions continued well into the night.

Oranjepan asks:
Will this new party stand candidates at election time, or are they just seeking to organise protests to build for revolutionary change?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Fear, Flying And Fishing

Outrage has struck local shores as news breaks that three residents have been arrested while enjoying the quiet sociable pastime of angling.

The incident began during the evening of Friday 7th March at the popular South Lakes location when a green laser pen, which was being used to deter ducks from diving after fish bait and getting their beaks hooked, was confiscated by two PCSO's.

A short time later a full-scale anti-terror operation was underway as 'at least' seven police officers stormed the scene and arrest anyone present, while a round-up operation was instigated to catch anyone who'd left the scene.

Apparently this follows a complaint from one pilot on 26th February that his aircraft was being targetted as he entered the approaches to Heathrow airport.

The men were arrested for 'endangering aircraft' and have had their DNA and fingerprints added to national databases.

Local LibDems have repeated their warnings about the public risk from thousands of new laws which can be applied without preamble.

Cllr Tom McCann said "These were all local men who knew some of the police officers involved... It doesn’t seem possible to me that the police really thought they were terrorists."

Reading East parliamentary candidate, Cllr Gareth Epps, described the events as a "surreal spectacle" and said he expected the matter would not end here.

Mark Reckons that the laws have been applied in a way which was not foreseen, that is, if any arrest was justified in the first place. He explains how this incident is reminiscent of veteran Labour activist and holocaust survivor, Walter Wolfgang, who was detained under anti-terrorism laws for heckling the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

Mark continues, "far too often, once the laws are [enacted] unintended consequences come to pass and the transient assurances from here today, gone tomorrow ministers are [proved] worthless".

Oranjepan says:
Now you know - don't scare the ducks, even if it is for their own benefit!

Perhaps these policemen could have attempted to engage these law-abiding citizens by providing useful information prior to any incident, rather than allowing the problems to escalate through neglect and then overreacting to cover up their own irresponsibility.

Through their confrontational behaviour these police have undermined respect for civil authority which weakens their ability to call for cooperation in other areas - criminals are rejoicing!

-

Update: Janestheone provides her commentary.

Mick identifies a prime suspect.

Graspthemettle provides a full commentary. Paul says the subject raises more questions than it answers, as highlighted by a cynical friend who said "I bet it was a police helicopter that flew low and slow overhead".

Meanwhile, Martin Salter MP has been re-elected as chair of the Parliamentary Angling Group, which is charged with defending the interests of anglers... where was he on this issue?

Taking The Mickey

Discontent over the hastily arranged and cancelled Heavenly Festival continues to circulate around the grapevine.

Melinda Webb proves the local newspaper isn't just a mouthpiece for party propaganda by ridiculing Labour councillor Graeme Hoskin.

Mick also pokes some fun.

Out 'N' About

Now that the sun is shining local councillors and activists have been pounding the streets and knocking on doors like there's no tomorrow - and they have the evidence to prove it too!

Check out some of their photos here, here and here.

Well, OK, that last one is a stock photo - maybe we could have had a smile instead?

Meanwhile Martin Salter has accompanied a class of teenagers on a visit to southern Poland.

Oranjepan says
It's almost like election fever has struck!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Now Chronicle Downgrades News

In the latest development to hit local newsstands Reading Chronicle has announced it is to reduce its format and become a weekly tabloid.

The news follows hot on the heels of the decision by Reading Evening Post to start publishing on a bi-weekly basis, down from 5-times per week.

The Berkshire Media Group-owned Chronicle claimed a weekly circulation of 9,392 in the second-half of 2008.

The Press Gazette reports that the local paper decided to take the momentous decision in response to an 'overwhelming demand' from readers, who apparently said that this more modern format better suited their needs.

Tories In Retreat Over 'Tax Wars'

Local Conservatives have got themselves hot under the collar at the tactics journalists will go to to tell a story.

The issue surrounds ongoing questions over whether or not the Conservative party is a 'tax-cutting' party. It follows the ambivalent description from shadow Chancellor George Osborne MP that a future Conservative government would "share the proceeds of growth". How this applies in the current recession is unknown.

This week Mr Osborne refused to oppose a government proposal to increase income tax on earnings above £150,000 pa with the addition of a new top-end 45p tax band.

Apparently Wokingham MP John Redwood was tapped up to be the lone voice of opposition to a Labour plan to raise income tax. He explains that the tax rise could delay economic recovery, although he neglects to address questions of how the currently ballooning deficit can be kept under control.

RBMW council leader, David Burbage, is less detailed but more explicit about the threat to his party from such a line of questioning.

Normally an internal debate on party policy wouldn't be much to comment about, but this row has spilled over into the MSM as journalists note the massive divide between 'ordinary' Conservative party members and their 'leaders'.

The favorite of the tory faithful, Iain Dale, cites Boris Johnson, who spoke out on this national issue (despite no longer being a national figure). Dale also highlights a corruscating attack against David Cameron's right-hand man by the party's membership site.

And rumble on the story has...

Osborne's deputy, shadow Business spokesman Ken Clarke MP, has been forced to 'clarify' his statement during a TV interview that cutting inheritance tax is an "aspiration" and "not a high priority".

Conservative party bosses moved quickly to deny they face a 'tough choice' to reject tax cuts in favour of stabilising public finances, but nobody is convinced.

In a rare show of unity The Times, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail all agree that the Conservatives are in disarray over the issue.

Oranjepan says:
These senior Tories protest too much for there to be no truth to reports of internal divisions at the very top of the party - with a general election looming the public needs to be clear about the choices on offer and whether a party is likely to keep or renege its' promises.

-

Update: Sky News' Joey Jones writes on Adam Boulton's blog (another renowned Reading expat) that a lack of clarity cannot help tory election hopes.

Mark Reckons Ken Clarke is a loose cannon.

Cllr Willis gives his opinion of Conservative tax policy and only muddies the water further.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

A Word In Your Ear...

A spat has broken out between Reading Borough Council's ruling Labour party and the Local Government Association (which represents RBC's interests in Whitehall).

It all started when the LGA sent out a list of 200 words which it advised should be avoided in any communications to help ensure efficient access to services. Reading's Labour group saw an opportunity for a cheap headline and responded by accusing the LGA of trying to ban certain words and phrases.

Labour's Jo Lovelock later admitted the tactic as she explained she has some real 'bugbears' herself, "we can all do better," adding, "I don’t think there is any intention to baffle or hide anything. Local government can be complex."

The artificially concocted argument is mocked by our local satirist, although REP hack Paul Cassell could hardly be described as taking the assignment seriously in the first place.

In a completely unrelated story, researchers at Reading University have discovered what they claim to be the oldest words in the English language (and no, they aren't Anglo-Saxon epithets).

Oranjepan asks:
Would Labour start a fight with their own reflection if it satisfied their egocentric need for publicity?

-

Cllr Dave Luckett investigates which councillors are guilty of linguistic abuse.

Martin Salter in Corruption Probe?

It has taken 18 months, but now the Information Commissioner has informed Reading Borough Council that it was wrong to obstruct a Freedom of Information request regarding communications sent between senior officers at the Borough Council and the MP for Reading West, Labour's Martin Salter.

Cllr Warren Swaine has further details of officer's non-compliance with the ruling of the Information Commisioner, while Janestheone digests the information in her own way.

Oranjepan asks:
How much deeper are Labour going to dig their own graves?

Big Politics On The Big Screen

Cinema is increasingly becoming a forum for political debate and campaigning.

Following on from films like An Inconvenient Truth and Taking Liberties we have The Age Of Stupid, which recently came to a silver screen near you.

IMDb reviewers are scathing about the 'peril porn' presented in this cinematic offering, explaining that the 'worthwhile and important message' is 'diluted and diverted' towards overtly and overly-partisan messages, which only appeal to the already converted.

The film features veteran Labour party activist Pete Poselthwaite and looks back at the world from 2050 in the aftermath of apocalyptic climate change.

It certainly grabbed the attention of several local commentators.

Neville Hobson is impressed with the coordinated multi-media promotion of the film.

Green Party activists Rob White and Adrian Windisch were overjoyed by the self-affirming vindication of their beliefs and the opportunity to network among like-minded people, although Adrian did detect a strong bias towards Labour during proceedings.

Reading Energy Pioneers had an obvious commercial interest in cross-promoting the event.

On the wider web American environmental activist Pincas Jawetz excitedly disobeys advice to watch the film locally (to cut down on carbon emmissions) and uses the premier as an excuse to fly a detour while on her way to Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile William Shaw explains the film's 'exemplary' model of inspiring political activism.

Robin Sivapalan is more sceptical about the purposes of the film. He describes how the entertainment was really only a preamble for the 'real stars' to build a political platform for Labour party Environment Minister, Ed Miliband MP and his below-the-radar Labour party leadership bid - suddenly the purpose of the 'Not Stupid' campaign in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in December becomes clear!

Meanwhile Mike Hulme offers his viewpoint from the BBC's Green Room with a report from Copenhagen's Climate Science Conference, which the release of the film was coordinated to coincide with.

He says that calls for 'immediate action' have been lost in the noise because it is unclear who is saying what and nobody really knows what they should be doing - politicians who've hijacked such campaigns for career advancement do so at the risk of undermining the cause.

Oranjepan asks:
Has the release of this film helped prevent the apocalypse, or has it created a self-fulfilling prophecy?

-

Update: Debby Lloyd from environmental recruitment firm EcoSearch asks 'is it too late?' at dot.green

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Recommended Reading List #15

In a slightly off-beat article, Anna Roberts provides startling evidence of the way the economy is hitting the citizens of Reading.

Of 49 'pauper's funerals' carried out by RBC in the past 5 years, 12 people were buried in 2007 and 7 in 2008 at the expense of local taxpayers, despite records showing there were almost none before 2000!

University Development Plans

Reading University may be closing highly-regarded and valuable departments as fast as it can, but this isn't stopping it from moving ahead with plans to transform itself into a corporate entity.

RU plans to build over 800,000 sq ft of building space for companies in a technology park at Cutbush Lane in Shinfield.

Consultation organisers promoted the plans by arguing that "Reading needs more economic development in this area," although they did not comment on how the proposals have been effected by previous decisions by Reading University to close down departments.

Members of the public are encouraged to 'Have Your Say' on the Cutbush Lane development, the plans can be viewed here and you can give feedback here.

-

Update: Reading Chronicle reports that fears are increasing as the plans evolve and the scale of the proposed development increases.

University Council Votes to Close SHSC

Reading University's Council has voted to close it's School of Health and Social Care.

The decision is reported to have been made with 23 votes in favour of the proposal, 4 against and 1 abstention.

The news comes as a blow to activists who have mounted a vigorous campaign to save the facility which united staff, students, professionals, local residents, borough councillors and which attracted widespread support against the unpopular move.

The British Association of Social Workers offered a stark warning about how the future of the profession will be affected by the closure, already suffering from a lack of adequate training in what is a highly sensitive area. Numerous local authorities have been hit by scandal as the the pool of proficient social workers has not been able to fulfill needs and this situation is only expected to worsen.

The school has about 350 students enrolled on courses, graduating 65 new social workers each year, in addition to providing a high-level education for nurses and counsellors.

The school has closed its doors to new registrations and will now set up a restructuring committee and transition management group.

LibDem Councillor, Daisy Benson, who proposed a motion opposing the closure which gained all-party support, writes her view of the story here.

She describes the decision as 'arrogant and illogical', explaining that the decision contravenes the University's strategic plan by talking up its responsibility to staff and students while ignoring its statutory responsibility to competent economic management and to serve community interests.

SHSC administrators have flatly denied there is a financial case for the closure, pointing out that the school is profitable overall and actually provides sizable contributions to the University's balance sheet.

However the University of Reading remains under financial pressure after a 4% reduction in grant funding from HEFCE*.

Meanwhile it is also reported that University Vice-Chancellor, Prof Gordon Marshall, who oversees and directs policy at the institution, received an inflation-busting 8% increase to his personal salary to £217,513 pa.

-

*The HEFCE grant allocation formula stresses research funding. Reading's funding reduction stems from a similar decision to close the internationally-renowned physics department, which had a specialisation in research.

-

Update: Reading Chronicle provides a unique insight - into the depth and bredth of it's reporting abilities.

107fm crackles to life.

Heart arrives, late on the scene.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Truth Is Out There

Witness Jo from Reading has reported to UK-UFO the sighting on 14th March of "4 orange round glowing lights moving along in sequence".

On a completely unrelated topic, Adventure Balloons advertises the start of it's summer season of ballooning in the Reading area. Rides can be organised from launch sites in Padworth and Reading.

Adventure Balloons encourage you to wave off your loved ones "as the huge, dome like structure slowly rises into the sky".

Festival Or Farcical?

Former Labour councillor John Howarth has provided his insiders' view from the Labour camp on the Heavenly Festival saga.

Howarth says it's "better to cut your losses than have a farce on your hands".

He explains how political correctness inside Labour trumped financial competence, and then exposes his true character when he says it made him want to "drive a Humvee through the campsite wielding an AK47".

Meanwhile Reading Borough Council has echoed Cllr Hoskins line that "people everywhere are tightening their belts and making savings" by blaming external forces for the sudden policy reversal, rather than accept any fault for bad planning of their own.

Unsurprisingly this 'official' opinion has been picked up by a range of industry sources: Billboard, NME, efestivals, AHN, Event magazine and RTV.

Oranjepan asks:
Is it appropriate that the public bureaucracy promotes an overtly partisan viewpoint?

-

Update: Here's Jane's take.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Recommended Reading List #14

Bob Sherwood of the FT visits town, using Reading as a barometer for the state of the downturn in the national economy.

He notes that the downturn in the local commercial property market is a result of over-supply as much as the credit crunch, but the broad base of the economy Reading's unrivalled position as an exporter makes it more robust and able to withstand pressure on credit supply and currency devaluations.

A Hole Lotta Money, But Is It Art?

Howard Thomas, has followed up on reports to ask about the value for money provided by over £100,000 in section 106 money given by Tesco to fund a piece of public art. He points out that protected trees illegally felled during the development could have been replaced and may actually have been a better use of the developer's financial contribution.

Section 106 money is a community 'sweetener' to ameliorate the impact of a new development, but which in many cases is abused as an unaccountable slush fund and as such can produce variable results. In the case of the supermarket development on the site of the former Battle Hospital, ward councillor Tony Jones has consistently [1, 2, 3] questioned the project and the public consultation designed to involve local residents in agreeing the design of the artwork.

Meanwhile, Labour culture spokesman, Cllr Graeme Hoskin, has defended the project after Tesco complained about rising cleaning and maintenance costs it would be forced to shoulder.

Oranjepan says:
It seems everybody is unhappy, except for Cllr Hoskin!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

'Shreddergate' Breaks

More news emerges of behind-the-scenes goings-on at Reading Civic Centre.

REP reports an 'insider' who claims to have seen evidence of a cover-up operation by staff, which may or may not relate to the investigation into Children's Services in the borough following the death of Child T (and which has uncovered a mass of bad practice and scandal in the local political administration dating back years).

Janestheone has jumped immediately to take the bait and used it as further evidence to condemn her former colleagues.

Oranjepan asks:
Someone has a guilty conscience, but who and why?

-

Update: Cllr Warren Swaine is not surprised, but is still outraged by the news.

Cllr Richard Willis has his say, playing judge, jury and executioner, while stating that investigations remain ongoing.

Howard Thomas has his say.

Axe Swings On Heavenly Festival

Reading Borough Council Cabinet has announced that the free festival planned for Rivermead this summer is a to be cancelled of the savings to be found in the annual budget.

Reading Borough Council has declared the event to be a casualty of the 'credit crunch'.

Labour councillors continue to complain that cuts found in the on-going budgetary review are hitting front-line services, while opposition representatives responded that all cuts are a consequence of bad planning, bad management and profligacy.

Labour spokesman for culture, Cllr Graeme Hoskins, said he was disappointed at the news after being forced to make such a high profile and sudden U-turn.

Oranjepan says:
Cllr Hoskins is left with a lot of egg on his face.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Environmental Rescue

BBC Berkshire notes the annual voluntary effort to make an environmental difference at a community level.

LibDem Cllr Ricky Duveen got his hands dirty helping the clean-up in Blundell's Copse and provides an explanation for the social causes which contribute to this problem, while Rob White advertises his activity in Newtown.

Here are links to the two organising websites run by Reading Borough Council and sponsor Thames Water.

Update: Rob White reports back.

REP provides a photo, eventually.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Support For Campaign Against Course Closures Come From Far Afield

South-coast local authority representatives Cllr John De Mierre and Cllr Pat Arculus have offered official backing from West Sussex County Council to help the campaign against Reading University's proposed closure of its School of Health and Social Care.

The councillors, who are the West Sussex Cabinet members for Adults’ Services and for Children and Young People’s Services respectively, have written to Secretary of State Ed Balls to say that "With the present shortage of social workers nationally, such a proposal causes us deep concern."

Conservative-dominated West Sussex is one of eight councils across the country reported by Ofsted for providing 'inadequate' levels of care for children, but according to Ombudsmen still has 'a long way to go' to make sufficient improvements.

The government has intervened with nine councils, as 22 local authorities showed a decline in performance. A massive shake-up in assessment has been announced following the loss of confidence in the system of 'star-ratings'.

Rumour Has It...

...that a former PPC for Oxford West and Abingdon may be selected to contend Reading West for Labour at the next General Election. Antonia Bance is a councillor for the Rose Hill and Iffley ward of Oxford City Council and blogs here.

Oranjepan asks:
Is this an interloper about to be parachuted in?

-

Update: Labour responds in an attempt to quell the speculation, while Jane gossips that this shows the intimate connections between the establishment politicians and their favoured media partners.

Oranjepan asks:
Is the process of decising Labour party candidates done by selection or by election?

Saturday, 14 March 2009

'Caveman' Haunts Salter

Martin Salter MP has had a busy week!

In addition to proposing an Early Day Motion he has used strong language in a the House of Commons to attract attention to his attack on Conservatives who oppose a move to allow members of the UK Youth Parliament to use the House of Commons for their annual conference.

But it is interesting to note that he is largely ignored during reporting.

Update: Janestheone identifies a change of emphasis and suggests an attempt at backsliding.

Sam Ellis is the chair of the Board of Trustees of the UK Youth Parliament. He reports on his blog 'From the Mind of Sam'.

...Now Open Courses Are To Close

Hyperactive Redlands councillor, Daisy Benson, notes a new threat to Reading University following the cut in their HEFCE grant.

Pro-vice chancellor Professor Christine Williams explained that subsidised courses cannot be afforded, although UCU General Secretary blamed bad management for the funding problems

Reading LibDems are on the ball, providing a variety quotes from spokespeople, including RUSU Mature Students Officer, Karl Hobley, who said,
"This is [not just] bad news for mature students, but bad news for the local economy, the region, the University as a whole, Readings' widening participation agenda and staff now about to lose their jobs.
Now more than ever we need a government who think long term, who look after students and local people - unlike the current lot!"
-

Update: Ben Rice notes the funding cut
threatens a diverse range of courses at both the University of Reading and TVU.

Friday, 13 March 2009

K's The Word!

John Madejski this week visited Buckingham Palace to formally receive his kinghthood.

Here is a round-up of reports: BBC Berkshire, Reading Evening Post, Reading Chronicle and for spice, the Rye and Battle Observer.

Meanwhile, Martin Salter MP has received widespread coverage for proposing a populist Early Day Motion to strip the title from Sir Fred Goodwin, the banking chief who ran RBS almost into the ground and is getting a huge pension for doing so now that he's been removed due to political pressure.

Mr Salter describes to Paul Waugh the symbolic nature of his move, although the issue goes 'way beyond' just one man, as LibDem Treasury spokesmanVince Cable MP explains, "There are other knights who are also absolutely culpable and should be treated in exactly the same way."

Raedwald makes a dissimilar point, and does so much more crudely.

Nevertheless the Fabian Society's Sunder Katwala is impressed, but doubts the likelihood of any action resulting from the move, while his readers would prefer a different focus. PhD student Becky says,
"It is a convenient smoke screen for the government to hide behind and to stop people talking about the economic mess we find ourselves in now."

Oranjepan says:
It's looking like one-in, one-out at the Palace!

GMG Rationalisation Starts

Following the news that the Reading Evening Post is to undergo radical changes as a result of their parent company's financial trouble, reports are filtering in of additional consequences to effect the company.

Wokingham Times Editor, Kim Chapman, described the move of the paper's editorial offices to what will become a regional hub in Reading for Surrey & Berkshire Media as "survive and thrive."

Oranjepan asks:
How long will it be before these two local newspapers are amalgamated?

AWE Liaison Committee Report

Councillor Willis has reported on his attendance of the Local Liaison Committee for AWE Aldermaston.

He states that he was briefed on the infrastructure, travel plans and environmental maintenance facilities before receiving a reports from the Environment Agency and the Food Standards Agency.

This is of particular relevance because these were the main issues raised by the Nuclear Awareness Group in their 16 page objection to the application to upgrade the site.

Cllr Willis also details his visit to the site which he describes as "one of the interesting fringe benefits of being a councillor," however he doesn't state his opinion regarding the establishment.

Oranjepan says:
Intriguing fringe benefits indeed!

Wilson Blunders On The Big Stage

Reading East MP, Rob Wilson, has has attracted the critical ire of the sketch-writer for posing an oddly personal question during the main set-piece parliamentary event of the week at Westminster.

Hansard records his question: "Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): What has the Prime Minister bought as a direct result of the cut in VAT?"

Simon Hoggart reports that a peal of backbenchers chimed in: "Time!"

Meanwhile the Spectator's Coffee House Blog attempted to spare Mr Wilson's blushes during what they described as a 'non-combative' affair.

Peter Hoskin liveblogged: 1228: A perfect opportunity for Brown to push one of his favourite dividing lines. A Tory MP (I missed who) asked what the PM has "bought due to the VAT cut". Brown responds that only the Tories could "scorn" an attempt to help "hard-working families".

Oranjepan says:
Mr Wilson got the mood of the chamber all wrong.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Electoral Fraud - Convictions Gained

Six men from Slough have been convicted at Reading Crown Court following the unexpected election of a Conservative councillor for Central Ward in the Slough Borough Council local authority elections of 2007.

Raja Khan, who was the victorious candidate in the disputed election, along with accomplices Gul Nawaz Khan, Mohammed Khan, Arshad Raja, Mahboob Khan and Altaf Khan were all found guilty of a variety of charges which amounted to a conspiracy to rig the vote by registering large numbers of 'ghost' voters.

Conservative former deputy Mayor, Mohammed Aziz, was found 'not guilty' of involvement in the matter as the jury was unable to reach a decision. Prosecutors said they would not seek a retrial.

The six men will return to court on 1st May for sentencing.

Raja Khan has since been expelled from the Conservative party and is also likely to barred from standing as a candidate at future elections.

Oranjepan asks:
Will/should Slough Conservatives now reinstate Mohammed Aziz's membership?

-

History: Electoral Fraud Case Opens

What Shall We Do With The Civic Centre?

Cllr Glenn Goodall reports on the Civic Board meeting he has attended to discuss the future accomodation of Reading Borough Council administration facilities.

The debate over the future of the Civic Centre has apparently turned into a significant political issue which the different parties disagree on.

Oranjepan says:
It will be interesting to follow any developments.

University Senate Vote

Yesterday Reading University Senate supported the recommendation by managers to close the School of Health and Social Care, despite a concerted campaign by students, staff, residents, professional and democratic representatives and everyone all the way up to and including Reading Borough Council Chief Executive, Michael Coughlin.

Ann Quinn, of the UCU staff body at the school, complained that University bookkeepers were attempting to make the decision in isolation, without any accountability. The school is financially self-sustaining and performs an essential public service role training skilled social workers in a sensitive sector with many vacancies.

The decision will now move to a final stage where it will require confirmation by the University Council on 20th March.

Redlands LibDems have reported back on the decision to go ahead with the closure.

UCU branch secretary Ian Bland notes that the campaigning efforts have not been wasted as the Senate was split over the decision, returning a vote of 32 for the closure, 27 against with 6 abstentions - ie by a plurality of votes, not an overall majority.

This actual result of the vote shows how contentious the decision is proving to be, and that it could yet be reversed as pressure mounts.

LibDem Parliamentary spokesman for Reading East, Cllr Gareth Epps, has also commented, explaining how the proposed closure contravenes recommendations made in the Laming Report - a view also held by Michael Gove MP.

A public meeting has been organised for 7.00pm-9.00pm on 16th March in Waterhouse Chambers, Reading Town Hall.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

REP RIP?

Trade Union leader and Independent councillor for Battle ward, Tony Jones, reports that the proud purveyors of news to the local community, the Reading Evening Post, is to cut back publication from 5 to only 2-days-per-week.

The Press Gazette broke the story, saying 95 staff will be made redundant, including 35 from editorial divisions.

Over 12,000 daily readers will be disappointed at the reduction in news reporting and the burden will inevitably be picked up by the license-fee funded BBC, which quotes GMG Regional Media CEO, Mark Dodson. Apparently GMG is searching for a lower-cost business model.

Cllr Jones also mentions the competition traditional newsprint media is facing from the likes of faster-moving formats, arguing that newsprint is a vital cog in the information network which keeps communities functioning effectively and efficiently - this is a hint towards GMG mission statement to 'adhere to principles of decency and public service', asserted by founder CP Scott that newspapers have 'a moral as well as material existence'.

Reading Evening Post is owned by the Labour-supporting Guardian Media Group (GMG) which has announced a profit warning for the 2008/09 financial period with the expectation of further reductions in 2009/10 as a combination of increased competition and weaker demand takes hold.

NUJ head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick said, "Once again journalists are paying the price for the short-sighted policies of newspaper management."

Reading Evening Post declared average circulation of 12,879 in the second half of 2008.

Google aggregates more.

Oranjepan asks:
Is this the point at which commercial reality reasserts itself over political idealism?

-

Reading List awaits the verdict of Janestheone, who has fought a long personal vendetta against REP editor Andy Murrill.

Updates: Cllr Richard Willis catches on.

Janestheone has no remorse, while Muckspreading throws a scoring suckerpunch.

REP's own report quotes Reading Evening Post editor, Andy Murrill, who said the organisation was "building on it's position of strength".

Greater Reading LibDems have released a statement from Reading East PPC, Cllr Gareth Epps, who said, "Everyone I've spoken to is shocked that the Post itself may become a casualty of the recession. Local newspapers are hugely important to local communities. I hope that other ways can be found for the paper to survive and grow back."

Matt Brady at Reading Roars has also commented and advertises the facebook group set up by Cllr Jones, which already has over 100 members.

The Daily Whinge, well, whinges.

Reading List awaits developments at Reading Chronicle.

Cousin Gideon thinks they've got what they deserve.

Editorial: Some New Additions

Thank you to Readers for all the suggestions you've been sending.

Reading List welcomes all contributions which you can make in the comments sections or send to Oranjepan at the email address on his profile page.

The more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed the growth of Reading List to include additional blogs and local political website resources.

Among the more notable additions include astronomer and legendary guitar-hero Brian May's Soapbox, as well as John O'Farrell's Newsbiscuit, who stood as a "no-hope Labour candidate in the 2001 general election in his home town of Maidenhead" [1].

Latest Deblog Update

Welcome to Debbie McGee, who writes The Deblog advertising her weekly radio show at 9am on Sundays for BBC Radio Berkshire.

In her latest escapade she celebrates the 50th birthday of Barbie and learns "how wives and girlfriends can help their man look for symptoms of prostate cancer", but thankfully not at the same time.

Now that's the lot of a magician's assistant!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

University Senate to Decide Fate of Department

Campaigners will receive the support of University College Union General Secretary Sally Hunt at a protest tommorrow as local residents, staff and students unite to lobby a meeting of the University Senate against the proposed closure of Reading University's School of Health and Social Care.

"There is no logic whatsoever in closing this school. It provides invaluable training and is completely self-sustaining... Reading should be at the forefront of provision not scaling things back," said Ann Quinn, representative of Reading UCU.

Protesters will meet at 1.30pm tomorrow outside the Agriculture Building on the Earley Gate Campus ahead of the Senate meeting which is due to start at 2.30pm.

'Max The Tax'

Council Tax disputes continue to enflame political debate across Berkshire as opposition parties have warned residents that rises are set to continue as the economy spirals downwards and borough revenues suffer, while suggestions continue that any below-inflation rises in council tax will be offset by massive increases on various charges such as parking fees, burial charges and miscellaneous fines.

Here is a round-up of the headline amounts residents across the county can expect to pay in Council Tax for 2009/10 for Band D properties (as calculated according to local house prices between 1991 and 1994):

£1,305.50 +4.9% - Bracknell Forest
£1,467.43 +3.99% - Reading
£1,335.19 +4.9% - Slough*
£1,490.28 +3.9% - West Berkshire**
£1,277.05 +1.9% - Windsor & Maidenhead***
£1,434.55 +4.68% - Wokingham

*excluding local parishes
**Newbury
***Maidenhead

It should also be added that house prices vary according to area and cannot make accurate comparisons, consequently tax levels are adjusted to account for the proportion of properties in each band in different local authorities.

Therefore a better form of comparison are the average annual figures of Council Tax payable per household across Berkshire for 2009/10 [1]:

£1,237 - Bracknell Forest
£1,190 - Reading
£1,087 - Slough
£1,436 - West Berkshire
£1,386 - Windsor & Maidenhead
£1,482 - Wokingham

-

Notes: The average level of Band D Council Tax for all unitary authorities across England in 2009/10 will be £1,413.85, which represents a mean average rise of 3.0% and compares to the average Band D rate in 2008/09 of £1,373.08, a rise of 3.9% from 2007/08. Rises are capped at 5%.

The adjusted annual rate of inflation fell from 3.1% to 3.0% in the first two months of 2009.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Save SHSC Campaign Grows

Michael Coughlin, Chief Executive of Reading Borough Council has written to Reading University to express his 'deep concern' at the proposal to close the School of Health and Social Care at the end of the current intake of students in 2011.

Borough councillors unanimously passed a LibDem motion condemning the move on 24th February, which comes after the tragic death of Child T, ultimately caused by a lack of properly trained social workers and bad management practices, and despite reports stating the school remains profitable overall.

Councillors insist that the public service case is therefore unanswerable and that a stay of execution until the autumn is the minimum acceptable decision for the University Senate, as this would at least allow the publication of a report by the government-appointed Social Work Taskforce into the provision of training and support for the sector.

A lobby protest outside the Senate Meeting on 11th March has been announced and a further public meeting on 16th March at Reading Civic Centre will take place.

Update: Wokingham LibDems have joined the chorus.

Recommended Reading List #13

Neville Hobson notes the closing date for one of the top positions in professional political communication has passed. It is, he says, a "killer job"!

The Director of Digital Engagement appears to have been so tightly specified as to only qualify one particular individual - now that's how to do open recruitment!

Politics Is An Emotional Business...

Reading List congratulates Reading LibDems after they won an award at their National Spring Conference being held in Harrogate this weeekend. They won the prize for the fastest-growing local party by increasing their membership by the greatest amount in the past year.



It is not known if this includes Reading's most famous daughter, Kate Winslet, who was recently awarded the Oscar for her role in The Reader.

The Independent reports that Ms Winslet has never revealed any political affiliations, while The Daily Mail attempts to provoke the actress into taking legal action over 'false endorsement' as a means to express non-support.

Oranjepan asks:
Does anyone know whether she has a postal vote?

-

Update: Reading 107fm quotes 'a party spokesman', who denies the LibDems are making any inferences about her personal views.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Picture: Under An Orange Evening Sky



Thank you to the Reader who submitted this picture.

Send your pictures to Oranjepan's email address, which can be found on his profile page.

Friday, 6 March 2009

New Civic Centre Discussions

Cllr Tony Jones has urged Reading councillors to oppose the 'purpose-built palace' for the replacement to the civic centre.

Howard Thomas of Reading's Common Sense Party received a response to a Freedom of Information request which showed that £3.7m has been spent on the new design - before even one brick has been laid.

Over on his own page Mr Thomas notes that councillors have already agreed to reconsider their options following questions about the level of money spent.

Cllr Jones states his proposal for council workers to move temporarily into alternative accomodation across the town centre where there are many empty office properties. He also summarises the preferences of the main party groups on RBC: Labour want to build a brand-new building on Hosier Street (estimated cost £54-60m), LibDems propose ongoing renovation of the current facility, while the Conservatives propose sale of the current site and relocation.

The excellent Property Week provides additional details on the site development.

Reading Evening Post outlines the political wrangling involved.

Cllr Jones hopes that the issue will be on the agenda at the next council meeting on 12th March.

-

Updates: Prospective developers Mace Group outline the principle purposes of the redevelopment.

Adrian Windisch reminds everyone that he can't spell and hasn't read the planning brief.

Thank you for the spell-check, Adrian.
Loading...
"Reading List... is fantastic, it could help revolutinise politics in Reading"
Matt Blackall

"Prolific"
Matt Brady

"Irrelevant"
Adrian Windisch

"Bizarre"
Reading Geek Night

"A bloggers digest of the Berkshire blogosphere"
DMOZ

"An easily accessible collection of Berkshire's excellent blogs"
The Cookham Blogger

"An excellent digest of the thoughts of local bloggers"
Reading Guide

...