Saturday, 30 January 2010

Newbury Takes Pole Position

The launch of the new Formula 1 season is upon us.

After a turbulent 2009 the race to the checkered flag looks to have got going as smoothly as the aerodynamic designs of the cars themselves.

With three new teams and 4 world champions on the grid competition is guaranteed to be fiercer than ever.

The two most recent champion drivers - both British - were on hand at the Vodafone headquaters in Newbury to unveil the latest Mclaren, which is designed and built at Woking.

Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will be vying to get their nose in front in the MP4-25, although friction is guaranteed as different circuits suit their contrasting driving styles.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh expressed optimism that last year's disasterous pre-season preparations which hindered their ability to challenge for honours would be averted, although they acknowledged a big obstacle to winning could be internal competition between the drivers.

AutoEvolution writes that it was the first official meeting between the two drivers, so all eyes will be trained on any psychological weaknesses under questioning from the world press corps.

GPForum noted the launch was streamed live online, a move which heightened anticipation among fans and increased the exposure and scrutiny on the team.

WorldCarFans have an excellent photo album of the event which is well worth a look for all you auto-fetishists out there.

BBC F1 has exclusive interviews with the 'dream team' of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

And in a typical example of the top quality journalism at the corporation Andrew Benson analyses the challenges facing the team.

He explains that the launch at the 'plush' HQ of Mclaren's main sponsor was a reflection of the professionalism of their organisation. They didn't try to dodge any of the issues, instead they were using the event as an opportunity to come up with satisfactory answers and assert the strength of their challenge.

Both drivers expressed their satisfaction with the distinctive 'shark fin' design and said the first impressions were positive.

As Martin Whitmarsh commented "preparation is the key to success."


Oranjepan says:
If only all our politicians were as open and accountable as professional sports-people!


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More sport stories

Friday, 29 January 2010

Caretaker In Royals Succession

After two excellent cup wins against premiership opponents Brian McDermott has had the 'caretaker' tag removed from his job description as he has been rewarded with a 12-month rolling contract.

Chairman John Madejski praised his ability to organise the team and said the wealth of success achieved coming through the ranks at the club would enable him to pass on his knowledge effectively to players.

Brian McDermott paid tribute to his longstanding relationship with Mr Madejski and said "I am delighted to have been appointed manager of a club that is very dear to my heart" as the team faces a season-defining run.

He added seperately that fans have a big part to play in helping keep the team out of the relegation zone. And team connections have pulled together to give him their backing.

Steve Coppell said it showed the man has personality to win to have survived a ten-year apprenticeship.

Graeme Murty compared him to Coppell, explaining,
"He's a great deal of integrity, he's very honest, he'll tell it as it is. He's a little bit quieter than Steve, if that's possible."
Commenters questioned the 'steady as she goes' appointment given the clubs position, but Mr Madejski tried to give reassurance that the Slough-born McDermott is a perfect fit, answering any doubters himself, "Do we need upheaval? The answer is no."

However some questions have been raised about the state of club finances and the level of pay-off given to sacked Brendan Rodgers.

Ben Rice thinks the appointment comes as a relief because it puts to an end some of the uncertainty at the club. However he says the real problems are on the pitch where an proven goalscorer is needed.

Jonathan at 106pts worries that the time to promote the idea of 'continuity' is not whilst the team languishes in the relegation zone and asks who is really responsible for the annus horibilis of 2009.

The Reading Fan is aware that a low-profile name like McDermott's wasn't the first choice on the terraces, but offers the benefit of the doubt in a balanced post titled the season starts now.

Meanwhile Alistair Coleman worries about a return to the wilderness.

As does Labour councillor John Ennis, who takes time out from bashing opponents for taking their eye of the ball to express his feelings of despondency at lacklustre performances.

Cllr Ennis says the biscuitmen may crumble if they are put under too much pressure, but then gets carried away with himself and identifies the first game at Barnsley as a 'six-pointer'.

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Update: Luckily the away game turned in Reading's favour as mass demonstrations by Barnsley supporters against their chairman Simon Davey created a difficult environment for the Tykes and Shane Long's 'combative, fighting streak' proved perfect for Reading to run out 3-1 winners.

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More sport stories

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Salter Eats Some Vinegary Words

No, it's not more about the state of winter road maintenance which has been getting bloggers all worked up, but the 180-degree reversal by Reading West MP Martin Salter regarding the validity and value of blogging.

Only 3 months (at most) before he follows through on his self-imposed decision to leave office he has decided to take up typing a few regular thoughts to engage more directly with the people he represents.

His 'blog' can be found on the Telegraph's platform - here - which is unfortunate because post syndication is disabled.

This is, as martinsnothteone reminds us, a man who used the law to delete 3 previous versions of critical blogs and who once said:
"There is no prospect of my ever blogging. What little I have seen of the blogsphere, it seems to me to be the last refuge for tragic insomniacs who lack social skills."
This in contrast to reknowned social-media advocate Cllr Daisy Benson, who argues that politicians should embrace new media as a way to 'break down barriers' and engage with the public.

The move has given former colleague Jane Griffiths a whole new lease of life as 'Salterwatch'.

She starts off by welcoming him to the arena, but notes the irony of a Labour party stalwart choosing such a solid right-wing platform as the Telegraph.

The former Labour MP follows up by recalling Mr Salter's 'fulminating' on BBC Radio 4 that blogging was 'anti-democratic', and asks when will local media outlets advertise the site to local electors?

Jane manages to sustain her attack against Mr Salter by asking whether he recieved any support from his tax-payer funded staff to help produce it, and if he has whether he has declared this to the Parliamentary fees office.

She subsequently discovers that the Telegraph pays £150 per blog post - which is nice work if you can get it (considering I average about one-per-day), but that Mr Salter is already resorting to recycling his 'Westminster Diary' which he supplies to the local print media every fortnight.

Elsewhere well-known local commenter Nowtas emerges from his shell to write a blogpost on the subject. He describes Mr Salter's blog as the 'feeblest' among the Telegraph's stable, worth only a 'giggle'.

In unrelated news Conservative MP for Reading East, Rob Wilson warns too much hot air may suffocate, as new research shows 76% of the population in the south-east of England are putting themselves at risk of being poisoned...

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More stories about the local media environment.

Recommended Reading List #47

The question of anonymity/pseudonymity is one that it close to this blog's heart, so Left Outside's essay on the subject is one which can be heartily recommended.

The unaffiliated West Berkshire blogger states that he enjoys blogging as an end in itself, but he does it primarily because he cares about other people... which leads him inevitably to focus on political questions.

As he says: "I like being able to have an effect on people for the better – no matter how small an impact."

Although blogging and anonymity are both equally relatively pointless, he argues that it's about a desire to strike a balance between influence and personal growth. Reading the examples he provides, you can understand why!

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More Recommended Reading List

Opening Doors To New And Empty Homes

The renewal of Reading's Empty Homes Strategy is starting to have some practical effect. Two local charities have started to work together with the council and landlords to ensure potential homes don't go to waste and have a negative impact on local communities.

Reading Single Homeless Project and The Forgotten British Gurkha (which is based in Reading) have taken on agency status to help bring empty properties back into use by people who may be lacking a stable home environment.

Lead councillor for housing, Cllr Deborah Edwards, explained, "Reading does have a number of homes that are empty and need investment so they can be brought back into use."

In addition, the deposit guarantee scheme is enabling more younger people and families get onto the first step of the housing ladder.

LibDem parliamentary candidate for Reading West, Cllr Daisy Benson is pleased that her local campaign efforts as chair of the housing scrutiny committee have woken the authority up to some of the problems being experienced by residents. She adds that "housing is not just about bricks and mortar: neighbourhoods matter too."

She also picks out the recent announcement of a national empty homes policy which will be a major plank of her party's general election manifesto, saying this is "great news."

Her colleague Reading East PPC, Cllr Gareth Epps, is also excited by the manifesto pledge:
"It's a real win-win. It creates jobs; makes much better use of resources (and is sustainable in the true sense of the word) and embodies fairness."
He estimates the total figure of empty properties in Reading is about 2,500.

Labour's Minister for Housing, John Healey MP, recently visited Dee Park and the Chatham Place development to highlight investments being made in new housing stock.

He also discussed with representatives an additional £3.1m spending on new care homes at the Avenue School site.

Cllr Mike Orton said, "Care for the elderly is a top priority and this scheme will allow people to settle in and live independently in their own home."

Rachel Eden was also there to show her support. She argues that "council-owned and managed housing is more accountable and preferable to housing association when possible."

Wokingham PPC and leader of the opposition LibDem group on Wokingham borough council, Cllr Prue Bray is equally concerned about the 1-star service offered by Conservatives in this area.

However one additional consequence of the housing shortage is that temporary emergency housing remains dependant on volunteers as charitible fund-raisers.


Oranjepan says:
Housing is a big issue for many in the congested south-east, so making sure money is spent on making better use of the land and buildings we have is sure to be a big vote-winner.

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More on Housing In Reading

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Reading's City Bid Approved

Councillors have agreed to move forward with a plan to make Reading a city.

The charter for city statue requires royal assent and submissions are being made to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year in 2012, which will mark the 60th anniversary of her coronation.

Reading looks to be favorite among the competitors, which includes Medway in Kent, Croydon, Milton Keynes and Perth.

Leader of Reading Borough Council Cllr Jo Lovelock commented, "We want to put Reading on the map and becoming Berkshire's only city will certainly do that."

A range of events will be scheduled throughout the year if assent is granted and officials are hoping it will be 'third time lucky' after the town failed in two recent bids in 2000 and 2002.

Some controversy surrounded the decision which came at the full council meeting earlier this week, as opposition representative Cllr Dave Luckett tweeted, "Very bizarre and baffling that [the motion] wasn't unanimous."

Perhaps he should read the range of opinions expressed on Reading Forum.

But his colleague Cllr Richard Willis goes further and turns attack dog against the LibDems.

He makes a range of vicious comments calling the group 'unprincipled' for voting 'en bloc' against the motion, accuses them of not being grown up and perversely saying they resorted to sniping and cat-calling!

In addition he makes it clear that Conservatives support a 'land-grab' to redefine the boundaries of the borough to include in 'Greater Reading' the areas of Tilehurst, Woodley and Earley which are currently in West Berkshire and Wokingham boroughs.

Cllr Warren Swaine responds for the LibDems by publishing his speech in full. He says a change in title to "the City of Reading will make absolutely no difference to people in their ordinary life."

And Reading West PPC Cllr Daisy Benson copies out her speech too. She asks "Is bigger, necessarily better?"

The motion approved the creation of a steering committee to include representatives from political parties, business and community groups and members of the town's voluntary sector.

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More on Reading's Civic Status

Recommended Reading List #46

It's been a busy day for Gemma - the animal scientist has been writing her schedule and discovered her plan of activities comprise a stereotypical Liberal Agenda.

It seems some people just don't get why anyone with a good background and a university degree would want to lower themselves to such levels, well, be prepared for an insight into what every young tearaway is really getting up to!

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More Recommended Reading List

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Legacy Of Hope

27th January 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where some of the worst atrocities during the Second World War were committed.

So it is an apt day to memorialise the suffering.

Natalie Slater advertises an exhibition that is being held in the Broad Street Mall, displaying historical documents about the persecuted Dutch teenager Anne Frank as well as highlighting ongoing areas where incidents of cultural tension have flared up.

Former Mayor of Reading, now director of Reading Council of Racial Equality, Rajinder Sophal offered the unanswerable comment:
"We have seen some worrying signs in recent times that those people who prefer division and conflict are using the current economic downturn as an excuse to take support from ordinary people. History teaches us this is a slippery slope to deep racism and Holocaust Memorial Day is a good way for us all to increase vigilance and to unite our communities."
David McKnight advertises a seperate exhibition being held at 43c Peach Street, Wokingham.

Meanwhile the political debate about the appropriate way to mark the event rages on the left.

Cllr John Ennis attended the official 'Legacy of Hope' event at the civic centre where a range of speakers urged greater action against hatred and persecution.

He comments that he is in agreement with the argument that "it is the pursuit of power, influence, resources and particularly money that acts as a pretext for genocide and war."

Meanwhile Jane Griffiths goes on Salterwatch noting that her former Labour colleague promised to attend the event, but didn't turn up... it can only be assumed he got caught up in his nets when he went fishing, or he had some vital election planning to do.

For more information visit the HMD website and light the virtual candle of hope.

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Update: Adrian Windisch and Rachel Eden also mark the day.

Martin Salter catches up and lights a candle at the 'hard-hitting' Broad Street Mall exhibition, although martinsnottheone raises a question mark.

A Comedy Manifesto

Campaigning comedian Mark Thomas came to Reading this weekend when he made a stop on his 'Manifesto' tour and several local bloggers were there to give a review.

Green Party campaigners Adrian Windisch and Rob White turned out in public to show solidarity (Mark Thomas endorses the Green platform), while Bracknell Blog's Dazmando was also in attendance.

The theme of the show is to give members of the audience a chance to suggest policies in direct democracy fashion, which will then be published and the 50 most popular of which Thomas has committed to campaign to enact - whatever they may be...

Adrian picks out a wide range of aspirations:
- introduction of a national maximum wage
- getting the government to give everyone the day off on their birthday
- legalising homosexual marriage and getting the church to shut up about it
- a three-day weekend
- land instead of the dole
- an IRA honour guard for Thatcher's funeral
- no new blasphemy legislation
- all politicians should be forced to wear the names and logos of the companies which sponsor them
- anyone who supports ID cards should be banned from having curtains
- All models should be picked at random from the electoral register
- introduction of a law making it illegal for MPs to knowingly lie. It shall be known as Archer’s Law

the last of which he is clearly so proud of he mentioned it twice!

While Rob picks out these from the South Street show:
- a Michelin star for Sweeney Todd's
- more capacity in women's' toilets
- everyone should carry around two salt sachets in case of more snow

as well as some other 'gems' from around the country:
- disguising leopards as foxes as a sort of equaliser on foxhunts
- invading Jersey with the aim of closing it down as a corporate tax dodgers paradise
- supporters of nuclear power should be responsible for storing the radioactive waste in their gardens

but he notes the Reading audience ended up voting for the 'lacking-in-comedy-value' renationalisation of the railways.

On the other hand Dazmando makes a clearer distinction between the comedy elements and the serious side, highlighting Greenpeace's petition to stop the building of Project Pegasus at AWE Aldermaston and the campaign to force Bracknell MP Andrew MacKay to repay the £170,000 expenses he claimed fraudulently.


Oranjepan says:
provocative it certainly was, but you wonder who the final joke is on.

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Related Reading: AWE Aldermastion; Bracknell MP Andrew MacKay To Stand Down

Monday, 25 January 2010

Local TV Celebrity To 'Conquer' US

Warfield's Jeremy Kyle is taking his controversial TV show to America.

He gains consistent ratings of 1.5-1.8m viewers on the daytime schedule since launching his Jerry Spinger-styled personal advice show in 2005 and has achieved the feat of remaining fresh and enthusiastic after more than 1,000 shows.

He said "This show isn't about me; it is about their issues and problems and how we can face them together - with complete honesty and openness," adding that "I am particularly looking forward to meeting ordinary American people and hearing about their extraordinary lives."


The Jeremy Kyle Show gained notoriety when it was described by a district judge as "a human form of bear-baiting which goes under the guise of entertainment" during a court case in 2007, brought for assault against a man who headbutted his girlfriend on-air. The man was subsequently convicted and fined £300 plus costs.

Another man was jailed in summer of 2009 after admitting grevious bodily harm committed against his girlfirend during recording for the show. In a lengthy and detailed article Richard Price grabs the sensationalist headline 'Jeremy Kyle Nearly Killed Me'

Co-president of production company Debmar-Mercury, Mort Marcus, said "We believe there’s a market for it if he can hit the right tone for this country." He explained that he was confident America would "wholeheartedly embrace" Mr Kyle because he brings "a unique sensibility to a proven format".

But media analysts point to declining daytime audience on CBS as the reason why executives have decided to lay out a big contract to lure an experienced performer in an established format stateside, although ITV executives think the process is being driven by greater media integration resulting from globalisation which naturally leads to greater competition for talent.

Meanwhile, On The Box commentator Sean Marland doesn't hide his contempt for the presenter. He thinks it is a shame Jeremy Kyle no plans to leave Berkshire for the US, and says it might be interesting to subject his PR statements to his own lie detector tests!

Elsewhere Jeremy Kyle appears to be exactly the type of man capable of splitting opinion down the middle.

In a online poll asking 'Is Jeremy Kyle a legend?' 52.6% responded 'no, he's just a moron', while the rest were impressed by his ability to entertain.

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Update: the Gyppo Byard at Last Django In Paris is unhealthily addicted to Jeremy Kyle - he says it is "the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures."

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More Media stories

Recommended Reading List #45

Mike McNamara is frustrated at the news media's inability to provide adequate information of what's going on around Europe. I can sympathise, although my focus is more local.

His attention is drawn by the Belgian beer crisis, and he explains how this reflects the conflict over differing attutudes to the response to the economic crisis.

On the one hand corporate debt has been built up to an unsupportable level, but heavy job losses in an important export-oriented industry could have wider consequences for the speed and sustainability of the recovery.

Mike attacks the mainstream TV media for neglecting its' duty to provide enough scrutiny on matters of widepread interest and importance.

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Past Recommended Reading List

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Snow Summit

A review into the council response to the dramatic winter weather experience in recent weeks has been published.

LibDem Cllr Daisy Benson makes a statement of the seriousness with which it is being treated, saying how she has been impressed by the manner and scope of the compilation of the report:
"I welcome the openness of officers and willingness to ensure any problems and issues are identified so more effective policies can be implemented in future."
She praises the dedication of council staff and notes how the same events have been calculated to cost other councils as much as £5m and expresses concern at how this will increase pressure on an already stretched budget for the year ahead.

The parliamentary candidate for Reading West lists a range of areas which she identified as areas requiring review, including:
  • Weather forecasting receipt and dissmenation of information
  • Emergency planning processes (including staffing of emergency control centre)
  • Gritting - supplies, stores, deployment and priorities - to include footways and provision of grit bins and grit stocks
  • Communication - including the Council's policies, role and capacity to get informaton about adverse weather conditions out to the public
  • Closer liaison between RTL (Reading Buses) and the emergency operations and co-ordination functions to ensure priority and ‘high community value’ routes remain operable
  • A recognised and accessible debriefing, information and update reports, including a "lessons learnt" process.
She also notes a nationwide 'Snow Summit' will bring together councils from across the country to share experiences and ideas on how to better prepare for future forecasts and concludes that the overriding issue is one of communication.

She advocates greater engagement with social media by the authorities as the fastest means of providing accurate real-time information to the public.

Meanwhile Labour's Cllr John Ennis provides an account of the report.

He accepts the widespread public criticism of the handling of the mini-crisis, but recognises the efforts made by services to keep running normally under conditions of 'exceptional adverse weather'.

He notes that there are lessons to be learnt with regard to communication with the public and picks out that the council has prioritises a review of both the role and coordination of procedures, however he excuses Reading's authorities by explaining how the blizzard which hit during rush-hour on Monday 21st December (report, reaction, more reaction, round-up) also affected neighbouring authorities across the region - so no-one was immune.

Cllr Ennis suggests Reading wasn't appreciably worse prepared, nor any worse at dealing with the problems. He also makes an inspecific attack on people who 'stole' grit, which to his mind may explain why some grit bins were empty.

However both Cllr Benson and Cllr Ennis express the hope that outside interests will not play a part in the review as the election period cranks into full gear.

Cllr Benson states:
"it is vital that local residents get the opportunity to hold the Council and it's performance to account in an open and transparent way."
But Cllr Ennis gives an implicit warning about how the scoring of cheap political points may influence future policy for the worse. He says:
"I hope the discussion does not become too party political or "council bashing" as contrary to the perception of some, it did snow on Tory councils as well."

Oranjepan says:
It is noticable that local Tories have not been more forthcoming on precisely how they're engaging with the formal processes of the council - either in the press or online. Some might say they'd be more vocal if they felt it suited them to, but I couldn't possibly comment.

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Update: Alistair Coleman invites us to look at the politics of weather from his perspective...

Green party campaigner Adrian Windisch spent his Saturday evening writing a blog post to summarise the events which unfolded together with a few opinions from the local political blogosphere.

Fellow Green Party member Rob White offers an alternative appoach by giving his support to Cllr Benson.

Mr London Street has a slightly different way of looking at the world - he says English snow is 'more deadly, more dangerous and more disruptive' than any other, "the swine flu of snow".

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Read the whole of Reading Borough Council's official report into the 'Impacts of Severe Weather Conditions'.

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More on Weather-related issues

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Is Reading A City?

The embers of an old debate have been stirred back into life with the announcement of preparations for a renewed bid for city status. A preliminary report is due to be submitted to councillors on 15th February.

The application comes as part of the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012.

Council Leader Cllr Jo Lovelock proposed that an all-party City Status Partnership Board should be formed to coordinate the bid with representatives from the public, business, community and voluntary sector and argued that schools would be encouraged to get involved in offering support as part of the Olympic year.

Leader of the Conservative group on Reading Borough Council, Cllr Andrew Cumpsty attacked the current Labour administration for failing in previous bids in 2000 and 2002, saying, "We behave like a city, we look like a city."

But LibDem leader Cllr Kirsten Bayes emphasised a more practical approach, asking to see more details before making a commitment. She explained, "right now we are not clear on the benefits that would come from city status."

All sides were concerned that any costs involved in the bid should be minimised during the current economic period, but Reading Post commenters were nonetheless highly sceptical that Reading's disorganised growth through 'urban sprawl' gives the town a recognisable identity worthy of a city.

There has also been a strong underlying sense of mistrust in politicians boosting image without the substance to back it up.

Reading Forum visitors are cautious about the value of a bid, picking up that there are no figures on the expectations for additional investment into the local economy or the actual amount it will cost.

An interesting side discussion is the contentious subject of political reform, with suggestions of boundary changes to the borough and the possibility that a 'Lord Mayor' would be introduced (though a directly-elected mayoralty has yet to figure in the equation).

Meanwhile Reading Post editor Andy Murrill makes a rare foray into the opinion stakes to offer his full backing to enhanced civic status.

He says 'Reading deserves to be a city' because it will raise the national profile of Reading and bring a 'feel-good factor' back to the local economy.

Adam Hewitt notes many businesses and visitor already see Reading as a city.

So on my other site I have a look at the issue in a bit more detail. I conclude it's a matter of what kind of vision is on offer and in who's interest it is.

Elsewhere John Howarth compiles a list of his 10 favorite cities - Reading doesn't figure that highly for him!

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Update: Howard Thomas argues that Reading needs to sort out the town's traffic problems before it can be considered to be of the stature he associates with a city.

Reading Post is conducting a wholly unscientific poll on the subject - Mr Murrill's viewpoint is currently holding sway, so why not try to influence the decision-makers and go and take part too...

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Related topic: Reading: City Of Culture?

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Labour Crumbles In Face Of 'Call In'

Opposition groups are celebrating victory over Reading's dominant Labour group after a decision to impose big increases on car park charges was overturned without a fight.

The move came under heavy criticism from Conservative and LibDem groups who felt it was being pushed through without adequate consideration or consultation.

Labour deputy leader and transport spokesperson Cllr Tony Page apologised for abusing the political process by seeking to impose changes against normal protocols.

Conservative transport spokesperson Cllr Willis is somewhat triumphalist in his attempt to claim credit for the U-Turn, but notes how the rises in car park costs is a result of a recently-agreed 15-year deal between RBC and car park operator NCP which guaranteed council income rises in line with inflation (which is soaring according to John Redwood).

However LibDem transport spokesperson Cllr Duveen picks up that the plans have not been stopped in their tracks, only watered-down as they will be subjected to the correct processes of public consultation.

Both sides argue the case shows the Labour party to be in decline both locally as well as nationally, providing more reasouns to vote them 'out' of power - Cllr Willis says they are 'clapped out', while Cllr Duveen says Labour are 'out of touch'.

In a separate area Redland LibDems note another revenue raising initiative has hit the buffers as a plan to charge council tenants for communal lighting and cleaning services on top of current rent increases.

Cllr Benson responded to complaints that some of the borough's poorest and most vulnerable residents were only given a month over the holiday period to respond to detailed documents. It seems very few are happy about the quality of the current service and even fewer about the prospect of being targetted to plug the gap in the budget which has grown from ban management.


Oranjepan says:
With budget planning fully underway in preparation for the year ahead a major battle over the narrative of cuts and spending is already being fought. Labour has lost round one.

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Update: Adam Hewitt provides details of a range of funding cuts made by the borough to voluntary services.

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More on Reading Budget 2010/11

Monday, 18 January 2010

Countdown To The Budget

Opening shots have been fired on council's local budget plan for 2010 as the preliminary discussions reach their conclusion and the different sides begin to set out their stalls.

Howard Thomas of the Common Sense Party lights the fuse by recalling the heated marathon discussions which lead to LibDems eeking concessions out of the Labour proposals last year.

He expects similar dramatics this year and takes a vicious sideswipe at the Conservatives for their destructive attitude 12 months ago (when they argued for reductions in Council Tax without offering any ideas on how to pay for it), wondering whether they have come up with any yet.

Howard says "it is a frightening thought that the Tory ideas are in such short supply."

The majority of the £120m+ budget is set on a baseline with about 3/4 of the total funded by government grants, which are ringfenced to cover statutory requirements.

The rest comes from tax reciepts, other charges and fines levied. With Council Tax rises capped at at maximum 5% there is little room for political discretion over additional spending, but this becomes the battleground for intense debate as the primary means for parties to put in place the principles their votes have mandated.

Independent Cllr Tony Jones doesn't have to suffer huge amounts of internal wrangling so is quickest off the mark and presents his 4 proposals.

He opposes the massive investment to replace the Civic Centre, suggests selling off Reading Buses, wishes to end annual elections and thinks road infrastructure investment should be delayed.

Meanwhile the local establishment and council bureaucracy have their own interests to look after.

Borough Council Chief Executive Michael Coughlin reflects the official view supported by the dominant Reading Labour Party as they point to new research showing reasons for optimism about economic recovery, using this to condition the view that cuts may be less necessary this year than might be expected or may be demanded.

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Update: Cllr Benson uses her campaign diary to highlight the disparities between different neighbourhoods across the town, noting that younger people are being hit disproportionately hard by the national economic gloom.

She says the growing gap between rich and poor is not just a matter of statistics, but of unfairness made manifest by the current authorities in ways which blight whole families and communities.

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Background: all articles tagged Reading Budget 2009/10

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Beneath The Surface

After the frost comes the thaw and interest turns to the things which were once buried but are now uncovered.

Potholes are created when ice forms in worn or damaged road surfaces and are a constant nuisance to drivers and cyclists alike.

Karen Blakeman has been out with her camera taking pictures to report repairs needed in Caversham - as she says "the lower half of the road on Donkin Hill looks as though it has been repeatedly bombed."

She advertises Potholes.co.uk, which is a campaign website set up "to highlight poor state of British roads and help motorists seek compensation from Councils" - although she notes that the operators of the site have a commercial interest which makes her query its' value.

Meanwhile the BBC fulfils its' public service remit by explaining how quick fixes are the road to deeper problems and lasting damage.

While the problems after a severe bout of winter weather are bigger than usual it is the same whenever it happens.

Redlands LibDems are on the case.

Reading List picked up on the issue last year to promote the variety of ways and services available to the public which can be used to report problems so they can be dealt with before they get worse.

You can contact your council directly by freephoning 0800 626 540, or you can report the location of any required road maintenance to your local councillor.

Or you can avail yourself of online services.

Fill That Hole is an excellent public resource operated by the Cyclist's Touring Club, while FixMyStreet can be used to report a wider variety of problems (including lighting, litter etc) run by the recommended MySociety group of civic advocacy volunteers.

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Update: Grafitti taggers have also been on the rampage under cover of the weather.

Splash To Backlash

Conservatives hoping to make a big splash by bringing party leader David Cameron to Reading have suffered a backlash from commentators.

The general tone of criticism has been to question the actual level of the engagement demonstrated by the party.

John MacGarvey was "surprised, but not displeased" that the event was able to be rearranged quite so quickly after a previous cancellation - apparently due to the harsh weather. However he was a bit annoyed that the timing and location of the event could have been more convenient.

Even the BBC was caught on the hop, dutifully copying out the general press release that the meeting was to focus on health issues and the NHS rather than be open to any subject.

Labour election candidates Anneliese Dodds and Naz Sarkar challenged the tory leader to a real debate, provocatively claiming the event would have been more accurate if it had been called 'Cameron Select' rather than 'Cameron Direct'.

Cllr Glenn Goodall contrasts Mr Cameron's visit to an earlier visit by LibDem leader Nick Clegg, who ensured plenty of advance notice was given, and who chose the time, location and format of the meeting to ensure members of the public were able to fully engage in two-way communication.

And Jane Griffiths picks up on a report by Natalie Slater that Labour activists picketed the event, who were angry that they had been frozen out. She notes how this isn't the complete truth, as invitations had been sent to selected opponents.

Indeed, Mark Reckons did attend and gives his usual full treatment with a bloggers review of the event.

He says the event provided a 'fascinating perspective' on politics.

After a brief introduction he was able to ask the first question from the floor, asking why the tory leader had changed his position on drugs policy. He describes Mr Cameron's shifty response as a deft and subtle way of avoiding directly answering the question - not once but twice.

He compliments Mr Cameron on an assured and professional political presentation, who is highly personable, but was nevertheless clearly dissatisfied with the overall effect.

Mark was clearly unimpressed by the repetitive focus on current economic constraints and the negative aspects of what he couldn't do rather than any solid policies - even noting an 'odd' admission by the Conservative party leader that he probably wasn't able to convince floating voters in the audience to vote for him.

Mark picked up several stylistic similarities to Tony Blair but concluded that the prospective Prime Minister still has a lot of work to do honing his messages in a way that was to appeal effectively.

Dazmando was also in the audience.

He complains that the venue was pretty small for the number of people who would obviously have been interested in attending and says this had a clear impact on the political balance of the people who were there - which meant the tory leader was given an easy ride as many hot topics (such as gay marriage, the EU and MPs expenses) were not covered at all.

Rounding up, he generously adjudges the tory leader to be sincere and well-meaning, but admits he was frustrated with the evening, just as he is with the current situation in general. He came away only hopeful that he will do a good job if he does end up as the leader of the country after the general election.

And finally we return to John McGarvey for his pronouncement on the Conservative leader. John says he was smooth, but lacking in inspiration.

He says he feels like he didn't learn much from the slightly negative responses and overly-deferential and occasionally fawning crowd... or just maybe that tells you everything you need to know.

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Update: World-renowned communications guru Neville Hobson picks up on the launch of Mr Cameron's poster campaign. He says that reactions range from ridicule... to ridicule.

The Conservative leader is starting out early in his rise to being a figure of fun, and Neville explains that although most of the jokes at his expense are pretty mild they do highlight the problem facing all politicians: the need to be believed and trusted in order that they are taken seriously - which is why the airbrushed photograph is so damaging, as they build up the image of a fake.

Loyal Local MP Wob Wilson gives a glowing tribute to the performance of the man he serves under, but then that's only to be expected.



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Background reading: Tory Target Reading, Cameron Indirectly

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Local LibDems Recognised For Online Activism

The Local Government Information Unit has nominated Reading councillor Daisy Benson for an award as one of 5 representatives across the whole country for their efforts at the forefront of the sphere of online activism.

The award is designed to highlight politicians who have "embraced new technologies and used them positively to communicate with communities" in order that their example can be used as a way to encourage best practise.

Congratulations must be given to Cllr Benson, who explains how she has picked up lots of issues concerning members of the public through her engagement with social networking sites.

Apart from her blogging, and being highly active on twitter and facebook, she also cites the innovative use of online video and photo sharing sites which have enabled her to use communication technology to push for political change and improvement.

The full list if nominations are:
  • Cllr Daisy Benson, Reading
  • Cllr Tim Cheetham, Barnsley
  • Cllr Ross Grant, Leicester
  • Cllr Alex Perkins, Canterbury
  • Cllr Steve Tierney, Cambridgeshire

Meanwhile ward colleague Cllr Glenn Goodall has been a reluctant convert to the advantages of online technologies, but decides the recent snowy period has convinced him of the power to make a positive difference when it is used well.

And Alan Bunce powerfully explains how he is won over by the immediacy and accuracy of new media to bypass propagation of negative ideological messages.

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Update: Reading Post gets a quote from Cllr Benson, who says
"People sometimes dismiss tools like Twitter when really they should embrace them. It’s important to break down barriers between politicians and the people they represent to improve understanding on both sides."
However some commenters seem all too willing to dismiss the award on the grounds the LGiU is a public affairs advocacy group which saves taxpayers money by working to improve political services and championing local democracy. It was itself awarded 'Think-Tank of the Year' at the Public Affairs News Awards in 2008.


Oranjepan says:
It seems that Cllr Benson's selection to fight the general election in Reading West for the LibDems is at least partly off the back of the reputation and profile she has gained online - Labour and Conservative opponents will be concerned that the ability this provides her with to reach voters directly will have a big impact on the outcome of the result.

Car Park Spats

A decision to drastically increase local car park charges has come under heavy criticism.

According to the unsigned Reading Post article council officers made the decision in consultation with Labour deputy leader Cllr Tony Page, who argued that improvements to car park facilities need to be paid for somehow, despite denying there were no plans to introduce new charges last year.

The move by local Labour politicians comes in stark contrast to recent advice by national Labour figures on car parking at NHS hospitals when minister Andy Burnham MP said a "fairer, more consistent approach" is required.

Conservative transport spokesperson Cllr Richard Willis says he was 'horrified' that Labour had tried to sneak through a 'massive' increase by 'stealth'.

Meanwhile LibDems have utilised 'call-in' powers under the 'No Overall Control' system to force the council leadership to justify the decision or reconsider.

Transport spokesperson Cllr Ricky Duveen says he was outraged by the move, explaining, "There has been no consultation with local councillors, no notice, just a decision announced."

But Cllr Willis tetchily responded in an update by citing unnamed officials who have 'confirmed' tory claims for credit, although Reading List understands the 'call in' was effectively invoked by both sides separately.

Conservatives are pleased that some long-stay charges are to be reduced, but are angry that some previously free sites will have charges levied for the first time. Clearly they think everything should be paid for directly from council tax revenues.

In an almost opposite position LibDems responded to residents complaints about long stay parking at the Recreation Rd car park by agreeing to introduce charges, which would enable short stays to remain free while paying for recent revamps.


Oranjepan says:
Who makes the decisions shows who is in charge. Who is consulted shows in whose interests the decision is made. Comparing the reasons given now to those they gave previously shows how good they are at doing their job.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Recommended Reading List #44

With fresh wave of snowfall sweeping across the country Alan Bunce offers some timely reassurance about the ability of the local online community to provide direct up-to-date information of direct use to individuals.

He explains, this is in contrast to national journalists, who offer only 'endless scaremongering'.

As he says "They want you to panic. Journalists won't win awards if the news is too wishy washy."

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More Recommended Reading List

Monday, 11 January 2010

Pegasus Rising

The deadline for members of the public to have our say on the latest plans (dubbed 'Project Pegasus') at AWE Aldermaston closes on January 15th and anti-nuclear activists have been spreading the word

According to AWE’s Infrastructure Director, Andrew Jupp, "Project Pegasus will provide suitable workspace in a secure environment to support continued operations when existing facilities reach the end of their operational lives." [1]

The planning application for the 18,500 square metre development was lodged on 30th November with submissions to be made by 23rd December, but campaigners concerned that the significance of the plans to the generational replacement of the UK's Trident weapons system successfully pushed the closing date back. [2, 3]

Cllr Glenn Goodall provides an informed list of details explaining how controversial planning applications are regularly submitted during periods when the public may be otherwise occupied during holdiays.

He notes councils from across Berkshire have lodged official objections on technical issues, specifically regarding safety to the public during transit of materials by public highway and questions relating to security from potential terrorist attacks.

However he is concerned that the local press and media are not keeping the issue in the forefront of public awareness as the Labour and Conservative parties have conspired to prevent the future of our nuclear arsenal from becoming a matter of wider public debate.

Rob White shows his opposition to nuclear weapons by providing contact details for the West Berkshire planning department.

You can have your say by emailing planapps@westberks.gov.uk or you can send your comments via the West Berkshire Council website.

While the local authority may only consider individual objections on the grounds of planning, they are also required to take into account the scale of public feeling on the matter.

CND provides a pro forma letter to object on the grounds of radioactive pollution

More information is available from the Reading-based Nuclear Information Service and Aldermaston.net campaign websites

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Update: Nuclear Information Service director Peter Burt added another volley of criticism, stating:
"There is a massive contrast between consultation over the government's plans to build new nuclear power stations and the lack of discussion over developments at AWE Aldermaston."
Green Party campaigner Adrian Windisch encourages members of the public to join him in a 'non-violent blockade' of the site on 15th Febrary. He says "you can sit, lie down, lock-on or simply provide support for those blockading."

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More on AWE Aldermaston
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Saturday, 9 January 2010

Winter Warmer?

John McGarvey is impressed with the displays of creativity being shown in the snow locally as people find new ways to occupy themselves in the unusually wintery conditions.

But with a third wave of winter weather hitting the region concerns are growing about the provision of services as temperatures dip to -6 Celcius and below.

Adrian Windisch is concerned that supplies of grit are dwindling, but Cllr Prue Bray responds that grit doesn't work below -5 Celcius.

Adrian also complains that the government is using emergency powers to surreptitiously nationalise industries, but South East England MEP Dan Hannan asks rhetorically, "Is our reliance on state intervention symptomatic of the sapping effects of big government?" - well, you can guess his answer.

In respose entrepreneurs have spotted a marketing opportunity - Radio Bracknell advertises snow clearance services for commercial properties from Asset Fencing.

Meanwhile Thames Water has been struggling as water mains have burst, cutting water supplies. Redlands LibDems was contacted by residents to report a burst main affecting 4,000 people, while Wendy worries about less dramatic, but equally urgent problem of frozen water pipes - whether you're desperate for just a cuppa or to use the bathroom it's the same result.

Wendy is also worried about shop supplies running low - as is Elizabeth Thomas, who 'panic bought' emergency rations in preparation for more bad weather predicted over the next few days.

But the ideological debate over climate change has also taken a turn in response to the current weather.

Conservatives are piling in to attack proponents of climate change theory by following the lead of John Redwood on his diary - many conservatives argue global warming is a fraud being used to promulgate surreptitious political ends.

Noted environmental sceptic Mr Redwood asked Labour environment minister Ed Miliband in the House of Commons: "Why is the Northern hemisphere winter so cold, and which climate model predicted this?"

Mr Miliband demonstrated by omission that the government had failed to prepare for recent events because they had simplistically ruled out the possibility that changes to the climate could affect the country in this way.

However both Left Outside and I notice that the freak weather is being caused by a diversion in the gulf stream to the east of Greenland as temperatures over the Arctic polar region have failed to drop low enough to freeze normal levels of pack ice - and that just such a weather scenario was widely recognised as far back as 2005.

This means the British Isles are not benefiting from the usual warmth of ocean currents and conditions are returning to levels more typical for these latitudes.

However, the good news may be that colder continents will mitigate warming trends.


Oranjepan says:
Continuing to pump out greenhouse gases won't necessarily mean disaster, it could just mean skiing becomes more popular in the UK!

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More articles on weather issues

Making Minds Up In Reading West

LibDems have selected Daisy Benson to be the prospective parliamentary candidate in the Reading West seat at the general election later this year.

She beat out competition from two highly regarded opponents, former Thatcham mayor Alex Payton and veteran West Berkshire councillor Tony Vickers, in a stong contest which Reading List understands raised turnout by over a third among members compared to the selection of Cllr Patrick Murray previously.

Adam Hewitt reports her immediate reaction that she was "delighted" to win the chance to represent local residents, with the offer of a promise "I won't let you down."

Mark Reckons notes that Cllr Benson "regularly tops the list of the most hard-working councillors in the borough" (see report) and points to her innovative use of social media as a way in which she keeps a close relationship with residents and supporters.

In fact Reading Post picks up that she was "overwhelmed" by the number of messages of support sent to her from the online community.

LibDem colleagues in Reading are also backing her to the hilt.

Cllr Ricky Duveen describes how Daisy has built up an "enviable reputation" after less than 4 years on the council, becoming deputy leader of the group and chair of the Health and Housing Scrutiny Committee.

Cllr Glenn Goodall picks up her campaigning efforts on crime and housing issues.

Glenn offers a telling compliment that when she first knocked on his door his housemate described her as "genuine and human" - which was what convinced them to vote for her.

Cllr Warren Swaine goes a step further and says she is a "hard working local politician who can demonstrate a real record of action helping people across the political spectrum," by inspiring grassroots support, not organised backing from millionaire non-doms and trade unions.

And Reading Liberal Youth proudly considers voters will appreciate "the opportunity to elect such a passionate individual with an incredible track record."

Conservative opponents were also quick to congratulate Cllr Benson, even praising her abilities!

Cllr Richard Willis went so far as to compliment her as "very active and outspoken", offering the insight that she will 'hope to make an impact' to raise the LibDem share of the vote in the next few months, although he notes the highest LibDems have achieved in the past is 18.1% in 1992.

The list of candidates in the Reading West constituency is now complete (in alphabetical order): Daisy Benson (Liberal Democrats) joins Bruce Hay (UKIP), Naz Sarkar (Labour), Alok Sharma (Conservative) and Adrian Windisch (Green) vying for votes.

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Update: Adam Hewitt discovers a bit more about Cllr Benson's LibDem policy platform.

Linda Fort grabs a conversation with the candidate.

On her candidate website Cllr Benson says "join me in my campaign to take back power from the two other parties who have both lost touch with the ordinary person."

Josh Harsant, Reading's Member of the UK Youth Parliament, offers good luck to all, saying, "may the best candidate win!"

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Previously: LibDems Ready For Fight In Reading West

More from On The Election Trail

Friday, 8 January 2010

Cameron Indirectly

It was to have been a significant event for #rdg and nationally when the leader of the opposition David Cameron MP came face-to-face with local residents of all stripes to answer wide-ranging questions and offer reassurance about the future of the NHS in his hands.

But he made a late decision to cancel and hold the event online instead - watch below


Local Conservatives considered it something of a coup for the prospective Prime Minister to visit one of the last Labour bastions in south-east England during the New Year period, as he is in the process of launching a 'winter offensive' in the media with an eye to making decisive advances as the drawn-out election campaign continues.

Local Conservatives aren't speaking publically at their disappointment at being bumped - ostensibly on account of the weather.

Event organiser Reading West PPC Alok Sharma tried to placate enquiries by putting it down to forecasts of weather-affected transport - although traffic cams show transport flowing freely. However Conservative councillor Paul Swaddle offered a contradictory explaination - that the event was "diverted to allow online to go ahead".

It is also particularly galling for party organisers considering all the cumbersome security arrangements and last minute notifications which go with preparing for a visit by a prospective Prime Minister at what would have been a high-profile occasion.

Reading List understands a number of potential attendees are disheartened at Mr Cameron's failure to grace our town with his presence at this much-hyped event.

John McGarvey says he is disappointed with the Conservative leader.

He isn't much consoled by the virtual event, or the vague promise to reschedule an appearance by Mr Cameron at some unspecified date in the future either. Not even the prospect of a free evening to go drinking can cheer him up - he offers the caustic observation: was it the expectation of a 'frosty reception' that scared the tories off?

Meanwhile LibDem Cllr Swaine has a satirical jab at the expenseof his tory opponents.

Speculation has circulated around social networks that the so-called 'botched snow plot' by Labour ministers to oust Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a pure headline grabbing tactic designed to derail the launch of Mr Cameron's pre-election manifesto and that he has been forced to cancel appointments (including the event in Reading) to enable him to reorganise the build-up without wasting publicity opportunities.

By coincidence Liberal Democrats are tonight choosing a candidate to run in the Reading West constituency, so local press coverage would also have been muted.

As Adam Hewitt writes, the race in Reading West is wide open following well-known veteran Labour MP Martin Salter's decision to stand down for 'personal' reasons, but "Alok Sharma will hope... high-profile shadow cabinet visits pay off come polling day."

Well, there's not much hope if they can't fulfil their promises at this stage!

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Update: Linda Fort reports on the visit of Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling - he did manage to visit the editor of Reading Post to advertise the launch of a poster campaign.

Alistair Coleman thinks the tories are being economical with the truth.


Oranjepan says:
It has also been noted that Reading is en route from parliament in Westminster to his constituency in rural Oxfordshire's Witney - if the tory leader fails to stop in at what is a vital target seat for him he will certainly be less likely to complete the journey in the opposite direction come late spring/early summer.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Round-up: Snow - The Sequel

The dramatic December treat of a White Christmas proved to prime and prepare the local community for more recent flurries, and local bloggers have responded voluminously!

While the chaotic scenes back then caused a massive variety of angry, confused and downright annoyed reactions it seems the current blast of wintery weather is provoking a clearer set of responses.

The overwhelming sense seems to be one of wonderment at the pristine purity of the blanket of snow which has covered everything.


The personal landscape

Wendy thinks there is some relief in the escape from the usual hectic routine as we enjoy more homely pleasures.

Clive Davis is particularly happy at the opportunity for fun in the snow, while Len likes the mischief-making of it all. Ceramix has been having a play day, and something similar enabled Steve Borthwick to rediscover the joy of childhood.

pip is a caring traditionalist, while Elizabeth Thomas has a more classical sense of style - she also finds amusement in the popularity of local tanning salons on such a day.

More alternatively The Bag Lady is impressed by a punk snowman, but diggestive seems to prefer the handmade aesthetic. The Rock God went for a snow-alien and doesn't seem to be bothered that schools out for winter either!

Masters student Rama says it's spectacular, while Mike McNamara thinks he's in a winter wonderland - he should check out the view from Treetops, but the weather catches Baba Mzungu dreaming of Kenya from beneath a palm tree!

However there also remains underlying worry about the disruption caused.

Pochemyu is stressed out by the unsatisfactory situation of sitting in the USA waiting for airports to open while needing to submit university coursework on Monday.

Woz is more than somewhat frustrated at the difficulty in getting his car out, while Wendy worries that the shops are running out of essential supplies.

Further west in Hungerford, photographer Jonathan Player is a bit annoyed about the weather preventing delivery of his car, but he wouldn't be stopped from getting out and about to capture the scenery on film (though personally I think Ant-Sized Man has the most atmospheric eye of local photo bloggers).

To top it off Geoff the Jazzer (who takes his music very seriously) is annoyed at the cancellation of his gigs, but he does consoles himself with a malt and some CDs - old school!


The political landscape

Meanwhile there's little escape from politics as Alistair McRonald notes the snow is beginning to dominating political discussion.

With a white blanket everywhere it's not surprising, though left outside is unusually left virtually speechless by the beauty of it.

Independent commentators have been having a field day - Cllr Tony Jones swiftly gives the official information hand-out and John McGarvey at Reading Roars provides a handy guide to what's going on and where to find out.

Both John and the Reading's own Common Sense Party spokesperson Howard Thomas were impressed at the sight of snowploughs on the streets of the town (and Howard's not known for giving compliments lightly).

Meanwhile DTT worries that we may be 48 hours from anarchy... that is, if the snow lasts another week.

Tony Hillbourne asks do Reading Borough Council operate a 'duty of don't care?'

Of the larger groups Conservative Richard Willis reprints the by-now standard official advice from the council.

LibDem councillors from Katesgrove and Redlands take almost opposite approaches - Gareth Epps has an assured personal view, while Daisy Benson provides her usual fullsome public information service.

And Labour candidates concentrate on the work required to dig vehicles out of the snow. Rachel Eden is glad that the snow also covers up the weeds in her garden, but Richard MacKenzie is distracted from his usual occupation and finds himself for some reason impressed that his neighbours actually talk to each other (though whether that's to evade clearing the paths he omits to mention).

Of the unrepresented politicos Green activists Adrian Hollister and Adrian Windisch are singing from the same songsheet as they attack opponents for leaving rural sideroads uncleared - they think snowploughs should be brought in...

LPUK member The Salted Slug takes the liberty of a day off from work to get down to the serious business of digging out his cache of left-over stocks of holiday booze.

In the local media BBC Berkshire gives a rundown of school closures across the county, postponed sport events and pictures from the public, while Reading Post looks forward to the prospect of ice as the next challenge facing the administration and Reading Chronicle concentrates on the civic responsibilities of looking in on vulnerable neighbours and weather affected services.

Elsewhere I take my typical tack of looking at the wider context of the situation on my other blog - it's global warming but as only a few imagined it!


Oranjepan says:
If I've missed anything please add the links in the comments - I'm snowed under!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Top Of The Berkshire Blogs - December 2009

It's back! It's bigger and better than ever! Check out the risers and the fallers with Reading List's exclusive chart of the best blogs in the area!

Of course no ranking system will ever be definitive so don't forget to tell us about any sites you think we may have missed in the comments section and add them to the Wikio directory - the more the merrier!

Here's a rundown of the Top10 for December 2009:

1 #16 (+4) - Mark Reckons
2 #45 (+9) - John Redwood's Diary
3 #58 (+5) - Boulton & Co
4 #162 (+20) - left outside
5 #182 (+13) - Bracknell Blog
6 #273 (-66) - The Salted Slug
7 #339 (-29) - NevilleHobson.com
8 #379 (+923) - Liberal Burblings
9 #381 (+37) - Reading List
10 #390 (+299) - Redlands Libdems

Read last month's Top10.

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A big shake-up took place last month as local bloggers strengthened their positions nationally, making the chart the most competitive yet.

Each of the top five and eight of the top ten rose this month, compared to only one last month. But the headlines must be that three new blogs have broken through and entered into the elite bracket to set a new standard.

Further down, significant risers include gCO2e and Gideon Mack - Orangutan (both gaining 15 places to move into the top25), but the prize for biggest improvement must go to Berkeley Blog for moving up from 69th to 30th.

However it would be a mark of false modesty if I didn't also mention the growing popularity of the Berkshire Blog Review (rising 22 places to 34th), proving that two solid posts in a month is no barrier to gaining an audience.

Kudos to all the local writers out there for making this one of the most vibrant local blogospheres in the country - keep it up and watch out for next month's list!

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Read the full chart for December 2009.

Click here for the full archive of earlier charts.

Click Here for run-downs and analysis of previous months charts.

And if you still want to know more, why not check out the guide: Why It Matters... Blog Rankings
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"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

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