Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Newsweek: Reading

Here is Reading Lists's Newsweek catalogue of the major stories from elsewhere.

This week we've expanded our horizons slightly to offer some additional illumination.

Reading:
Elsewhere in Berkshire:
And we're indebted to Bracknell Blog which has taken up the franchise for Bracknell:

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Previous Newsweeks

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Round-Up: Reactions To The First Leadership Debate

#rdgpol - Nearly 10m people tuned in to watch the 'historic' first ever UK leadership election debate, so a sample from the local blogosphere will show how it went down with the public.

BBC South's political correspondent Peter Henley notes how there will always be a few who are turned off by politics, a few who get bored and a few who are genuinely undecided, 'pondering the question' of which way to vote.


So Reading List settled down to tune in (with some popcorn) to watch how proceedings unfurled.


Bloggers reactions

Newbury citizen journalist Jim Millen (who previously admitted he is tending towards voting Conservative) says "it was quite compelling viewing and an intriguing addition to our democratic process," calling the result 'very even actually'.

He says LibDem leader Nick Clegg was "best in tune with the studio audience," but while he was impressed with the solidity of Gordon Brown's performance David Cameron didn't show enough 'enthusiasm, fire and passion'.

For him the debate was frustrating as it didn't provide enough rational scrutiny of the respective party policies and says it was "depressing to see the negativity, sniping and bitterness being expressed" on the twitter #leadersdebate stream.

Jim also thought the format was successfully handled by ITV moderator Alistair Stewart given the artificiality of the format on its' first airing and the potential that it could've "degenerated into argumentative scrapping."

However Green Party candidate Adrian Windisch had obviously already made his mind up to be bored by the process from the start, calling it 'underwhelming' - even exclaiming a 'Yawn'. In a clear expression of his level of engagement with the political process he attempts to summarise the responses to the questions: 'Repeat ad nauseum. Again.'

Adrian's only amusement came from reading the #leadersdebate twitterstream and he provides a lengthy diatribe against the three parties for not addressing the economic issues facing the country (Editor's note: home affairs were the subject of the first debate, foreign affairs will be covered in part two before the debate turns to economic issues in part three).

To round things off Adrian attacks the audience for asking 'poor' questions and Alistair Stewart for his 'poor' moderation.

Labour's Cllr John Ennis also gives no allowance for ITV's handling of the new format as he trots out the official party line conceding points on performance to the LibDems, but asserting a moral victory for Gordon Brown on the substantive issues.

But Bracknell branding expert Leslie Everett argues that
"it's not just a matter of having the right substance and the right manifestos, we've got to make sure we feel like people mean them as well... the brand image that comes across really does help us to feel the credibility or not."
She comments "Gordon Brown... was holding on to the podium for dear life at one stage" and David Cameron "was just too polished and too direct," as he "came across as a little bit insincere... we didn't really feel like we meant some of this stuff."

Elsewhere atheist blogger Steve Borthwick thinks it's "easy to become cynical" about the difficult choice between the parties.

Nevertheless, he says, Nick Clegg "seemed the only one willing to actually venture into quantification and example," stating he doesn't trust the continuous spin of Gordon Brown and David Cameron who represent the past and vested interests.

On the other side of the coin Reading floating voter Bag Lady described the event as 'gripping'.

Although she was disappointed that the personality of the leaders didn't come through strongly enough for her she decides Nick Clegg is the "most likeable and most authentic out of all three."

And freethinker Elizabeth Thomas says it is "remarkable that... [the UK] has never held debates between candidates running to lead the country."

She cites the international reaction from her native America where expectations for a dull contest between the leaders of the two big parties has been 'transformed' by the traction gained by the third party.

Elizabeth adjudges that "Clegg had cleverly managed to position Cameron and Brown as two peas in a conventional political pod" and successfully delivered "a knockout message of change."


Consequently LibDem bloggers were always likely to be upbeat about the event, with Thatcham's Paul Walter liveblogging and Sandhurst's Mark Thompson hosting a live chat for it's duration - each of which provide some invaluable insights into LibDem thinking.


Opinion poll reactions

After the event LibDem positivity about the result continued with Cllr Glenn Goodall and Paul Walter, who were both strongly encouraged by the performance of their leader.

A position which appears to be borne out by the latest opinion polls. Anthony Wells looks at the figures and sees a big swing towards the LibDems among female voters and under-35's.

Which may explain why Conservative Cllr Richard Willis has scaled back on his reporting on the flood of current opinion polls to highlight only the favorable aspects for his side.

Luckily he isn't the only local blogger who keeps a close eye on the polls: Mark Thompson has been keeping up a balanced and consistent commentary.

Mark starts off by reporting the poll 'bounce' for the LibDems as 'good news', but warns of drawing conclusions before a trend emerges.

He also notes that critical commentators have suggested this may be a high-water mark for LibDem support, and offers the counter-argument that Nick Clegg may begin to benefit from a positive feedback loop if a trend does begin to emerge - which it shows all inclinations of doing as some pollsters are even placing the LibDems in first place (an event unrivalled in modern polling history).

He even admits that the past few days are making him feel 'a bit giddy' with confidence going into the next debate which will focus on foreign affairs, including the UK's relationship with Europe and possibly our international military commitments.

Mark preempts attacks on his party by arguing "there are no easy options for Cameron and Brown to counter Clegg" on these issues, before explaining exactly why in greater depth.

Cllr Warren Swaine provides the opposite angle - he says when the public listen to LibDems without being filtered through the press or broadcast media his words resonate and people simply like what they hear. In his defence he cites a Newsnight focus group and doorstep canvassing.

And in reference to the famous rally when the wheels came off the seemingly unstoppable Labour bandwagon in 1992, Paul Walter asks exuberently: 'Was the leader's debate David Cameron's 'Sheffield moment'?'

Bracknell Blog's Darren Bridgeman is more cautious and urges fellow LibDems not to overemphasis reactions to the result of the debate and instead use it for personal motivation alone.

Wokingham PPC Cllr Prue Bray is clearly doing exactly that, noting a surge in members of the public on the doorstep stating their willingness to support her - especially considering the prediction of her opponent, incumbent tory MP John Redwood, that it would be a dull affair!

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Update: It's also worth linking to Nigel Morgan's Building Reputations PR blog, where he's been an avid follower of the communications methods employed so far throughout the campaign.

Nigel starts by quoting a Derek Bacon cartoon from The Economist "Brown is ‘the devil you know’, Cameron ‘the devil you don’t’ and Clegg is ‘Who the devil’."

He follows this up with his analysis of the debate, suggesting it may have been a strategic error for Cameron and Brown to agree to Clegg joining in (although in reality they had little choice and they clearly thought they could use him to sidetrack their other opponent).

Refreshingly for a PR man who advocates the benefits of PR Nigel states Clegg was able to shine precisely because he was more natural and remembered the basics of good communication without the need for specific coaching.

Communications guru Graham Jones was particularly interested in how Nick Clegg changed perceptions by modifying his language - instead of calling the prospect of a parliament where no party has a majority a 'hung parliament' the LibDem leader called it a 'balanced parliament'.

At a stroke he banished the negative connotations and brought in a fresh, clear and positive appreciation of the subject, winning kudos within the communications industry up and down the country.

Both Graham and Nigel conclude that if the next two debates go the same way then this election really is up for grabs!


Oranjepan says:
Berkshire bloggers score round 1 to Nick Clegg and the LibDems - just remember there's two more rounds to go...

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More from on the election trail

KMC Lock Horns With Tories

The first six-monthly update of the King's Meadow Campaign has brought home the difficulties in returning the Edwardian Lido back into use for the first time since 1974.

Efforts at raising the estimated £2.5m funding required have been slow, according to group spokesperson Bob O'Neill, but this reflects the economic climate and the winter period, adding that a series of events would help boost coffers.

Bruce Tindall, who is RBC's council head of development explained, "When KMC made their initial proposals, the economic situation in the country was far rosier than it is today."

It was suggested that the reopening plan would be phased to enable income from the reopened pavilion to help fund the pool development, although this still appears to be some way off.

Anne Jessel explained for KMC group,
"The fact that the meeting was so short and sweet means they trust us to get on with this and that's great."
Elsewhere the issue of funding has turned into a major political fight as Conservative Cllr Richard Willis came under attack for his criticism of KMC's 'spin operation'.

He lays out his party's 'unchanged' policy towards the site, saying tories are "committed to work with any viable partner" on the project so long as taxpayers don't bear any cost and any development is 'of appropriate size and scale'.

He quotes his colleague Cllr Jeanette Skeats, who said she will "support a viable approach for the re-generation of this area."

But in a vigorous discussion tory-supporting commenters (including a pseudonymous candidate) are criticised for wishing to tear down the Grade II listed building, while KMC supporters accuse Cllr Willis of providing misleading information regarding the potential funding of the plans.


Oranjepan says:
Tory claims of an 'unchanged policy' have been subjected to ridicule because of continuing anger at their previous support for the massive redevelopment proposed by Askett Hawke.

Cllr Townend's statement that "any high-rise development is completely inappropriate" demonstrates a complete U-turn in his position as it does not correspond with his voting record or previous statements on the subject.

Both sides say they 'mean business', but each obviously have different ideas of what this means.

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More background stories on the King's Meadow Campaign

Friday, 16 April 2010

Reservoir Opposition Resurrected

Thames Water's plan to develop the Bath Road Reservoir for housing were rejected last year, but the company has indicated it will make a resubmission as the site remains in Reading's masterplan for redevelopment.

Local campaigners have written over 200 letters of objection. The Save the Bath Road Reservoir website states,
"We feel that the reservoir site is worthy of protection, and should be designated as a local nature reserve, a wildlife link, an educational resource for local schoolchildren or similar."
But group spokesperson Mel Woodward said, "If development does occur, we just want to make sure it is done sensitively."

The reservoir issue has turned into an election topic as Conservative housing spokesman Grant Shapps MP visited the town to show solidarity with local residents and set out his party's proposals.

Mr Shapps explained that the plan to build up to 100 homes on the 5.4 acre site was too many and said a compromise position was more preferable.

He added that his party proposed scrapping housing density targets which specify how many homes each local authority must build while providing incentives in order to encourage greater development. However he argued greater accountability was also needed to ensure local communities have more say in developments on their doorstep.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman was also in town recently to restate her opinion that more homes are needed in Reading, but that in her opinion the reservoir site is not appropriate:
"We have got to find places where we can build decent homes for people, but not actually with the green open spaces."
Meanwhile local campaigner Graham Griffiths expressed his anger at the biases in the planning process,
"The missing link is translating the support we've got from politicians into action on these particular local issues."

Oranjepan asks:
During election time politicians are obviously keen to latch onto popular local campaigns, but when push comes to shove and the election is over do local residents ever get exactly what we want?

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More on the campaign to save the Bath Road reservoir.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Row Over Heathrow Credit Claims

The volcanic ash cloud which has grounded aircraft across the country has brought back into focus the controversial decision to build a third runway at Heathrow.

Many residents have been celebrating the reduction in noise pollution as several days of clear skies have provided a demonstration of the difference it makes to everyday quality of life.

Only a couple of weeks ago campaigners were also celebrating the decision in the High Court forcing a review of Government policy on expansion. The statutory public consultation was described as flawed and founded on 'out of date' information which makes .

Councils across Berkshire together with Greenpeace and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have signed up to the 2M coalition group opposed to a third runway.

Colnbrook Parish Council Chairman Laurie Tucker said,
"This is an enormous win for everyone who is affected by Heathrow's air traffic. We welcome this decision but I am sure the government will not back down without a fight."
Conservative leader on Windsor and Maidenhead council Cllr David Burbage claimed it was a victory over Gordon Brown's Labour.

He pays credit to Labour rebel John MacDonnell MP, Conservative Justine Greening MP and LibDem Susan Kramer MP who've spearheaded the cross-party parliamentary campaign group and describes the decision as a "total vindication of the action we've taken on behalf of residents to help prevent vast airport expansion."

Meanwhile Adrian Windisch claims the decision is 'another Green victory'.

However Judge Carnwarth refused to quash the planning application and the Department of Transport said it would 'robustly defend' the expansion plans as the latest evidence would be taken into account when the review took place later in the year - meaning the campaign is a long way from being over yet.

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More on the plans for Heathrow expansion

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Housing League Table

Homeless charity Shelter recently criticised local authorities in the area when they released a league table of the performance on meeting targets for affordable homes.

In Reading experts claim 832 affordable homes are needed every year, but only 270 are being delivered.

Spokesperson Brendan Murphy said,
"Housing shortages affect everyone, from young people forced to live with a parent, to others having to grow up in families who are stuck on council housing waiting lists for years and years, or people stuck in temporary accommodation."
Reading Borough Council defended their record, stating that the figures
"make absolutely no allowance for the economic downturn and the subsequent slowdown in the housing market and completely ignore the fact that in tightly bounded areas like Reading, there is little suitable land remaining available for development."
However this doesn't excuse the other local authorities in Berkshire.

In West Berkshire, despite being 5 places above Reading in their chart, Shelter's Chief Executive called on the council to "work far harder to ensure more homes are provided if it ever hopes to meet the needs of the local population." Lead councillor for Housing and Develeopment Cllr Alan Law commented that the Newbury-based authority is 'exceeding' requirements in the government's South-East plan.

Newbury MP Richard Benyon argued that the Conservative-run council is 'doing a good job', but LibDem PPC David Rendel commented that his office is constantly overrun with people making a 'huge clamour' in a desperate scramble for housing.

In Wokingham Cllr David Lee blamed government restrictions on back garden development and 'flawed' planning regulations for a 350-home per year shortfall on target levels. However it appears the criticism obviously stung as the borough website almost immediately released an announcement of a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA).

Reading West parliamentary candidate for the LibDems Cllr Daisy Benson (who has a special interest in housing issues) attacked the Conservative 'right-to-buy' initiatives of the past as a hugely damaging policy.

She says this created an inbalance which reduced the flexibility of the housing market as too many properties were taken out of the rented sector, as well as having the effect that many family-sized council homes were sold off at below market price, while central government now retains greater control over rental incomes from council-owned housing stock.

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Shelter's regional housing league table for South East England (out of 67 councils):

#7 Slough: waiting list 7.39 years, 38% affordable housing delivered - details
#9 West Berkshire: waiting list 9.07 years, 37% affordable housing delivered - details
#14 Reading: waiting list 7.38 years, 32% affordable housing delivered - details
#16 Bracknell Forest: waiting list 9.38 years, 30% affordable housing delivered - details
#35 Wokingham: waiting list 16.93 years, 20% affordable housing delivered - details
#49 RBWM: waiting list 5.02 years, 11% affordable housing delivered - details

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More stories about housing

Monday, 12 April 2010

Rifts Caused By Clean Campaign Pledge

A division has opened up between the parties and candidates over a seemingly innocuous pledge to avoid resorting to 'dirty' tactics during the election campaign.

Conservative and Green party candidates in the two Reading constituencies kicked off the general election campaign with a bi-partisan pledge to make this a positive campaign which doesn't descend to personal attacks.

Reading Guide describes how the pledge
"is seen as a meaningful gesture to end some of the doorstep lying, political PR spinning and personal insults which, sadly, is typical in many consituencies from parties across the spectrum."
Reading West's Alok Sharma said, "voters are completely turned off by personal attacks and negative campaigning," adding,
"Whilst we are about it, it would be helpful if every political party in Reading stuck to explaining its own policies rather than trying to invent policies for other parties!"
He also gives space to opponent Adrian Windisch, who explained,
"We have seen a decline in voter turnout and people have lost trust in politicians. One way to gain it back is to talk about policies not personalities."
On his own blog Adrian Windisch provides the full text of the pledge, which all candidates standing in Reading have been invited to voluntarily abide by.

And BBC South political correspondent Peter Henley has been following the matter. In Reading East the 'two Robs' (Wilson and White) were happy to speak with one voice on the matter too.

He notes LibDems Gareth Epps and Daisy Benson were both happy to sign the pledge: Cllr Benson said, "I've signed it on the basis that I've got nothing to hide in terms of having a clean campaign. I was happy to sign it."

Anneliese Dodds offered her support "Certainly, we'll abide by it, it's what I've been doing for the past four years," adding, "Of course we want to see a clean campaign, but people to have to be honest."

This line seems to have opened the floodgates as Cllr Warren Swaine calls on Ms Dodds to apologise for the range of inaccurate and personal attacks she has been making in her election literature.

He argues that policy and personality in politics are interwoven and inseparable - since they reflect what a person represents and whether the public can place their trust in them is a matter of them meaning what they say and doing what they mean.

Clearly he doesn't believe Labour as the matter escalated when he made an official complaint over Labour's 'libellous' claims in Ms Dodds campaign.

But the matter has become a greater bone of contention for Labour. Naz Sarkar refused to add his signature to Ms Dodds', commenting, "this 'pledge' is a cynical attempt by the Tories to close down debate on issues where they feel vulnerable."

And when LibDems called on Rob Wilson to face the public Conservatives have been shown to be inconsistent and evasive in their approach too - rather than responding directly to a challenge and providing an explanation why he was unwilling to answer questions on environmental matters the tory MP launched into his own diversionary attack on a widely discredited rumour.

Clearly Mr Wilson doesn't agree with either his colleague Mr Sharma or the pledge they both signed!

In his final Westminster Diary of the parliament Rob Wilson describes his belief in the necessity of good manners and courtesy. His enlightening comments show he accepts sincerity at face value and thinks this makes for a more effective way of dealing with people, even if this means the result is unwanted...

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Update: Baba Mzungu notes a spokesperson for Labour leader Gordon Brown recently said "manifesto pledges are not subject to legitimate expectation."


Oranjepan says:
Greens have been eager to raise their profile ahead of an election in which they still wait to gain their first seat. They have made a string of pledges which they hope will gain public attention, but the sceptics may well say they've let their enthusiasm get to them and have been duped - this 'pledge' looks like an effective endorsement of their ideological opponents.

It was often said that Tony Blair's success as a politician came down to his ability to do sincerity - but would you trust a liar who promises not to lie? Clearly there are still many people who say 'yes'.

Politicians from the school of realpolitik will argue trust is overrated - what's needed are guarantees.

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More from on the election trail

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Top Of The Berkshire Blogs - March 2010

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 top blogs in the area!

Of course no ranking system will ever be definitive so don't forget to tell us about your blog in the comments section if you think we may have missed it - then it too can be added to the Wikio directory - the more the merrier!

Here's a rundown of the Top10 for March 2010:

#1 (><) - Mark Reckons
#2 (><) - John Redwood's Diary
#3 (><) - Boulton & Co
#4 (><) - left outside
#5 (+3) - The Salted Slug
#6 (><) - Bracknell Blog
#7 (+3) - The Cartoon Church
#8 (-3) - Liberal Burblings
#9 (><) - Reading List
#10 (-3) - Another Green World

Check out the full chart for the month.

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Apologies for a late release of the chart - we know how much it is anticipated.

March was a topsy-turvy month as a the better local blogs began to sort themselves out, while there was also a larger than usual number of big climbers. But the big news must be the big scrap that is emerging with six of the top ten so closely positioned.

BBC South political correspondent Peter Henley's Hustings claims the award for the biggest climber of the month, although it was only a matter of time before his national platform enabled him to start climbing towards the upper reaches of the chart. He gained 19,862 places to reach #32.

This was closely followed by Reading Liberal Youth (up 19,825 spots to #40) and Reading's MYP Josh Harsant (up 19,031 to #52).

Not quite managing to keep pace with those achievements were Narrowboat Zulu Warrior and The Sourceress both gaining over 15,000 rungs on the ladder to occupy 49th and 67th respectively.

Other significant climbers were Sheabutter Cottage, The Flashing Blade, Cat's Blog and Greenconstructionuk all moving up by more than 1,000 places.

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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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 Reading List Editor's guide: Why It Matters... Blog Rankings

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Newsweek: Reading Political Stories

Newsweek is a catalogue of political stories culled from other local sources brought to you by Reading List.

It's always worth collecting together a selection of individual news stories to compare and contrast what's being said by people on different sides, so here's a selection of issues making headlines during the past week:


If you've seen any local political stories which you think are worth wider attention, please let us know so they can be added to this Reading List catalogue.

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Previous Newsweeks

Recommended Reading List #54

With the general election announcement candidates and the public will all be vying with each other to dominate the airwaves and set the agenda. So it's worth giving space to our foremost political correspondent the BBC South's Peter Henley, who gives a preliminary overview of the background the election will be played out against in Berkshire.

He states the Royal County is a land of contrasts with "smart country villages alongside London overspill, well-heeled commuter estates surrounding streets with inner-city levels of crime." And mirroring this is a 'pretty colourful' political debate too.

The expenses affair and political funding will both be battleground in Berkshire, while social, economic and environmental issues will make for an unpredictable outcome all round as each side has hope of making gains!

Election Called For May 6th

Local political bloggers have responded to the long-expected the announcement that the general election will be held at the last possible moment on May 6th.

Labour candidate Rachel Eden says it is good news for everyone that the general election will be held on the same day as the local elections - with the possible exception of the returning officer and counters - as she says this will guarantee a higher turnout.

Conservative Cllr Richard Willis also thinks it is good news. After 2 years of prevarication and 13 years of bad government he says the public will 'at last' have an opportunity to make a 'real choice'. He predicts his party will gain an overall majority.

LibDem Paul Walter is less emotionally attached to the outcome than in previous elections, but is nevertheless looking forward to the next few weeks as an opportunity to increase the number of votes and seats his party gains. He expresses 'positive excitement' and expects it to be fun all the way.

The Green Party's Rob White makes the perfunctory press release stating his party position.

Meanwhile Bracknell Blog's Dazmando may be a LibDem but is happy to promote Independent candidate Mark Ashwell as his way of providing a service in a way which he feels may make a difference.

Elsewhere Wokingham's communications guru Neville Hobson gets ready for "four weeks’ of intense message-pushing, stunts, posters, door-knocking, leaflets, TV debates, party election broadcasts, and more," asking whether digital and social media will be used by the political classes to truly enagage the public in a two-way communication process.

He looks back on the last election when he was optimistic that technology would herald a brave new world of politics, noting this was 'the wishful thinking of an early adapter', but remains convinced that the impact of websites, blogging, twitter and the rest will play a greater role in enabling the public to find out more about our candidates.

Neville says:
"this general election will be marked out by how ordinary people use social media to propel discussion, critique election campaigns, challenge politicians, put forward alternative points of view, and generally voice their opinions using informal tools and channels to connect and engage directly with others and influence opinion."
Communication is obviously the power of the age!

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More from on the election trail

Monday, 5 April 2010

No Longer A 'B' Town

In another sign of the transition from industrial production to a service economy the long-awaited news that Reading's brewery would close came to fruition this weekend.

In a leader comment Reading Chronicle notes how this is part of the changing landscape, and that this will deal a blow to the long-held identity of the town which was based on the '3 B's' of 'Beer, Biscuits and Bulbs'.

Here the last crates of beer were loaded onto the lorries and sent out for sale


Thatcham's Paul Walter used to work at the Worton Grange site when it was owned by Courage and mourns the closure of the site. He says it is a 'shame' and a crime that the massive industrial buildings were only used for 30 years.

But fellow LibDem Cllr Warren Swaine is less nostalgic, despite the fact he admits he is no fan of crinking the real ale micro-breweries that are spreading produce.

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More on Save our Pubs!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Confrontatrion Over Job Cuts At University

Government plans to save £1bn from the higher education funding budget will see job losses at Reading University's highly-regarded computer science, electronics and cybernetics, biology and chemistry departments.

The move is hoped to save £10.6m for the educational establishment, but staff have accused RU of "taking a wrecking ball to the sciences" as Reading faces the largest cuts in the country.

University Vice Chancellor Professor Tony Downes pointed out that many other universities were planning far higher numbers of job losses, arguing that "Research in science is a real strength of our University and we are determined that the savings needed will not undermine this."

University spokesperson Alex Brannen said the institution wants to protect research in areas of excellence such as Sytems Engineering, although signs are that this area has already begun to see staff losses as 'reshaping' begins.

In total Reading University will recieve grants of £30.54m for teaching and £18.26m for research. It will also receive £1.9m from the higher education innovation fund.

Tim Astin representing the University College Union was unimpressed.
"After the shambolic closure of the physics department in 2006 we hoped we had seen the last of cuts to vital subjects but it would appear that we were mistaken,"
adding that the "decision is another huge blow for staff and students from a management that has failed to give any coherent reasons for the cuts."

He concluded, "These plans make no sense whatsoever and will take away huge bodies of knowledge from the university."

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More on Reading University in Transition

Friday, 2 April 2010

Safety Concerns Sparked By Mensa Leaks At AWE

The Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston has come under renewed scrutiny after it emerged construction work at the site in preparation for the new nuclear warhead assembly facility, Project Mensa, had caused pollution in Burghfield Brook.

The Environment Agency has sent a warning letter to AWE after a discharge raised concerns of lasting damage.

EA spokesperson Hayley Willoughby commented that "we will be working with AWE to ensure this does not happen again."

She added:
"minor incidents so early on in AWE's programme of construction activities may warn of a more significant pollution incident to come as construction activities expand at both Burghfield and Aldermaston over the next few years."
Nuclear Awareness Group director Peter Burt explains how the leaks reminded him "of the bad old days back in the 1970s and 1980s when AWE's safety and environmental record was unimaginably worse than it is now" as "AWE was a law unto itself and health and safety was very much an afterthought to the manufacturing and research work that took place at the Establishment."

He points out that it was only after increased pressure from campaigners that the Local Liason Committee (LLC) was set up that the situation improved and residents were given a means to engage in the planning process to protect them from disaster.

Peppard ward's Cllr Richard Willis is a member of the LLC and he reports on the most recent meeting he attended when a question session with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate highlighted a range of concerns at the plant, including 'elevated levels of Gamma radiation' on the banks of the Thames at Pangbourne and Mapledurham.

In addition a report was given on enabling the 1,000 construction workers for the new Project Pegasus building easier access to the site, while it was announced that a planning submission for the new 14,000 sq m Hydrus hydro-dynamics building would be made during May.

Finally parish councillors recieved a response that assessment of prospects for the use of the site as a long-term store for nuclear waste is still ongoing.

Reading's LibDem environmental spokesperson Cllr Glenn Goodall expresses his concern that the leaks from construction at the site broke the Water Resources Act, as just one instance of over 4,000 incidents arising from Britain's AWE establishments which are made every year.

He adds that despite the existence of the LLC neighbouring authorities are often kept largely 'in the dark' about what actually happens at the sites.

Meanwhile LibDem parliamentary candidate for Reading East, Cllr Gareth Epps added,
"With a significant number of residents in Katesgrove, Reading town centre and Newtown living by the Kennet, it is in the public interest that attention and scrutiny is paid to the environmental impacts of AWE."

Oranjepan says:
Unless you know what's going on and are fully involved in the processes there is little you can do to prepare for or mitigate the worst that can happen.

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More stories about AWE Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield
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