The news last week that Thames Water were deferring their plans to implement a scheme to alleviate the effects of flooding in Keswick Close, Tilehurst, was greeted with dismay by local residents.
Local Councillor Ricky Duveen said, “after all the planning and consultation that has already gone on and raised hopes that something might finally be done for the residents of Keswick Close, this is a major blow.”
He continued, “Thames Water have told me that they do not have the resources to carry out the scheme in their current round of works and it will be put back until at least 2010.”
“They have given no information yet as to what other schemes are also being postponed.”
“Given the events of July 2007 I would like to know why Thames Water are slackening off their efforts to alleviate flooding in Reading. It is difficult to understand why such a big company would go through all the preparatory works and then postpone the scheme for lack of resources when they made £427m profit last year (before tax) and another £283m in the first six months of this financial year. Also last year they paid out over £0.5bn in dividends to shareholders.”
“I think they have got their priorities very wrong and the residents they serve are being short-changed.”
Reading West Lib Dem parliamentary hopeful Patrick Murray has launched a scathing attack on the government’s announcement of measures to compensate 5 million of Britain’s poorest citizens who were penalised by the cutting of the 10p tax rate.
Alistair Darling claimed the change was the “fairest and most effective way” to help those who lost out from the scrapping of the 10p tax rate. He said it meant 22 million people on low and middle incomes would gain an additional £120 this year.
Patrick questioned the ‘fairness’ of the government’s proposals.
“How can Darling call this fair when he is compensating 17 million people who did not lose out on the 10p tax rate cut along with 4 million who did lose out and another 1 million of the poorest citizens who will only receive half the compensation they are owed ?”
“In the middle of an economic crisis when public spending is being cut to the bone Labour have come up with a tax cut that can only be seen as a bribe to buy back disaffected supporters who have turned away from New Labour’s ideas on fairness in droves. They can spend £50bn on propping up banks, another £3bn in tax cuts but they cannot provide decent homes, schools or care for people who need them most.”
Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said:
“This Government’s tax policy has descended into a complete farce.
“The abolition of the 10p rate was designed to help Labour win the election that never was. Now this by-election budget is designed to help them cling on to Crewe in next week’s vote.
“This u-turn leaves 1.1 million of the lowest paid workers losing up to £100 each.
“We can have no confidence in either a Prime Minister or a Chancellor who continue to make tax policy on the hoof, while still leaving the poorest out in the cold.”
Cllr Gareth Epps, Liberal Democrat councillor for Katesgrove, was elected unopposed at a group meeting on Saturday afternoon as the new leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Reading Borough Council.
Gareth – with long experience in forming Liberal Democrat policy at national level – takes over from Bob Green, who stood down from the Council on 1 May after 7 years leading the Liberal Democrats in Reading. Under Bob the number of Liberal Democrat seats grew at each of the last three local elections.
‘I’m delighted to have such clear support to take up this challenge, at a time of such clear opportunity for Liberal Democrats in Reading.
‘Bob Green has done a tremendous job for the Liberal Democrats. His expertise and authority has won respect across party lines. We will miss his direct input – though I’m glad to be able to count on his advice. I’m glad to say he is in great spirits and feeling better every day.
‘The people of Reading voted for change on 1 May. My first task is to make sure that we deliver that change. Reading needs a Council that listens and responds to local people’s concerns. Liberal Democrats will work not to deliver the agendas of others – but the agenda of real change. We have asked the Labour and Conservative groups to respond to our manifesto – which is available publicly – for this exact reason.’
Commenting on Cllr Tony Jones‘ resignation from the Labour Party, Cllr Gareth Epps, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Reading Borough Council, said:-
“Tony’s decision is courageous and deserves credit. It is clear that the Labour Party has moved so far that people like Tony, steeped in the traditions of the Labour movement, now feel they have no place in it. It is an indictment of the politics of Gordon Brown.”
He continued – “We share his view on the comments of some of the stunts used by the previous Labour administration. These should have had no place in politics.
Tony may well find, when he has had chance to reflect, that on a number of issues such as tax for the lowest paid and Post Offices, as well as issues closer to home, that he will be able to work with us at this exciting time for Reading. In time I hope he will find the political home that many former Labour Party members up and down the country have found – and join the Liberal Democrats.”
Liberal Democrats are celebrating another advance in Reading as Labour lost their leader and overall control of Reading Borough Council.
In the Reading East constituency, Phil Challis turned a Conservative victory last year into a Liberal Democrat majority of almost 400 in Loddon ward in Woodley and Jenny Lissaman comfortably held Bulmershe & Whitegates.
Lib Dem Warren Swaine beat Labour’s longstanding Council leader David Sutton to gain a seat in Katesgrove ward and Glenn Goodall gained Redlands from Labour.
There are now 8 Liberal Democrats on Reading Borough Council – the highest total for many years.
Commenting on the results and Reading’s status as a balanced council, Cllr Gareth Epps, acting leader of the Liberal Democrat group, says:-
‘I’m delighted with this result. It is particularly clear that in the urban areas of Reading it is the Liberal Democrats making advances – and the Conservatives falling back. While Labour have lost control, the Tories cannot be pleased with a result that saw them lose in a number of seats they were targeting to gain.
‘Now to the future. We have set out a very clear agenda, in much greater depth than the other parties. We now want to make the changes which the people of Reading have demonstrated clearly they want to see.
‘It is called “Real Change for Reading” and is available on this site. I look forward to hearing how the other groups on the Council now will seek to implement that chance.’