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I want to do something about Climate Change

This will be Reading’s Climate Change event of the year. Places are limited. Venue on Sunday 28th September 2008 1.30 – 4.30pm at Friends Meeting House, 2 Church Street, Reading RG1 2SB

The September 28 event is a fully facilitated open space meeting in which you will be supported in forming “Climate Action Groups” aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of the Greater Reading area.

Turn your ideas into action and receive ongoing support over a six month period and beyond. No prior knowledge or experience necessary.

The hosts of the event, GREN (Greater Reading Environmental Network) provides a forum for a broad range of groups to share ideas and formulate collective views. They facilitate action together that individually might not be possible. Along with COIN (Climate Outreach and Information Network – a national charity)the event aims to create a powerful and vocal community of people working together on climate change.

To book your free place phone 01865 403334 or email catrina@coinet.org.uk, for further information also see the Climate Outreach and Information Network

Labour Fails Reading’s Poorest Children

Liberal Democrats in Reading have accused Reading Borough Council of failing the most disadvantaged children in the town, following a highly critical report issued this week.

The report, compiled for the Campaign to End Child Poverty and published by Save the Children, placed Reading 6th from bottom in England in terms of the GCSE performance of the poorest children. Only 22.4% of children entitled to free school meals gained five or more good GCSEs in Reading, compared to more than half of similar children in top-performing boroughs such as Kingston Upon Thames.

Cllr Kirsten Bayes, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Education on Reading Borough Council said, “These figures give the lie to Labour’s boasts about Reading being a Learning City. It can be a great place to learn, but only if you are lucky enough to have wealthy parents and access to private tuition.”

Cllr Gareth Epps, Lib Dem Group Leader on the Council and Parliamentary Spokesperson for Reading East said “The children taking their GCSEs today were in reception class when Labour took office in 1997. There has been a Labour Council in Reading all through this period. One has to wonder what benefits the poorest children have received from Labour.”

He went on, “We want a Government which will tackle the educational divide. Liberal Democrats would directly link funding to children from deprived areas, to make sure they get the increased and personal support they need. Our poorest children should get a much fairer deal from our education system.”

Editor’s Notes:

A summary of the report’s findings are available from the Save the Children website

Alarm at rapid increase in mortgage repossession claims in Reading


Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Campaigner for Reading East, Cllr Gareth Epps, has expressed alarm at the rapid increase in mortgage repossession claims at Reading Crown Court.

The Ministry of Justice published figures on August 15, 2008 showing that the number of mortgage possession claims between January and June 2008 at Reading Crown Court were 26% higher than a year earlier (see justice.gov website Mortgage Repossessions). Compared with last year, figures from the second quarter of 2008 show a 37% increase. Possession orders were 16% higher.

The 37% year-on-year growth in mortgage repossession orders from April-June at Reading Crown Court is one of the highest increases in the South-East.

Gareth Epps commented:

“This dramatic increase is very worrying. We look set to see the highest level of repossessions at Reading Crown Court for at least 10 years.”

“Around the country, thousands of families are now paying the price for the Government letting the economy get hopelessly out of control.

“With rising mortgage repayments and sky high food and fuel costs, more and more people’s budgets are being driven to breaking point.”

“There is a lot of helpful advice available to people in financial difficulty – for example from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau – but we also need a change in the rules.”

“If we are to avoid the mass repossessions of the 1990s, it’s vital that the Government creates a statutory code of practice to ensure that lenders only ever repossess as a last resort.”

“This should not just apply to the big banks but also to the large number of secondary lenders who are using court action to pursue their debts in a very aggressive way.”

Traffic in Local Centres

Liberal Democrats have welcomed the results of the recent Neighbourhood Consultation on highways and traffic in the Maidens, Christchurch Rd and Whitley Street neighbourhoods, and called on the Council to respond quickly to residents concerns.

Cllr Daisy Benson, Redlands councillor, whose ward includes the Christchurch Road neighbourhood said, “We have been campaigning for some time now to get the traffic flow in the area looked at. The mix of parking, speeding cars, buses, and pedestrians on narrow streets in the area has worried many local residents. We will keep pushing the Council to sort out the problems.”

Cllr Gareth Epps, Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Reading East, and Katesgrove Councillor, whose ward covers the Whitley Street neighbourhood said, “It is clear that road safety and the safety of pedestrians are key concerns. The Council must act now to make the roads in these areas safe for everybody to use.”

“Local centres are what should give Reading its character. It is important that we give these areas special attention to make them as pleasant as possible, to encourage more people to use them and help local businesses to thrive.”

GAS PRICES UP 35% – URGENT ACTION NEEDED TO PROTECT VULNERABLE

British Gas has today confirmed that it has increased gas prices by 35% and electricity prices by 9% with immediate effect. The increase will see average annual bills for people living in Reading East rise to more than £1,250.

Cllr Gareth Epps, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Reading East, has said that energy companies should be compelled to use the money from a £9,000,000,000 (£9 billion)European windfall to help protect some of the most vulnerable people from the effects of fuel poverty. The energy firms received the multi-billion- pound windfall thanks to the giveaway of free permits to emit Carbon Dioxide under the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme. Previous estimates have put the proceeds of that windfall at £9bn, although Ofgem estimates the true figure could be even higher.

Gareth commented: “Many people will wonder how energy companies can enjoy such a massive subsidy at a time when we are all finding it harder to pay our energy bills.”

He continued “This multi-billion pound windfall should be used to protect the most vulnerable people from the effects of fuel poverty. If action is not taken now then many families are going to face an increasingly tough time paying their bills this winter.”

“Everyone I meet is worried about rising prices. There is also a lot of fear about job losses and the threat of repossessions as house prices fall. People want to see action from Gordon Brown, but nothing seems to be happening.”

Gordon Brown and Labour are simply out of touch with real life in Reading and elsewhere. The increase in prices by British Gas comes just a few days after EDF Energy put up gas prices by 22% and electricity prices by 17%, with other firms expected to follow suit. Consumer watchdog Energywatch said it believed the 35% gas bill rise was the biggest single increase in the price of a utility seen to date.”

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