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Labour’s Tesco Town

Katesgrove Lib Dems have been working closely with local businesses and residents over proposals to turn the old HSBC bank into a Tesco Express. The plans are to build over the car park at the rear and into the street at the front to create a shop which is twice the size of any of the existing businesses.

There would be a loss of parking space in an area already beset by parking problems and an escalation in deliveries which will cause serious traffic safety issues and a detrimental effect on the viability of the shopping district.

Katesgrove Councillor and local resident Warren Swaine said: “When Labour were in control of the ward, the Whitley Street district shopping centre was in danger of collapsing.

“Shops were being left empty and trade moving to other parts of Reading. Your local Lib Dem councillors worked hard to change it by standing up for local businesses.

“Lib Dems made the council change parking times in the car park opposite to a more convenient 90 minutes which suited the restaurants, opticians, dental centre and gym far better than the 30 minute restrictions we inherited. When we were in control of the council we ensured that Whitely Street was on the priority list for extra cleaning and moved the shops into the police patrol area for Katesgrove from the university area which has a completely different crime profile.”

Cllr. Warren Swaine also spoke with Tesco’s Community and Government Director David North about the planning application in September.

Yet Labour seem intent on turning Reading into a Tesco town. Their Caversham based ward councillor tells residents “I want to hear residents’ views”. Too late. The boat has sailed as the public hearing was a month ago! Only the Lib Dems were there to speak up for residents and businesses and specifically invited to submit extra details to the planning inspector.

It’s quite simple. Only Katesgrove Lib Dems are on the ball and know what’s going on in the area. Because we live here!

More Pupil Premium cash to help Reading’s poorest children achieve their full potential

The Government has announced that the Pupil Premium will be extended to cover any child that has been registered for Free School Meals (FSM) in the past six years.

For 2012-13, the Premium will be worth £1.25 billion in total.

As a result of this next year, more than half a million additional children will qualify for the Pupil Premium.

These are England’s most disadvantaged pupils, including looked after children, and they are set to benefit from £600 each after the Department for Education announced next year’s Pupil Premium will increase by £112 for each pupil.

  • In Reading 4,412 are expected to be eligible for the Pupil Premium, meaning that our schools are set to benefit from an extra £2.7 million pounds to support disadvantaged pupils.

Commenting, Cllr Rebecca Rye said:

“We are delighted that despite very difficult financial times Liberal Democrats in Government have taken the decision to increase spending on the poorest children in our communities in Reading.”

“This will help all children in Reading achieve their full potential regardless of their background.”

“Children who have been eligible for Free School Meals at any point in their school career have consistently lower educational attainment than those who have never been eligible. Of students gaining three As at A-level in 2008, 30 per cent were privately educated, whereas only 0.5 per cent were eligible for Free School Meals.

“That is why thanks to Liberal Democrats, the Coalition Government is doing the right thing by supporting schools with additional money to support children from less well-off backgrounds. This will help whole classes work better together and move forward faster.”

Commenting further, Liberal Democrat Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather said:

“As we come to the end of the second term of the Pupil Premium we are seeing across the country how these extra funds are making a difference. Additional tuition, better IT resources and closer work with parents are all examples of how the Pupil Premium is being used to support the most disadvantaged pupils.

“That’s why I’m so pleased that, next year, we’ll be extending the Pupil Premium to another half a million children, and increasing the money that schools get to £600 per pupil. This means that, as a result of Liberal Democrats in government, more children will get a better start in life”.

Reading Lib Dems select new faces to join hard-working team

Greater Reading Liberal Democrats have selected Reading residents Janel Blattler, James Moore and Meri O’Connell to stand as candidates in Katesgrove, Redlands and Tilehurst wards in the Reading Borough Council elections in 2012.

Their selection follows individual decisions by councillors Peter Beard , Glenn Goodall and Warren Swaine not to seek re-election in the local Council elections in Reading in 2012.

  • Cllr Peter Beard is retiring in May 2012 after representing Tilehurst since 2001.
  • Cllr Beard represented Norcot ward between 1974 and 1982. His career as a local councillor included a very successful year as Mayor of Reading when he campaigned to improve the lot of the Reading Gurkha community.
  • Cllr Warren Swaine and Cllr Glenn Goodall are stepping down at the local elections in May 2012 to focus on their professional careers after four years serving local people in Katesgrove and Redlands.

New candidates set to make a mark

Janel Blatter, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Katesgrove

Janel Blatter, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Katesgrove

Katesgrove

Janel Blattler began campaigning with the Lib Dems in the run-up to the 2010 General Election.

A Katesgrove resident originally from Canada, she works full time as a designer for a local software company and is also pursuing a MSc in Human-Computer Interaction at University College London.

Councillor Daisy Benson and James Moore, Candidate for Redlands

Cllr Daisy Benson and Liberal Democrat Candidate for Redlands, James Moore

Redlands

James Moore lives in central Reading and works for a major software company in South Reading.

He is no stranger to being involved in the local community, having been a Scout Leader for six years in Runnymede, Surrey and sat on local Council forums and committees to represent young people of the area.

Councillor Peter Beard with Meri O'Connell, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Tilehurst

Cllr Peter Beard with Meri O'Connell, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Tilehurst

Tilehurst

Meri O’Connell has lived with her husband in Tilehurst for 17 years.

They have 3 young children and Meri is a school Governor at Moorlands School. Recently Meri has been actively campaigning to stop the proposed changes to the retirement age requirement in Tilehurst’s sheltered housing communities.

Commenting on the news Cllr Daisy Benson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Reading Borough Council said:


“We are very grateful to our outgoing councillors for all their years of service to their communities.

“James, Janel and Meri are energetic, enthusiastic, and committed campaigners who want to make a difference and give local residents in their area a voice on the Council.”

“All of them are already up and running in their wards and working alongside our councillors and I am confident they will make a fantastic addition to the hardworking Liberal Democrat team on Reading Borough Council.

New Homes Bonus helping to provide more homes for people in Reading

Councils across England received a cash boost as Liberal Democrat Communities Minister Andrew Stunell announced funding each authority would receive from the New Homes Bonus.

Andrew Stunell with Cllr Daisy Benson and local Lib Dems on a visit to The Avenue Extra Care Housing Development on Basingstoke Road earlier this year.

Andrew Stunell with Cllr Daisy Benson and local Lib Dems on a visit to The Avenue Extra Care Housing Development on Basingstoke Road earlier this year.

The money means councils are rewarded for building new homes and bringing empty homes back into use.

In Reading the Coalition Government has awarded the Council £1.2 million pounds for delivering 392 new homes and bringing 26 empty homes back in to use.

Commenting, Cllr Daisy Benson said:

“ With over 8,000 people currently stuck on the housing waiting list in Reading there is an urgent need for more affordable housing particularly for families.”

“At the same time, hundreds of homes in Reading are standing empty for six months or more.

“After 13 years of Labour’s failure, Liberal Democrats in government are determined to tackle these problems.”

“Thanks to funding from Government we are already seeing new homes being built and empty homes being brought back in to use in our area– including on Dee Park and at the former Avenue School – where the first new Council homes are being built in Reading for over twenty years.”

“This is something the Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for and we are now delivering in Government.”

Commenting further, Liberal Democrat Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said:

“These are very pleasing figures, showing that the New Homes Bonus is acting as a spur to get councils building new homes and bringing more empty homes back into use.

“It’s a win-win situation for local communities – £430m of extra funding for frontline services and 159,000 extra homes for local people.

“Labour’s top-down approach to building homes just didn’t work. It was unrealistic and ineffective, and didn’t take into account local needs or wishes.

“Instead the New Homes Bonus is introducing a culture change – making it easier to persuade local people to go for development, and rewarding communities that go for growth.”

Reading Lib Dems call on PCT to give more support to local Carers

Below is published in full an e-mail from Daisy Benson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, to Penny Henrion, Chair of Berkshire West PCT.

Dear Penny,

I was disappointed to read that Berkshire West PCT was placed 93rd out of 105 local authorities for spending on carers services by the recent Princess Trust for Carers Report.

The fact that the Trust had earmarked only 0.018% of its £658m budget for carers I find pretty shocking – given the increase in spending by this Government on carers.

I really welcome the extra spending that has been announced – an extra £150,000 to help carers as reported in this week’s Reading Chronicle.

However, given Reading Borough Council estimates we have between eleven and sixteen thousand carers in Reading – an significant increase on previous years I am concerned that this spending is still not at the level it is needed – given the demand that we know exists in our community.

I would like to know how this money will be spent and how much of it will be spent on services in Reading.

Reading Borough Council and partners have done significant work in recent years on a Carers Strategy. This has been tailored to deliver on the priorities identified by local carers – the top one being getting access to breaks.

Last year when I was Lead Member for Adult Social care I approved an extra £50,000 from the Council’s budget to expand the Carers Opportunities Fund which was set up to give carers access to breaks and other additional support of their choosing and as far as I know my successor Cllr Orton has done the same this year.

I would be most grateful if you could outline for me how you plan to support carers in the future and how you will be working to ensure that the £400 million pounds that has been committed is spent on what it was intended – breaks for carers.

Best wishes

Daisy

Cllr Daisy Benson
Leader, Liberal Democrat Group, Reading Borough Council
Liberal Democrat Councillor, Redlands ward

Nestle: Child labour has no place in supply chain

Originally published by Catherine Bearder MEP

Chocolate maker Nestlé has pledged to clampdown on children working on cocoa farms supplying its factories.

Catherine Bearder, MEP for the South East, welcomed news the global food giant will work with the Fair Labour Association (FLA) to tackle the problem.

Nestlé is one of the biggest cocoa buyers in the world, but bosses have acknowledged slow progress on wiping out child labour.

Executive Vice President Jose Lopez said: “Child labour has no place in our supply chain. We cannot solve the problem on our own, but by working with a partner like the FLA we can make sure our efforts to address it are targeted where they are needed most.”

It comes as the European Parliament works towards a new international cocoa agreement, which aims to regulate the industry. Moves are also being made to address the problem of child labour in cocoa fields as part of the agreement.

Catherine Bearder meets Nestle assistant vice president Pascal Greverath

Catherine Bearder meets Nestle assistant vice president Pascal Greverath

Catherine said: “This is good news. Nestlé is waking up to the fact more needs to be done to stop the use of child labour in its supply chain. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to child exploitation.”

The FLA will start work on stamping out child labour in Ivory Coast in January and will receive funding from Nestlé for the project.

Last year Catherine called on the European Commission to stop human trafficking in the West Africa cocoa industry. She also wanted to make sure children were not being used on farms in countries such as Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Catherine added: “The EU is doing great work to try and stop exploitative child labour. But we also need to deal with the problem of child trafficking at the same time, otherwise children will continue to be exploited.”

Tackling youth unemployment in Reading

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg has announced a £1 billion pound Youth Contract to tackle youth unemployment, which aims to ensure that all jobless young people are earning or learning again before long-term damage is done.

In Reading 935 18-24 year olds are currently in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance and would stand to benefit from the Youth Contract.

Starting next April, the Youth Contract will provide at least 410,000 new work places for 18 to 24 year olds into work over the next three years. This includes 160,000 wage subsidies and 250,000 new work experience placements.

The Youth Contract is a new programme to will help 16 and 17 year olds who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs).

This will helps young people not currently in education, employment or training (NEET) get back to school or college, onto an apprenticeship or into a job with training.

In addition, there will be at least 20,000 more incentive payments to encourage employers to take on young apprentices in England.

Commenting, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Reading Borough Council, Cllr Daisy Benson said:

“Although youth unemployment in Reading is lower than many other areas and has fallen recently, the number of young people out of work in our area is still too high.

“Young people are our future and we need to do everything we can to help young people in Reading who are currently out of work to find work.”

“The Youth Contract, announced by Deputy PM Nick Clegg will help those who need it most through advice, support, training and by giving people in Reading the experience necessary to be successful in the work place.

“This is another example of Liberal Democrats in government taking action on the issues that matter and working to give all youngsters a chance to succeed.”

“As someone who campaigned to highlight the shocking rise in youth unemployment under Labour and as a Liberal Democrat, I am proud that the Coalition Government is doing all it can to prevent another lost generation.”

Commenting further, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said

“Youth unemployment is an economic waste and a slow-burn social disaster.

“We can’t lose the skills and talent of our young people – right when we need them most. We can’t afford to leave our young men and women on the scrap heap. We need the next generation to help us build a new economy.

“The aim of the Youth Contract is to get every unemployed young person working or learning again before long-term damage is done.

“This is a £1bn package and what’s different about it is that it gets young people into proper, lasting jobs in the private sector.”

Reading Lib Dems Raise Concerns With Ministers Over Solar Cuts: ‘Double Whammy for sustainable energy and green jobs’

Liberal Democrats on Reading Borough Council have today written to the Government calling on them to rethink their decision to cut solar feed-in tariffs.

Cllr Ricky Duveen, Lib Dem Environment Spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the Lib Dem Group on Reading Borough Council writes:

“We are writing to protest in the strongest possible terms at the changes proposed by the government to Feed In Tariffs.

In doing so we are writing in support of colleagues in Friends of the Earth, the LGA Liberal Democrat Group, and Green Liberal Democrats in raising serious objections to the proposals led by your department.
This is double whammy for sustainable energy and for green jobs here in Reading and elsewhere. In turn it risks undermining David Cameron’s pledge that this will be the ‘Greenest Government ever.’

Cllr Duveen continues:-

“Last year, Liberal Democrat councillors on Reading Borough Council (part of a Coalition administration) instructed officers to work up a programme based on the Feed in Tariff scheme and budgeted for a major investment in solar energy by the Council, both as something that would benefit council tax payers and as an exercise in leading by example.

“A delay to our scheme, caused by the incoming Labour administration, has meant that it has fallen victim to the reductions you announced and the premature ending of the tariff on which our scheme was based. As a result of these it is now not possible to proceed with this important Liberal Democrat initiative because of the guillotine imposed on commissioning.

Cllr Duveen concludes:

“The plans unveiled by the new administration in August to install large numbers of environmentally-friendly solar panels on a number of council owned buildings which attracted cross-party support would have produced green energy and cut energy bills, passing on significant savings to the public purse and the Reading taxpayer.

Whilst we understand that the scheme may have been too successful in the government’s view and the effects of the falling costs of installation, it could have been reduced much more gradually and preserved an industry and many schemes, like ours, which were at an advanced stage of planning. We therefore urge you to review the end date and allow schemes that are already well advanced to still qualify for the tariff.

As Liberal Democrats and local councillors we urge you to reconsider these drastic changes to FITs and allow Reading Borough Council to complete the ambitious programme initiated by us which will deliver real benefits for residents in Reading.”

Supporting apprentices in small businesses in Reading

Apprenticeships have reached record highs in the academic year 2010/11, thanks to Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government.

More than 440,000 learners started an apprenticeship last year, which is an increase of 50% compared to the year before.

Locally, the picture is even more positive:-

  • In Reading East 780 learners took on an apprenticeship in 2010/11 up from 410 in 2009/10 an increase of 90%
  • In Reading West 920 learners took on an apprenticeship in 2010/11 up from 580 in 2009/10 an increase of 57%

(Apprenticeship Programme Starts by Region and Parliamentary Constituency (2009/10 to 2010/11)
Apprenticeships give people the skills and experience needed to succeed on the job market and create the skills necessary in the workforce for sustainable growth.

Liberal Democrats have long called for a significant increase in apprenticeships and Lib Dem Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has made this a priority.

To support more employers, especially small businesses, to take on apprentices, the Coalition Government this week announced a number of measures, including:

  1. Offering employers with up to 50 employees an incentive payment of £1,500 to take on apprentices aged 16-24. This will encourage small employers to take on up to 20,000 apprentices.
  2. Streamlining processes so that it takes just a month for an employer to advertise for an apprentice.
  3. Ensuring that the National Apprenticeship Service better supports the needs of small employers – through more effectively targeted advice and guidance and helping training providers work more effectively with local SMEs.

Commenting, Cllr Rebecca Rye, Lib Dem Spokesperson for children and young people on Reading Borough Council said:

“Liberal Democrats are determined to ensure all young people have access to the skills and experience they need to find work.

“Increasing apprenticeships was a key part of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. They are beneficial to all involved and the record rise in learners taking them up is great news for Reading and the economy as a whole.”

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy and the announcements by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cable, are very welcome.

“They show the Coalition Government is determined to do the right thing and create sustainable growth, driven by our local employers.”

Commenting further, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cable said:

“The apprenticeships programme is a success story, with record numbers of learners starting an apprenticeship this year. But I have listened to employers, and will go further to ensure that investment is targeted where impact is greatest, delivering the specific skills businesses need to drive growth.

“Apprenticeships are proven to boost the life chances of young people, and are a sound investment in our future competitiveness. So when times are tough, it’s right that we provide additional support to help the smallest firms meet training costs.

“We’ll cut no corners on quality. Apprenticeships will remain the gold standard for excellence in vocational training – but where red tape serves no purpose, we’ll strip it away.”

Liberal Democrats question Labour’s bus lane fines for “stupid” public

Liberal Democrats in Reading have called into question Council figures showing that bus lane fines have sky-rocketed under the latest Labour administration.

Labour’s assault upon Reading motorists was recently revealed in a Council report showing that the amount of bus lane fines issued under the Labour-run Council has risen by as much as 277%.

Reading residents have also expressed alarm to local Liberal Democrats over the level of contempt shown for voters by the Labour Lead Councillor for Transport after he called motorists “stupid”.

Whilst in coalition locally, Liberal Democrats tried to create a sustainable and fair budget, not one built upon punishing motorists as an easy target and in effect introducing congestion charging by the back door.

What Labour refuse to admit is that they are using exorbitant fines for motorists – already hit hard with rising petrol prices – to plug gaps in a balanced budget which they inherited from the previous coalition, but have since squandered after coming to power. One example being their hesitation to implement our adult social care changes, more out of an ideological desire to discredit Liberal Democrats, rather than an evidenced-based attempt to address real problems in our community. This inaction has already cost Reading tax payers thousands of pounds in delays, and this is on top of the costs of their review of our proposed changes.

Upcoming Events

   September  2014 »
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Events on September 15, 2014
  • Exec Committee meeting
    Starts: 7:30 pm
    Ends: September 15, 2014 - 9:30 pm
    Location: Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC), London Street, Reading, United Kingdom
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Events on September 24, 2014
  • Fresher's Fayre
    Starts: 11:00 am
    Ends: September 24, 2014 - 5:00 pm
    Location: Reading University Students Union RUSU Reading, RG6 6AZ
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Events on September 28, 2014
  • Liberal Drinks
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    Ends: September 28, 2014 - 10:30 pm
    Location: The Inn On The Park, The Pavillon, Woodford Park, Haddon Drive, Woodley, Reading, United Kingdom
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